San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 24th, 2008
Bobcats to shoot it out at SFA for SLC playoff lead

Editor at Large

Lovers of offensive football have nothing to fear from the Southland Conference, where the team that can’t score 45 points in a ball game is likely to lose, and the team that scores just 45 points might lose, anyway.

And lovers of contending football have a new friend in the Texas State Bobcats, who travel to Nacogdoches today for a game against Stephen F. Austin with the lead for the SLC playoff berth on the line.

The Bobcats are right there, even though SFA and Central Arkansas are 2-0 in the league, while Texas State, McNeese State, Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana all are 1-1.

Because Central Arkansas is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament during its transition from Division II to Division I, and because the Bobcats already have a 45-42 win at league favorite McNeese, the Bobcats are in the playoffs if they win the rest of their games.

“Take care of our business,” Texas State coach Brad Wright said. “I told our guys that if we show up prepared each week, mentally and physically, we can win every one of our football games.”

So, the Bobcats are playing for, in effect, first place Saturday at SFA (2 p.m.). The game is being televised as part of the Southland Network package, which will broadcast the contest locally over Time-Warner Channel 77.

In just two weeks of SLC games, teams have scored 45 points or more seven times, and two of those teams lost. As it happens, SFA is the only team to reach 45 points twice, beating Southeastern Louisiana, 48-45, then beating Nicholls State last week, 50-39. The week before conference play started, the Lumberjacks lost, 50-48, to South Dakota State.

In non-conference games, SLC teams reached 50 or more points seven times and reached 49 points on two other occasions, but also allowed 50 or more points five times. Every team in the league has scored and allowed 45 at least once, except for Nicholls State, which has allowed more than 45, scored as high as 39 and had two games cancelled because of Hurricane Ike.

Four SLC teams – McNeese State, SFA, Sam Houston State and Texas State – rank among the top 16 teams across the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in scoring offense. And four SLC teams – Nicholls State, SFA, Texas State and Sam Houston – rank among the bottom 22 in scoring defense.

Is Saturday’s game going to be a high-scoring affair? Texas State ranks 16th in scoring offense (35.3 points per game) and 13th from the bottom in scoring defense (34.6). SFA ranks fifth in scoring offense (38.9) and sixth from the bottom in scoring defense (36.3). But these two teams are slightly exaggerated examples of the SLC as a whole.

“It’s hard to explain,” Wright said. “I don’t know if it’s a cycle. Maybe the defenses haven’t caught up with the spread offenses. That would be my best shot at an answer.”

If it falls to the Bobcats to just outscore their opponents, they’ve certainly demonstrated the ability to do it. The Bobcats are up to fifth nationally in total offense, averaging 456.7 yards per game.

Since returning to the lineup three weeks ago against Texas Southern, Bobcats quarterback Bradley George has rallied to 12th nationally in passing efficiency, and he’s got a target in wide receiver Cameron Luke, who averages 5.86 catches for 105.29 yards per game.

But pass defense figures to be the issue for Texas State, which ranks 115th nationally by allowing 302.57 yards per game through the air. SFA leads the SLC by throwing for 339.86 yards per game as quarterback Jeremy Moses rates third in the country with 335 yards of total offense per game.

Expect a high-scoring afternoon in which the team scoring the most points doesn’t merely win the game. The winner takes a commanding position in the league playoff chase.

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