Friday, October 18, 2013

Game Previews - Week 7

From some reason, last week's preview never went live.  From a glass half full point of view, it was a good thing as we were off on half of the games.

Eastern New Mexico (2-3) at Northeastern State (0-6)
Greyhound fans don't take much stock in Northeastern State's winless start.  They opened the 2013 season against teams with a combined 28-1 record.  That looked interesting (shocking actually), so a closer look at the MIAA standings was taken, something we haven't done since the super regions were reorganized.  What emerged was fascinating - a near perfect example of the haves and have nots.  Five teams are undefeated (AFCA poll ranked #2, #4, #7. #13 and #20) and one team has one loss, while seven teams have one or zero conference wins.  Those seven bottom feeders occupy spots 1-7 in the toughest schedule category according to the NCAA website.  The haves are outscoring their conference foes by a 1,490-587 margin, while the have-nots are getting blasted 760-1,700.  It would be hard to believe that this first half scheduling discrepancy was not intentional.  This weekend will start to separate the contenders from the pretenders as #2 Northwest Missouri and #7 Pittsburg State square off in their big game at Arrowhead Stadium and 5-1 Missouri Southern and #4 Missouri Western lining up in Joplin.  In fact, the top 6 toughest schedules for future opponents are NW Missouri, Missouri Western, Lindenwood, Emporia State, Missouri Southern and Washburn.  Pittsburg State has the easiest schedule among the MIAA contenders, but it is still the 15th toughest with future opponents currently holding 20-10 record.

Okay, okay, what about the game?  The Riverhawks are winless, playing just one game within 21 points.  The offense has been hampered by the loss of QB Johnny Deaton and RB Joel Rockmore and are averaging just 11.5 points and 279 yards per game.  The defense has been victimized by five ranked teams and is allowing 41.5 points and 485 yards weekly.

Down 28-0 and forced to punt with just over a minute to play in the first half, it sure looked like ENMU was going to drop another LSC game at Angelo State.  They had already lost two fumbles which led to two ASU TDs, and had been unable to get anything going when they were able to hold on to the ball.  But the Rams fumbled the punt and the Greyhound offense got going in the second half and ENMU came away with the win, 29-28.

Last year, NSU opened with the same murderer's row and rebounded to win their last 4 games finishing the season 4-6.  But they were more competitive and had Deaton and Rockmore on the field.  Greyhounds sneak out with a 28-24 win in Tahlequah.

Texas A&M-Kingsville (2-3) at North Alabama (3-2)
These two have a bit of history.  Twenty years ago, UNA topped the Javelinas 27-25 in the semifinals (TAMK missed a PAT and two 2-point conversion attempts).  The next season, the Lions held on to win their second consecutive national championship 16-10, intercepting a TAMUK pass inside their 20 yard line with two minutes to play in the game.  This week's game carries no such importance - It's about two traditional powers playing for pride as they strive to return to their glory days.

North Alabama sports wins over Miles, Shorter and West Georgia, while dropping games to Delta State and Jacksonville State.  They are averaging 35 points a game, scoring at least 21 every game.  The defense is giving up just 17.8 points and 333 yards per game.

Since opening the season with two nice wins, the Javelinas have struggled the last three weeks.  Inexperience at QB, turnovers (because of the inexperience) and poor special teams have severely hindered their efforts, costing them at least 21, 27 and 24 points over the last three weeks.  That helps explain how the #2 LSC team in yards allowed (350) is dead last in points given up (39.8).

Look for the growing pains to continue this week, as UNA wins at home 35-17.

Angelo State (2-4) at #17 West Texas A&M (5-1)
The only LSC game this week matches up two teams that let large first half leads slip away last week.  That's about all the Rams and Buffaloes have in common.  The Buffaloes are nationally ranked and still have the playoffs in their sights, while Angelo State is playing for pride the rest of the season.   WT leads the LSC in scoring, scoring defense, and yards gained, while a close third in yards allowed.  Angelo State is 6th in scoring offense and scoring defense, last in yards allowed and fourth in yards gained.  The strength vs. strength battle in this game will be ASU's running game vs. WT's run defense.  The strength vs. weakness battle will be WT's passing offense vs. ASU's defense.  Individually, Dustin Vaughan can pass Keith Null for TD passes with two, and Torrence Allen is 56 yards behind Keith Miller on WT's receiving charts.

With no margin for any more errors, look for WT to come out angry and play well.  Buffs roll 52-17.

