College Sports Journal Southland Conference Football Preview, Week of 4/17/2021

Two games with huge possible postseason implications are on tap this weekend.

Spring 2021 Southland Standings

PosTeamWLConf WConf LPFPAStreak
16060269105W6
24242229200W2
34333341238L2
43333252251L3
53424183202L1
6242497250L1
71515143181W1

GAME PREVIEW: Sam Houston vs. Incarnate Word
TV/Streaming: ESPN+ (subscription required)

Sam Houston won the Southland Conference title outright with a 27-13 victory over McNeese last Saturday at Bowers Stadium. Their victory, coupled with Incarnate Word’s 49-47 loss to Northwestern State, means the Bearkats are league champions. Sam Houston overcame three turnovers with several impressive defensive stands.

Incarnate Word is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Northwestern State – the Cardinals lost on a last second field goal. The Cardinals could possibly sneak into the FCS playoffs as an at-large bid with a victory over Sam Houston – their chances are slim though.

Sam Houston Bearkats (5-0 overall, 5-0 in Southland)

Sam Houston defensive tackle Joseph Wallace was named the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.  On a day where the Bearkat defense needed to hold, Wallace and the Kats’ front line did just that.  The senior interior lineman was huge for Sam Houston on a day that the Bearkats held McNeese to just 37 yards rushing, picking up five sacks and 13 tackles for loss as a team.  Quarterback Eric Schmid threw for 202 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 92 yards on 15 carries.  Jequez Ezzard led Sam Houston with 87 yards receiving and 135 all-purpose yards, while receiver Noah Smith hauled in four passes for 48 yards and a score and picked up another 45 yards on the ground.  

Incarnate Word Cardinals (3-2 overall, 3-2 in Southland)

In the loss to Northwestern State, Kevin Brown scored a season-high three touchdowns – he also rushed for 160 yards, marking the fourth game he has rushed for over 100 yards.  Cameron Ward threw for 400-plus yards for the third consecutive game with 431 yards on 33-of-59 passing and an interception.  Ward threw for two touchdowns and tied the single season record for touchdown passes.  Gerald Bowie III powered the defense with eight tackles, a blocked PAT, one fumble recovery and one sack for a loss of seven yards.  

Fearless Prediction: Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler will have his team ready to play but Eric Morris is not a slouch of a coach either – he has Incarnate Word on an upward trajectory. And from rumors circulating, UIW could be headed to the WAC. But none of that matters on Saturday – the Bearkats will win this game as they head into the FCS playoffs. Sam Houston 45 Incarnate Word 35

GAME PREVIEW: Southeastern Louisiana at Southern Illinois
TV/Streaming: ESPN+ (subscription required)

Southeastern Louisiana will close out the regular season with another Top 25 matchup on Saturday at Southern Illinois, as both teams were ranked in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll this week.  The game at SIU will mark the fourth time in as many road contests in 2020-21 for Southeastern to face a ranked opponent.  The Lions moved up six spots in the STATS poll after closing out the Southland Conference slate with a 52-45 River Bell Classic win at then-No. 18 Nicholls last Saturday.  The Salukis have not played the last two weekends after Illinois State and Western Illinois opted out but are clinging to hopes of an at-large bid to the 16-team FCS playoffs.  

Southeastern Louisiana Lions (4-2 overall, 4-2 in Southland)

Southeastern intercepted Colonel quarterback Lindsey Scott four times in last Saturday’s win – returning two for scores – and accumulated 499 total yards of offense behind a 391-yard, four-touchdown showing from quarterback Cole Kelley.  For the season, Kelley has completed 176-of-263 passes (67%) for 2,244 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.  Running back Morgan Ellison leads the rushing attack with 263 yards on 45 carries and two touchdowns.  Wide receiver C.J. Turner leads the receiving corps with 40 receptions for 506 yards and five touchdowns.  

Southern Illinois Salukis (4-3 overall, 3-3 in Missouri Valley)

Quarterback Nic Baker has been steady for the Salukis – he has completed 50-of-74 passes (67.5 %) for 637 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions.  Running back Romeir Elliot has been a workhorse all year – he has carried the ball 106 times for 446 yards with three touchdowns.  Avante Cox is the Salukis’ leading receiver – he has 46 receptions for 529 yards and three touchdowns.  

Fearless Prediction: This game could turn out to be a winner-take-playoff berth scenario. Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill has been disappointed with the Salukis’ consistency – his team has three wins against ranked teams, including FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. But they also have three losses, and it could be a fourth this Saturday. Frank Scelfo’s Southeastern Lions will win an exciting game this weekend…and perhaps sneak into the FCS playoffs as an at-large bid. Southeastern Louisiana 37 Southern Illinois 35

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