Small College Preview: No. 14 Hardin-Simmons at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor highlights week ahead

Mary Hardin-Baylor vs. Mount Union (Jay Stevens)

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GAME: No. 25 Sam Houston State (5-3, 4-1) at No. 10 Central Arkansas (5-2, 3-1)

WHEN: Saturday at 6 p.m. at First Security Field at Estes Stadium in Conway, Ark. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

WHY IT MATTERS: SHSU won a big game at home last week against No. 9 Nicholls. Their reward is hitting the road to play another dangerous conference opponent in another crucial conference game. The Kats should be a little bit healthier at quarterback this week with Ty Brock, but they need this win for many reasons. The main reason is a win this week will give SHSU the tiebreaker over Incarnate Word, Nicholls and the Bears who are the three main contenders for the Southland title and automatic playoff berth. A Kats win this week would give this team the ultimate amount of confidence heading into a bye week when starting quarterback Eric Schmid should be able to return from injury.

INSIDE THE STATS: SHSU head coach K.C. Keeler has said he has one of the best defenses he has ever seen, and the numbers show his statement to be true. The Kats are only allowing an incredible 0.215 Points Per Play (PPP) and 19.1 yards per point this season while the Kats offense has averaged 0.414 PPP and 12.6 yards per point. The UCA offense averages 0.405 PPP and 13.8 yards per point while allowing 0.399 PPP and 14.9 yards per point. SHSU has the statistical advantage this week.

COMPUTER PREDICTION: Sam Houston State 29, Central Arkansas 27


GAME: West Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) at Eastern New Mexico (5-2, 3-2) in the Wagon Wheel Game

WHEN: Saturday at 7 p.m. at Al Whitehead Field at Greyhound Stadium in Portales, N.M.

WHY IT MATTERS: This game could have major playoff implications if either of the two teams ahead of them with one conference loss slips up over the final few games of the regular season. Add to the playoff implications that ENMU has owned this rivalry winning the last three games and six of the last seven between these two teams and you have a recipe for a classic. WT has struggled on offense in the second half of most of its games this season and must put up points consistently this week as the Greyhounds triple-option attack will limit possessions. ENMU running back Paul Terry is leading the Lone Star Conference in rushing and has an incredible 399-yard lead over the second-leading rusher in the LSC while averaging 166 yards rushing per game. Buffs head coach Hunter Hughes is seeking his first win in the rivalry.

INSIDE THE STATS: The advantage for WT in this game lies with its defense. The Buffs are only allowing 0.335 Points Per Play (PPP) and 15.3 yards per point while the ENMU offense averages 0.439 PPP and 13.6 yards per point. The Greyhounds defense allows a surprisingly poor 0.535 PPP and 11.3 yards per point while the Buffs offense averages 0.464 PPP and 10.7 yards per point.

COMPUTER PREDICTION: Eastern New Mexico 31, West Texas A&M 28


GAME: No. 14 Hardin-Simmons (5-1, 4-1) at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor (6-0, 5-0)

WHEN: Saturday at 1 p.m. at Crusader Stadium in Belton, Texas.

WHY IT MATTERS: This is the game of the week at any level of college in the state of Texas. HSU enters with a rare loss and head coach Jesse Burleson has struggled to find the right combination along the offensive line. The Cowboys also started Kyle Jones at quarterback last week and he was very impressive in the HSU romp over Belton. The one thing every HSU player knows is that they cannot afford another loss if they hope to make the playoffs this season. The defending national champion UMHB has dealt with its share of distractions once again this season between NCAA sanctions and player suspensions. Most of their suspended players are back and so is quarterback Jase Hammack who ignited the Cru offense when he returned against Howard Payne on Sept. 28. The Cru need to win this game to have a chance at winning the American Southwest Conference title outright.

INSIDE THE STATS: It is not surprising that both of these teams enter with the best offense and best defense in the conference. It is also not surprising the statistical edge lies with UMHB as its offense averages 0.841 Points Per Play (PPP) and 8.8 yards per play while the HSU defense allows 0.238 PPP and 15.4 yards per point. The Cowboys offense averages 0.659 PPP and 11.8 yards per point while the Cru defense is allowing 0.123 PPP and 25.6 yards per point this season.

COMPUTER PREDICTION: Mary Hardin-Baylor 33, Hardin-Simmons 24


GAME: Every game in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference

WHEN: Saturday at 3 p.m. except for Blinn College at New Mexico Military Institute which starts at 5 p.m.

WHY IT MATTERS: The wild and wacky SWJCFC has not disappointed yet again this season as we enter the final week of the regular season with only one playoff spot guaranteed, No. 5 Kilgore, and six teams within one game of the final two playoff spots. This much we know, No. 10 Trinity Valley can secure a playoff spot and the No. 2 seed with a win over Navarro while the Bulldogs need a win to have a chance at making the playoffs. There is one elimination game as the loser of Blinn at New Mexico Military Institute will be eliminated from playoff contention. If Cisco, Tyler and Navarro win there will be a four-way tie for the final three playoff spots with TVCC. If Kilgore, TVCC and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M all win they will join the winner of Blinn and NMMI in a five-way tie for the final two playoff spots. Do you understand now? The one thing we know is that the SWJCFC has someone studying all tiebreaker scenarios this week.

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