McMurry (1-5) at Texas A&M Commerce (4-2)
The dry run for McMurry isn't going too well.  The Warhawks have played 3 LSC teams this year (with two more to come) in preparation for joining the LSC as a football member next season.  They have dropped all three by an average margin of 29-55 and giving up 437 yards rushing per game.  They can move the ball (440 yards per game, 164 rushing, 276 passing) and score (28 per game), but they are small on defense, and have given up at least 48 points each game, with the exception of Panhandle State (who still scored 27).

The Lions used big plays on offense, defense and special teams to knock off Texas A&M-Kingsville, but Tyrik Rollison was knocked out of the game   Harrison Stewart is listed as the starter this week.  No matter, the Lions should be able to control the game running the ball.  Freshman RB KJ Garrett has 137 yards rushing the past two weeks, emerging as running threat  Vernon Johnson continues to impress, averaging 19 yards per catch and 117 receiving yards per game.  With a win this week, the Lions will equal their win total for the last three seasons combined and they will be favored in three of the remaining games, setting up a potential 8 win season for the first time since 1995 (which was also the last time they made the NCAA playoffs).

Happy Days in Commerce, as the Lions continue their turnaround 42-24.

#14 Tarleton State(5-0) at Delta State (3-2)
How many people saw last week's 31-27 win over West Texas A&M coming?  And how many thought the Texans could come back from a 27-3 halftime deficit?  (cliche alert, cliche alert)  That's why they play the game.  The improbable can and does happen.  The Texans' defense clamped down and the offense came alive and limited the mistakes in the second half, and Tarleton notched their biggest win since the 2009 playoffs.  Jake Fenske was clutch, going 12-16 for 215 and 3 TDs on the final three TSU scoring drives.  Tarleton has not been dominant this year (just one win by more than 7 points), but they have played a tough schedule and found ways to beat good teams.  That could serve them well the rest of the season.

They will face a Delta State team that has wins over FCS Mississippi Valley State, North Alabama and Florida Tech and losses to Texas A&M-Commerce and 14-48 decision to West Alabama two weeks ago.  They like to throw the ball (366 yards per game), do not run particularly well (2.8 per carry average) and can put up some points (32.8 per game).  Junior Travis Champion is completing 72% of his passes, and has a 2-1 TD-Int ratio.  His top 3 receivers are combining for over 213 yards per game.  They are better against the run on defense (126) than the pass (248) and give up some points (34.4).

You have to figure it will be a close game - that is Tarleton's MO.  And if it's close, you have to figure that the Texans will pull it out - Tarleton 35-28.

#8 West Alabama (5-1) at # 24 Midwestern State (4-1)
The Tarleton game kind of looks like a trap game, but this one reeks of that possibility for UWA.  The Tigers knocked off #1 and defending national champion Valdosta State in impressive fashion last week 49-30, with the offense putting together 4 scoring drives of 75 yards or longer in the second half.  UWA leads the Gulf South Conference at 569 yards per game (308 rushing and 261 passing) and scoring (49.5 points per game).  They have scored at least 42 points every game this year.  The defense has not been shabby either, giving up 18.5 points per game (13.4 if you take out the FCS McNeese State game).  The run defense has been stingy (83 yards per game, 2.3 per carry), but they are allowing 229 yards passing.  They are likely the best team in Super Region 2.

The Mustangs continue to show improvement as the season progresses, scoring 109 points the last two weeks.  They are second in scoring in the LSC (40.2) and third in yards gained (453).  They are once again averaging over 300 yards rushing per week, but not getting much out of the passing game.  Keidrick Jackson is just 129 rushing yards behind Daniel Polk at the top of MSU's record book, and with a strong finish to the season, he could become just the 8th LSC player to top the 4,000 career mark.  Defensively, MSU leads the LSC in yards allowed (330) and is second in scoring (21.8).  They are giving up 128 yards rushing and 202 passing.  All of those averages are likely to rise after this week.

So you have a team with one D2 loss facing a team with just a loss to an FCS team and coming off a big win over Valdosta State.  If you believe in de ja vu, then you have to feel pretty good about the Mustangs' chances.  That was the same scenario last year, and MSU not only won the game 42-27, but was able to keep winning through the rest of the regular season.  It didn't ruin UWA's season either, as the Tigers went two-deep into the playoffs.  But MSU was more dominant last year than this season, while UWA is having a better season to-date in 2013 than 2012.  UWA knocks off MSU 45-28.

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Lone Star Conference

Angelo State University

Cameron University

Eastern New Mexico University

Texas A&M-Commerce

Tarleton State University

Texas A&M-Kingsville

Texas Woman's College

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

Western New Mexico