The Texas State football team is picked to finish first in the Southland Conference (SLC) both by the coaches and the sports information directors, but hardly by resounding margins.
Both groups appear to be predicting a tight race between the Bobcats and McNeese State, who will meet on Nov. 14 at Bobcat Stadium in the pent ultimate game of the season.
The picks were announced Wednesday at the Southland Conference media days in Lake Charles, LA, home of McNeese State.
The Bobcats won the Southland Conference last season, finishing 5-2 in the league and 8-5 overall after a first-round loss at Montana in the NCAA playoffs. The Bobcats are gunning for their third league title in five years in 2009. The championship in 2008 was Texas State’s first outright league title since 1982, when it was a Division II powerhouse.
The sports information directors (SIDs) were much more optimistic about Texas State than the league’s football coaches. The SIDs gave Texas State five of the seven first-place votes, while the Bobcats took two first-place votes among the coaches.
The Bobcats will return 13 starters and 43 lettermen. McNeese, which received one first-place vote from the coaches and one from the SIDs, return nine starters and 46 lettermen to a team that finished last season 4-3 in the league and 7-4 overall.
In terms of total voting points, Texas State edged McNeese State 42-39 in the coaches’ poll and 45-43 in the SID poll.
Commenting on the predictions, Texas State head coach Brad Wright returned to a theme from last season, in which he insisted that each success amounted to a test for his team’s ability to handle success.
“When you look at the polls, we received two first-place votes, and four other teams received at least one first-place vote,” Wright said. “We just happened to be listed at the top. It is a fun thing for the media and fans to talk about when heading into a season, but it doesn’t matter until December. We have to show up each week and earn those prognostications. It is something to build on because it hasn’t happened much around (Texas State). We took a step in the right direction last year. Now, it just depends on how the players on the field react and learn to handle some success.”
The polls placed Northwestern State and Central Arkansas as the next two teams, with Northwestern State taking third in the coaches poll and Central Arkansas taking third in the SID poll. Central Arkansas, still transitioning from Division II to Division I, isn’t eligible to win the league until 2010.
Both polls placed Stephen Austin fifth, though the Lumberjacks received a first-place vote in the coaches poll. Sam Houston State is tabbed for sixth in both polls. The coaches picked Nicholls State to finish seventh and Southeastern Louisiana to come in eighth, with the SIDs reversing that order.
Although both polls picked Texas State to win the league, the Bobcats came in surprisingly light in the preseason all-conference selections. Seven Texas State players made preseason all-conference teams, compared with 13 for Central Arkansas and nine each for McNeese State and Northwestern State. However, the Texas State picks have strong firepower.
Junior Texas State running back Karrington Bush was named an All-SLC first-team running back and return specialist by the SLC coaches after rushing for 1,065 yards and 11 touchdowns on 136 carries, while returning 42 kickoffs for 1,055 yards and one TD.
Sophomore guard D.J. Hall was an All-SLC first-team offensive lineman after making 13 starts on an offensive line that ranked 19th nationally in fewest sacks allowed and paved the way for one of the nation’s top eight offenses. In addition, senior tackles Calvin Gore and Alex Luna were named All-SLC second-team selections for Texas State.
Joining Gore and Luna on the All-SLC second-team offense is senior quarterback Bradley George, who ranked among the nation’s top six most efficient passers and became the first Texas State quarterback to throw for over 2,000 yards in two consecutive seasons in 2008. He completed 181 of his 301 passes for 2,660 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.
Junior linebacker Marcus Clark also was named an All-SLC second-team selection after recording 85 tackles, one interception and one recovered fumble in 2008. Clark ranked second among team leaders in tackles last season after leading the Bobcats in tackles as a freshman.
McNeese State senior tailback Toddrick Pendland and Central Arkansas defensive lineman Larry Hart were named the preseason Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively, in the SLC.Email | Print