No. 1 Sam Houston vs. Stephen F. Austin
When: 4 p.m. Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston
Broadcast: Bally Sports Southwest / ESPN+
The Matchup: One of the best rivalries in college football at any level resumes on Saturday afternoon following a year off due to the pandemic.
While the social media talk is fun for fans, players, and one of the head coaches, the result that truly matters will be decided on the field. Sam Houston has won nine in a row over Stephen F. Austin on the gridiron, with only three of those games decided by less than ten points.
However, this game has the makings of a classic that could produce the closest score in the Battle of the Piney Woods since a 34-28 SHSU win in 2015.
History will be made at kickoff, with Saturday marking the first time in the 95 meetings that one team enters with the top ranking in FCS. The Bearkats are on a 14-game win streak overall, dating back to 2019.
But this isn’t the same Lumberjacks team the Bearkats have faced in recent years.
SFA coach Colby Carthel and staff have orchestrated one of the best turnarounds in college football. The ‘Jacks have steadily improved each of the last three years under Carthel thanks to some of the top ranked recruiting classes in the FCS ranks.
The ‘Jacks enter the contest with only one blemish in four games, a 28-22 defeat at Texas Tech. SFA has played five FBS opponents since its last meeting with the SHSU, so the ‘Jacks will be prepared for a high level of play.
The Kats had their toughest test to date in a 45-35 road victory over then No. 24 Central Arkansas. SHSU believes it has plenty of room to improve despite winning its three games by an average of 24.7 points.
Players to Watch:
Eric Schmid, QB, Sr, The Woodlands, Texas (The Woodlands HS)
Ramon Jefferson, RB, Jr, Bronx, N.Y. (Maine)
Trevor Williams, LB, Jr, College Station, Texas (A&M Consolidated HS)
Stephen F. Austin
Xavier Gipson, WR, Soph, Dallas, Texas (Woodrow Wilson HS)
Trae Self, QB, Jr, North Richland Hills, Texas (Butler CC)
BJ Thompson, DE, Jr, England, Ark. (England HS)
Key to Victory: This game looks mostly even on paper, with one exception, the rushing attack.
SHSU averages 6.4 yards per rush and 259 rushing yards per contest while the SFA defense is holding opponents to an average of 3.3 yards per rush and 112.8 rushing yards per game.
The ‘Jacks offense has struggled on the ground averaging 3.2 yards per carry and 108.8 rushing yards per game. The Kats defense has been superb against the run allowing a mere 2.4 yards per rush and 77.3 rushing yards per game.
Prediction: I have seen some online odds have SHSU favored by 13.5 points.
My gut is telling me this game will be decided in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. SFA has a distinct advantage in turnover margin and has been outstanding at forcing interceptions, entering the contest with eight interceptions.
However, the rushing attack of SHSU will control the clock and wear down the SFA defense resulting in a slight difference this year. The Kats will survive but the ‘Jacks will cover.
Sam Houston by 6
Best of the Rest:
Saturday, Oct. 2
No. 15 Midwestern State at Central Washington, 8 p.m., NBC Right Now
Trinity at Berry, 5 p.m., BerryVikings.com
Other Small College Games:
Thursday, Sept. 30
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Prairie View A&M, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU
Saturday, Oct. 2
North American at Texas Southern, 2 p.m., AT&T Sportsnet
Tarleton at Eastern Kentucky, 2 p.m., ESPN+
Houston Baptist at Nicholls, 3 p.m., ESPN3
Incarnate Word at Northwestern State, 6 p.m., ESPN+
Central Arkansas at Abilene Christian, 6 p.m., ESPN+
NCAA Division II
West Texas A&M at Western Oregon, 3:05 p.m., Western Oregon YouTube
Fort Lauderdale at Texas A&M-Commerce, 6 p.m., LSC Digital Network
Western New Mexico at Angelo State, 6 p.m., LSC Digital Network
NCAA Division III
No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor at Austin College, 1 p.m., ACRoos.com
McMurry at No. 7 Hardin-Simmons, 1 p.m., HSUAthletics.com
Sul Ross State at Howard Payne, 3:30 p.m., HPUSports.com
East Texas Baptist at Southwestern, 6 p.m., SouthwesternPirates.com
Belhaven at Texas Lutheran, 6 p.m., TLUBulldogs.com
Wayland Baptist at Texas Wesleyan, 2 p.m., RamSports.net
Texas College at Lane College, 2 p.m.
Arkansas Baptist at SAGU, 2 p.m., SAGU Sports Network
Cisco at No. 4 Trinity Valley, 3 p.m., SHN Sports Network
Navarro at No. 10 Kilgore, 3 p.m., Kilgore College Sports Network
No. 7 New Mexico Military Institute at Blinn, 7 p.m., BuccaneerSports.com
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