Eastern New Mexico (1-1) at Incarnate Word (2-2)
It's been a split season for the Cardinals so far. When they have faced NAIA teams (Texas College and Langston), they are averaging 46.5 points, 465 yards and allowing just 68 yards and no points. When they have faced FCS teams (Central Arkansas and Sam Houston), they have been outscored by an average of 55-14 and outgained 545-269. Trent Brittain is leading the team in passing (778 yds, 6 TDs) and rushing (182 yds, 1 TD) and Casey Jennings is the leading receiver (20-296 2 TDs). Three running backs have between 132 and 157 yards. The move to FCS has not helped attendance - a reported average of 3,672 through two games.
Are the Greyhounds better than last year? It's early, but our guess would be a tentative yes. After dropping their season opener to New Mexico Highlands, ENMU blew out Sul Ross State in Dallas. Last week, they edged the Air Force Academy JV 42-35 in an exhibition game. Though the stats don't count (similar to TAMK's win over Monterrey Tech), ENMU did rush for 326 yards and pass for another 173. The defense limited AF to 216 yards rushing on 60 carries, not too bad going against a run oriented team.
Look for ENMU to try and keep the offense balanced (255 yds rushing, 191 passing). The defense needs to tighten up against the run (255 yds) to have a chance in this one. This looks like a close, very competitive game. Edge to ENMU - 28-24 Greyhounds.
Abilene Christian (3-1) vs. #25 Tarleton State (2-0)
Similar to UIW, the Wildcats have done well against lower competition (NAIA Concordia, McMurry, and New Mexico Highlands), but dropped their only FCS game so far. In last week's loss, ACU was held to just 56 yards rushing and 232 passing. For the season, they are averaging 53 points per game, 198 yards rushing, 296 passing, 494 total. The defense is giving up 21 points and 377 total yards, with 138 coming on the ground and 239 passing. John David Baker is continuing the great QB play that ACU has enjoyed for the past 8 years, with 1,158 yards and 16 TDs and no interceptions (202.7 QB rating). Their other offensive leaders are familiar names - Charcandrick West (370 yards, 6 TDs rushing), Darian Hogg (22-428, 5 TDs receiving), Taylor Gabriel (13-239, 3 TDs) and Darrell Cantu-Harkless (349 all purpose yards, 3 TDs). Angel Lopez and Thor Woerner lead the defense with 35 and 34 tackles respectively. Nick Richardson has 5 sacks, and Woerner and Blake Rudd each have 2 interceptions.
When Angelo State scored two fourth quarter TDs (the second coming with under 2 minutes to play), it looked like the Texans were going to repeat their 2012 start - dropping a heartbreaker a week after knocking off Midwestern State. But Jake Fenske led TSU 78 yards in 1:25 for the winning TD and putting Tarleton back in the AFCA rankings. So far Tarleton's two QB system seems to be working - the Texans are averaging 32.5 points and 426 yards per game (166 rushing, 260 passing). The defense is allowing 29 points and 438 yards per game, numbers that will need to get better if they are to contend for the LSC title and playoffs.
This game won't impact TSU's playoff chances at all, but ACU was the team in week 2 last year that kept Tarleton from consolidating its big week one win. That should give them a little extra motivation this week. Texans win another close one, 34-31.
Angelo State (1-2) at #1 Valdosta State (2-0)
The defending national champions are off to a good start, winning their first two games by a 39-11 margin. They are showing good balance on offense, rushing for 201 yards and passing for 235 per game, and return several familiar faces at the skill positions (QB Cayden Cochran, RBs Austin Scott and Cedric O'Neal, and WR Regginald Lewis). The defense is only allowing 88 yards rushing and 247 passing. They have turned the ball over 5 times. They appear to be a national contender once again, but have yet to really be tested.
The Rams looked like they were going to get a breakout win last week as they reeled off 14 straight points to take a 34-31 lead over Tarleton State with just 1:48 to go. The defense was unable to get a stop, and the offense saw it's miracle drive end with an interception at the goal line s time expired. Positives from the game include Kyle Washington throwing for 286 yards and 2 TDs. Blake Smith and Jermie Calhoun topping the 100 yard mark rushing, and Quinn Reels catching 6 passes for 106 yards. For the season, ASU is averaging 32 points and 523 yards per game, facing 2 ranked teams in 3 games. They are showing great balance (287 yds rushing, 236 passing), but are an LSC worst in red zone offense (converting on 53% of their opportunities, and averaging just 3.5 points per trip inside the 20). The defense is allowing an LSC worst 36.3 points and 480.7 yards per game. Both the run (172 yds) and pass (309 yds) defense. Some of those defensive stats arise from the level of competition the Rams have faced, but are still not good enough for a contending team, especially with three currently ranked teams to play.
As much as we'd like to see an outright win, it just doesn't look probable. Valdosta wins this one 38-17.
