Week 4 proved to be a great week in Southland Conference football (and also my prediction accuracy) as Central Arkansas got their FBS scalp vs Arkansas State, while Nicholls State came within a two point conversion of knocking off South Alabama. Stephen F Austin and Sam Houston both had dominating wins, while McNeese righted their ship, and Southeastern Louisiana gained their first conference win. Let’s take a look at what week 5 has in store for us
Sam Houston at Stephen F Austin
Sorry readers from other schools; this is the most important conference game this week and it gets top billing. It is the 91st edition of the Battle of the Piney Woods and this game already has huge conference implications. Sam is looking to tie the record for longest winning streak in the series (6) which was set back in 1946! Sam Houston is definitely the cream of the crop when it comes to the Southland, and it is hard to discount them while they are still winning, but so far this year they haven’t really had a schedule of teams who could actually test them. With games vs OPSU, Lamar, and Houston Baptist, it’s hard to tell if this team is as good as previous years. Stephen F Austin almost blew a 31 point lead vs ACU due to complacency in the second half, but they were still able to get the win thanks to forcing six turnovers. While Zach Conque started, Hunter Taylor came in and cleaned house, earning Southland Player of the Week accolades, and the offense seems to click better under Taylor, as opposed to Conque.
It is very hard to pick a winner in this one, because you can usually throw out the record books when these two get together, and I have a feeling it will come down to whomever scores last. If Taylor starts over Conque, then SFA has a very good chance of ending the streak and taking the win. If Coach Conque resorts to starting his son, it could turn into a long day for the SFA offense. I am going to assume Taylor starts, and SFA ends the streak and takes it 42-35.
Central Arkansas at Abilene Christian
It’s the annual palindrome game, as UCA heads to Abilene to take on the Wildcats. Abilene Christian, after being down 31 points, attempted a valiant comeback, but fell just short against SFA. Unfortunately, the six turnovers by their offense and special teams helped put the nails on the coffin, and it just seems that their streak of bad luck is continuing. They are now 0-4, and with losses to HBU and SFA, it looks like their season is near the point of no return. Central Arkansas comes into this game riding the wave of a FBS victory, beating Arkansas State in Jonesboro 28-23, and they should notch a conference win this week on the road. UCA is going to win, and they are going to win big. Look for a score of 35-7.
Nicholls State at McNeese State
It’s the battle of Southern Louisiana as the Colonels roll into Lake Charles to face the Cowboys. Nicholls State is probably the most interesting 1-2 team in the country at the moment, as they have a conference win vis Incarnate Word, and two FBS losses by a combined total of three points. They took South Alabama into OT and were stuffed on their second attempt at a two point conversion, and we all remember them almost beating Georgia between the hedges. They aren’t overpowering on offense, but their defense is doing a great job of keeping them in games. McNeese was able to eke out a win vs Incarnate Word in San Antonio. They actually were up big early, and survived a comeback attempt by the Cardinals. Their defense and special teams were able to contribute to the scoring, but fourth quarter turnovers brought Incarnate Word within a touchdown. I think this game will show us what each team is made of, and while in most years McNeese would be the heavy favorite, I am taking Nicholls in this one 28-24.
Southeastern Louisiana at Lamar
SLU got their first conference win over the hapless Northwestern State Demons and look to make it two in a row vs the Cardinals of Lamar. It was an offensive slugfest in Hammond last weekend, with SLU putting up over 500 yards of offense. Southeastern’s defense gave up over 400 yards of offense, but they made big stops and key plays to keep Northwestern State from notching their first win. Lamar is coming off of their bye week, and are looking for their first win of the year. Kade Harrington, their stellar running back, hasn’t been able to get the wheels turning this year as he has faced three stellar defenses (Coastal Carolina, Houston, and Sam Houston). It will be interesting to see if he can get it going vs a porous Lions defense, and if so, the game will be close, but Southeastern should win this one 24-17.
Houston Baptist at Western Kentucky
I owe HBU a bit of an apology; they aren’t the worst team in conference this year so I should quit beating up on them, however, this won’t be the week to do so. HBU played well against a Sam Houston team who was just too powerful for them to contend with, and this week will be more of the same. Western Kentucky should win easily, 42-10.
Incarnate Word at Texas State
A perk to this game is that UIW fans only have to travel about an hour or so to enjoy this one, but that’s about it. Incarnate Word did a great job coming back against McNeese and definitely made a game of it, but they are going to be overmatched against a Texas State team who is still smarting from the shellacking the Houston Cougars laid on them last weekend. Texas State takes this 31-17.