GAME PREVIEW: # 8 Montana State vs. #1 Sam HoustonWhen: Saturday, December 11 at 7:30PM CSTWhere: Bowers Stadium; Huntsville, TexasTV/Streaming: ESPN+ Sam Houston’s defense came up with a clutch stop on fourth and goal to hold off a late rally in a 49-42 victory over Incarnate Word in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
The road to Frisco will go through Huntsville after the Sam Houston Bearkats were named the No. 1 overall seed in the FCS Playoffs when the bracket was revealed a couple of weeks ago.
The Rattlers are averaging 29 points per game, which is 44th in the FCS; they’re averaging 389 yards per game, which is 43rd in the FCS.
Incarnate Word’s offense is hard to stop – they’re scoring 39.6 points per game, which is 4th in the FCS.
The Lumberjacks of SFA picked up their first road win over Central Arkansas since 2009 with a 27-14 victory last Saturday night at Estes Stadium.
Incarnate Word upset No. 6 Southeastern Louisiana last Saturday 55-52, but over the last two fall seasons, the Nicholls State Colonels have amped up their play in November.
Eastern Kentucky/Stephen F. Austin and Southeastern Louisiana/Incarnate Word headline a critical week.
The Cowboys will be tough on the road.
The Cowboys put up 21 points in the second quarter, which proved to be sufficient in their 35-17 win over the Demons. It was their first league win of the season.
Cameron Ward has 1,636 passing yards (327.2 ypg) to lead the Cardinals, completing 61.5% of his passes and throwing 16 touchdown passes and three interceptions this season.
Cole Kelley is among the national leaders in every passing category, having thrown for 1,593 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions on 135-of-182 passing (74.2 % completion percentage).
With a Bearkat win over Stephen F. Austin, K.C. Keeler would win his 247th career game. That would move him into sole possession of eighth place all-time among FCS head coaches who have spent at least 10 years at FCS schools.
Sam Houston takes on Central Arkansas in a Top 25 Matchup.
McNeese entered last Saturday’s game against LSU wanting to show some improvement from last week’s season opening loss to West Florida – the Cowboys battled from start to finish in a 34-7 loss.
The Weber State Wildcats have won four straight Big Sky championships while the Dixie State Trailblazers are new to Division I as they become full-fledged members of the WAC in 2022.
Southland Conference Game of the Week The first three seasons of Brad Laird’s tenure as the head coach at his alma mater have produced record-setting offenses, turnover-happy defenses and arguably the most challenging set of circumstances faced by a Northwestern State football team. As Laird enters his fourth season at the helm of the Demon.
Game of the Week: Sam Houston at Northern Arizona
Game of the Week: Incarnate Word at Youngstown State
Jacksonville State, Central Arkansas and Eastern Kentucky will enjoy a “challenge” with the WAC before joining the newly formed (for football) Atlantic Sun in 2022.
The king of the new conference until further notice is Sam Houston (10-0, 6-0 in Southland), which became the first Division I football program in the state of Texas to win a national championship since Vince Young’s vaunted Texas squad.
The Gamecocks (10-3, 6-1 in Ohio Valley) flip-flopped quarterback injuries while playing the most games in the FCS over the fall/spring season.
Abilene Christian (1-5) struggled during an abbreviated fall season, dropping a game to D-II Angelo State, and playing three FBS opponents.
Having played last fall, but not in the spring, the Bears return 20 starters, and they also get back some former starters from injuries.
Stephen F. Austin (6-4) had an encouraging fall season. SFA named itself Southland Conference Fall Champions after beating Abilene Christian – the only other SLC team to play in the fall.
Eastern Kentucky (3-6) played a fall season and beat Stephen F. Austin 24-6 in its lone matchup against a future WAC opponent.
Second-year head coach Blane Morgan has a difficult task ahead of him at Lamar (2-4, 2-4 in Southland), but the Cardinals showed some fight in the spring season.
The reimagined Southland’s fall hopes rest mainly on a high-octane Southeastern Louisiana (4-3, 4-2) squad that just missed the spring playoffs, and a Nicholls (4-3, 3-3) team that saw its streak of FCS playoff berths end at three but remains talented.
Head coach Frank Scelfo has Southeastern Louisiana (4-3, 4-2) poised to make a run at the Southland title and an FCS playoff berth this year.
The preseason favorite to win the Southland in the spring, Nicholls (4-3, 3-3) struggled down the stretch – losing three of its final four games to finish third in the conference.
The UIW offense was spectacular, averaging 42 points per game due to the emergence of Jerry Rice Award winner – given to FCS’s top freshman – Cameron Ward (2,260 yards, 24 TDs).
No team in the country dealt with more hardship last year than McNeese (3-4, 2-4).
With the transfer of Bailey Zappe, Houston Baptist (1-3, 0-0) will have a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2017.
Northwestern State (1-5, 1-5) is poised for a breakout season this year despite a tough spring season.
Schmid was 20 for 37 passing with 209 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, while adding 54 yards on the ground. Jequez Ezzard hauled in a season-high 10 catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bearkats’ aerial attack, with no reception proving more important than his final one.
The Sam Houston defensive line just keeps on coming. The offense came through in the second half, but the defensive front has lived behind the line of scrimmage all season long.
North Dakota State is in the postseason for the 11th straight season dating back to 2010 when the Bison advanced to the FCS quarterfinals in their first appearance. Overall, NDSU has a 37-2 record in the FCS playoffs.
The game will feature two of most explosive offenses in the FCS with the Hawks averaging 41.7 points per game which is fifth in the FCS and Sam Houston scoring 45.4 per contest just ahead of MU in fourth.
Two games with huge possible postseason implications are on tap this weekend.
Lots of playoff implications on the line for the Southland this weekend.
Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler feels like this could be his best team yet; Northwestern State head coach Brad Laird is in a rebuilding year and knows his team must start games better.
Scoreboards may break as one of the biggest games of the week features two of the best spring offenses squaring off.
Nicholls at Sam Houston is a must-see game – it could decide the Southland. If you like offense, this game is a must-see. The winner has the inside track to the autobid to the FCS Playoffs, and potentially even a seed. The loser isn’t done, but there will be nervous weeks ahead. Is Sam Houston back among the top FCS teams? Is Nicholls ready for that next step?
Northwestern State’s first game of the spring season, Southeastern Louisiana playing for its playoff lives, and surprising Incarnate Word headline Southland Conference action this weekend.
McNeese State and Nicholls are the only two Southland schools that have already played spring football games, winning both. This weekend the Southland Conference opens with important conference games.