Midwestern State (1-1) at Texas A&M-Commerce (2-1)
The Mustangs offense got back on track last week, rushing for 384 yards and 5 TDs. Keidrick Jackson led the way with 184 yards and Dante Taylor had 123 of his own. Jake Glover played most of the game at QB, throwing for 85 yards and rushing for 65. The defense allowed just 74 yards rushing, but 276 through the air. Still through two weeks, Midwestern State finds themselves in unfamiliar territory, last in the LSC in scoring, fourth in rushing and second to last in total offense. Defensively, they are 3rd in scoring, total defense and passing defense and 4th in rushing. They are the least penalized team in the LSC and are 7-8 in the red zone averaging 5.2 points per opportunity, both second best.
If you could have stopped last week's game with 18 seconds to play in the third, the Lions would likely have been quite pleased with themselves. At that point, they trailed by 10 and had been outgained by a respectable 374-296 yard margin. However, over the last 15:18, WT outgained them 216-35, forced two turnovers and outscored them 31-7. So after three games, TAMC is 2-1, averaging 41.3 points and 392.7 yards per game. The running game has yet to materialize (last with 55 yards per game), but the passing is solid (2nd at 338 yds). The defense is allowing 35 points and 382.3 yards weekly. While the run defense has been stellar, giving up an LSC-best 54 yards per game, the pass defense has not, last at 329 yards). Individually, Tyrik Rollison continues to impress, second in the LSC in yards (308) and efficiency (157.2). Vernon Johnson is emerging as a dangerous receiver (12-266, 4 TDs in two games), while Seth Smith, Taylor Peasha and Stacy Howard are also catching a lot of balls (combined 30-409, 3 TDs).
The key to this game will likely be the MSU run offense vs. TAMC's run defense. We're going to give the edge to the Mustangs this week as Commerce continues the learning process. MSU 38-27.
Game of the Week
#4 West Texas A&M (3-0) at Texas A&M-Kingsville (2-0)
If you look at the final score (62-28) from last week's game, you might get the impression that the Buffs had a relatively easy time with Texas A&M-Commerce. However, the game was just 31-21 with 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter. From that point on, WT used big plays from special teams (Nathan Slaughter 100 yard kickoff return on ensuing kickoff), offense (17 plays, 207 yards, 24 points on next 5 series) and defense (2 turnovers, 2 three and outs on next 5 Lion possessions) to pull away for the final margin.
Through 3 games, the Buffs look a lot like recent years - pass heavy offense (446 yds per game) that can score (48 pts), leading the LSC in both categories. The defense is second in the LSC in both scoring (26.7) and yards allowed (354) per game, okay but not as good as it will need to be for a successful season. Individually, Dustin Vaughan will have lots of family and friends in the stands and can become the all-time WT leader in passing yards with 313 this week. Torrence Allen and Anthony Johnson are proving to be a dangerous duo, combining for 241 receiving yards per game. For the defense, Taylor McCuller leads the LSC with 29 tackles, and Curtis Slater is second on the team with 25 tackles and has forced two fumbles, picked off a pass and broken up three others. All-American Ethan Westbrooks is off to a slow start, with no sacks and just 7 tackles so far, and reports are that he will miss at least the first half of Saturday's game due to an ejection last week.
The Javelinas put up some rushing numbers not seen since the Johnny Bailey - Heath Sherman days as they cruised to a 52-35 win over McMurry. Four different players had 74 + yards rushing, led by Greg Pitre's 180 on 10 carries. The passing game was much less impressive as their young QBs combined to go 8-18 for 48 yards with 3 interceptions. For the season, TAMK leads the LSC in defense (23 points, 308 yards) per game, but haven't played top notch competition. They are second in pass defense (196 yards, 97.8 efficiency rating). The offense averaging 36.5 points per game and 466.5 yards, with 338 coming on the ground and 128.5 through the air. Despite the lack of passing productivity, Robert Armstrong is second in the LSC with 14 receptions, good for 111 yards and a TD. (Much more impressive f you add in the disallowed Monterrey Tech numbers (18-177 3 TDs in that game). For the defense, linebacker Brandon James is the leading tackler with 16, while Zane Brown and Anthony Forker each have 2.5 TFL. Interesting to note, 2 of the teams 3 interceptions have come from defensive linemen, with Victor Castro scoring a TD last week.
#1 Scoring offense vs. #1 Scoring defense
#1 Total offense vs. #1 Total defense
#2 Rushing defense vs. #1 Rushing offense
#1 Passing offense vs. #2 Passing defense
#2 Sack defense vs. #1 Sacks allowed offense
WT is averaging 151 yards in penalties per game
Never an easy trip (WT is 5-7 in Kingsville since 1985), but the Buffs have an experienced and explosive team. Look for them to pull away and win 38-21.