No. 19 Stephen F. Austin at No. 15 Incarnate Word
When: 2 p.m. Saturday at Gayle & Tom Benson Stadium in San Antonio
The Matchup: This game features multiple storylines and statistics, but a fascinating statistic was provided to me by Ben Rikard, Assistant Athletic Director - Media Relations at Sam Houston.
Saturday marks the first-ever meeting in the FCS / Division I-AA playoffs between two teams from the state of Texas. Speaking of the Bearkats, they will host the winner of this game in the second round next week.
Incarnate Word is making its second appearance in the FCS playoffs in the last four years after securing the Cardinals’ first outright Southland Conference title in program history. UIW coach Eric Morris has done a tremendous job building the football program since he took the reigns before the 2018 season.
Stephen F. Austin is making its first appearance in the FCS playoffs since 2014, and the ‘Jacks are another team that has made drastic improvements under coach Colby Carthel in his fourth season at the helm.
This game also features two of the top college football coaches, with Morris and Carthel being named finalists this week for the Eddie Robinson Award, which is presented to the national coach of the year in FCS.
Both teams’ offenses have received plenty of attention this year for a good reason. Walter Payton Award winner Cameron Ward leads UIW. The sophomore quarterback has followed his tremendous freshman campaign with a spectacular 38 touchdowns with only ten interceptions.
SFA features one of the best wide receivers at any level of college football in Xavier Gipson. The sophomore surpassed 3,000 career receiving yards in the ‘Jacks win last week and has put up video game numbers this year with 1,266 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on 68 receptions.
Players to Watch:
Trae Self, QB, Jr, North Richland Hills, Texas (Butler CC)
Miles Reed, RB, Jr, Corona Calif. (Hawaii)
Xavier Gipson, WR, Soph, Dallas, Texas (Woodrow Wilson HS)
Myles Heard, S, Sugar Land, Texas (Fort Bend Dulles HS)
Rayshad Nichols, DT, Bridge City, La. (Higgins HS)
BJ Thompson, DE, England, Ark. (England HS)
Cameron Ward, QB, Soph, West Columbia, Texas (Columbia HS)
Kevin Brown, RB, Gr, Mount Pleasant, S.C. (Wando HS)
Taylor Grimes, WR, Jr, Godly, Texas (Godly HS)
Kelechi Anyalebechi, LB, Sr, Pearland, Texas (Shadow Creek HS)
Isaiah Paul, LB, Soph, San Antonio, Texas (Brennan HS)
Rashon Davis, DB, Gr, St. Louis, Mo. (Christian Brothers College HS)
Key to Victory: The offenses were discussed above, but the playoffs are won and lost by the defense and turnovers. Both teams are excellent at creating turnovers and limiting their own mistakes.
SFA has forced 15 interceptions, recovered eight fumbles this season, and has a tremendous +7 turnover margin, while UIW has intercepted 14 passes and recovered ten fumbles for a solid +5 turnover margin.
The ‘Jacks have faced some of the best competition in the country this season and have allowed only 4.6 yards per play. Conversely, the Cardinals have faced their share of explosive offenses and have allowed 5.4 yards per play.
Prediction: Neither team has experienced playoff success under their current coaching staff. However, SFA coach Colby Carthel knows how to win playoff games and owns a 7-3 record in playoffs at Texas A&M-Commerce, including a national title in 2017.
The ‘Jacks defense has a very slight edge in this game and will make an essential stop late to seal the victory.
SFA by 2
Best of the Rest:
Saturday, Nov. 27
No. 21 Nebraska-Kearney at Angelo State, 1 p.m., LSC Digital Network
No. 19 Birmingham Southern at No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor, noon, CruAthletics.com
Mississippi Valley State at Prairie View A&M, 2 p.m., ESPN+
This article is available to our Digital Subscribers.
Click "Subscribe Now" to see a list of subscription offers.
Already a Subscriber? Sign In to access this content.