The Blitz: Blowout wins by SFA and MSU sparks questions

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Two teams combined to score 175 points while shutting out their opponents last week. The 98-0 win by Stephen F. Austin over an NAIA foe garnered the headlines, while Midwestern State’s 77-0 win over fellow Lone Star Conference member Simon Fraser set a program record for the largest margin of victory yet was largely ignored. 

When the final score reflects a bloodbath, the first question is whether the teams intentionally tried to run up the score. I understand why someone’s thoughts go toward a team deliberately running up the score because it does happen. However, neither of these games seems to be a case of intentionally running up the score.

Let’s start with SFA. This game should never have happened, and SFA and Warner (Fla.) are not to blame for playing the game. This game came about due to circumstances outside of SFA’s control. The Lumberjacks had a full schedule until UIW backed out of a move to the WAC, and Lamar decided to leave a year early. UIW and Lamar made decisions that were in the best interest of its university and do not shoulder any blame.

UIW and Lamar made their decisions in early July, leaving the ‘Jacks with few options for opponents. Finally, SFA found an opponent willing and available to play, which is crucial for a team that needs as many games as possible to build a resume for the playoff committee.

In MSU’s situation, it played a team from its conference, who had to fly to Texas from Canada, play in the hottest temperature they’ve experienced this year, and are not a very good team.

The Mustangs ran 19 plays in the fourth quarter, and every single run was a dive play up the middle of the defense. Yet, MSU still scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

SFA and MSU coaching staffs played every healthy and available athlete. The ‘Jacks did continue to pass the ball in the fourth quarter, but it was their fourth-string quarterback taking the snaps.

A team only controls one side of the ball, and the opponent can’t be upset about a team nearing 100 points if they aren’t able to stop players who are likely seeing their only game action of the year. A coach can’t be expected to tell his players not to play hard or stay out of the end zone. The game was called with six minutes left in regulation.

Was SFA’s 98 points a record? It is a record for most points scored by a team in the Western Athletic Conference, and it’s the highest point total I can find in the Texas sub-FBS ranks since Mary Hardin-Baylor’s 91-7 win over Albright College in 2018. The 98 points was not an FCS record, however, with that distinction belonging to Portland State, who scored a 105-0 win over Delaware State in 1980.

Note: The Blitz contains record projections from for 19 teams, along with an analysis of the projection. 

Southland Conference

  • UIW’s loss to Southeastern Louisiana will have significant implications on the Cardinals postseason following a busted coverage on the game's final play due to the safety slipping on the turf. UIW will need an at-large berth to make the playoffs, with SLU unlikely to lose two games in a relatively weak Southland. As a result, the Cardinals are unlikely to receive one of the top seeds and may have to play on the road in the second round.

  • Houston Baptist announced a name change to Houston Christian. The change is effective immediately, and the athletic teams will continue to use their current uniforms with the HBU logo until new threads with HCU arrives. In addition, the Huskies mascot will remain the same.

  • UIW (Current: 3-1, Massey 9-1) The Cardinals should roll through its remaining schedule with a road game at Nicholls providing the only concern.

  • Texas A&M-Commerce (Current: 2-2, Massey 5-6) Two more wins are possible for the Lions this year if they remain healthy enough to compete with a lack of depth. I disagree with Massey on the Tennessee State game to close the season, but my opinion could change on that game. Four wins would be a massive success for the Lions in their first year of FCS.

Southwestern Athletic Conference

  • Prairie View A&M (Current 2-2, Massey 9-2) The Panthers would be in the SWAC title game if Massey is correct. However, Southern, Lamar, and Alcorn State could pose problems for PVAMU.

  • Texas Southern (Current 1-3, Massey 5-6) The Tigers have made a believer out of Massey. However, three games, Alabama State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Alabama A&M, are virtual tossups. This year, TSU is a much better team, but its schedule remains brutal.

Western Athletic Conference

  • Ethan Long replaced Maverick McIvor at quarterback for Abilene Christian towards the end of the first quarter last week and completed 22-of-34 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. During his press conference, ACU coach Keith Patterson said, “you reward performance,” when asked which quarterback will start this week, which indicates that Long will be the starter on Saturday at Utah Tech.

  • Sam Houston (Current 1-2, Massey 7-2) The next two games are the most challenging tests remaining on the Bearkats schedule, with both games a virtual tossup, according to Massey. However, Kats fans will be ecstatic if they finish their time in FCS with a seven-game winning streak.

  • SFA (Current 2-2, Massey 8-3) The Lumberjacks are projected to win their last six games by Massey. However, Southern Utah and Central Arkansas are two tossups remaining, and the ‘Jacks need to win both of those games and the Battle of the Piney Woods this week for an at-large bid to the playoffs.

  • Tarleton (Current 3-1, Massey 5-6) This is the first team where I disagree with Massey to a large degree. The Texans are a good team this year, and I think they will reach at least six wins and possibly knock off Southern Utah or SFA if they create some breaks.

  • Texans QB Beau Allen and K Adrian Guzman were each named WAC Players of the Week following an impressive road win over North Alabama.

Lone Star Conference

  • West Texas A&M’s playoff hopes are already on life support following two consecutive losses. The Buffs still have time to earn a playoff bid, but the health of quarterback Nick Gerber will be of massive importance. Gerber was injured on a late hit that wasn’t penalized late in the fourth quarter against Angelo State.

  • The Rams weakness against WT was an inability to score touchdowns in the red zone in the first half. ASU corrected its mistakes and took care of the ball better in the second half but needs its kicker to display consistent accuracy, which has been an issue early this year.

  • Texas A&M-Kingsville (Current 4-0, Massey 9-2) The Javelinas would be in line for a playoff berth if Massey is correct. However, a home game against MSU in early November will likely determine A&M-Kingsville’s playoff hopes.

  • UTPB (Current 2-2, Massey 5-6) The Falcons face a gauntlet of good teams in three of the next four weeks against WT, A&M-Kingsville, and MSU. UTPB’s offensive line has struggled this year, which puts wins against Eastern New Mexico and Western New Mexico in doubt.

  • ASU QB Zach Bronkhorst, UTPB LB Hayden Kelly, and Texas A&M-Kingsville K Gilbert Garza earned superlatives from the LSC for their performances last week.

American Southwest Conference

  • The playoff hopes for Hardin-Simmons took a hit last week. The impact of the loss to Mary Hardin-Baylor was discussed in the postgame recap. The Cowboys own a road win over Wisconsin-Platteville, which will help but may not be enough to earn an at-large berth following the margin of victory for the Cru.

  • UMHB’s offensive line is a solid group and routinely won their battle against the Cowboys defensive line. HSU preferred to play a two-deep zone against UMHB but was forced to blitz to apply pressure on the quarterback, with the linemen unable to create pressure.

  • Burleson Centennial OL Grant Moffatt announced his commitment to Mary Hardin-Baylor. 

  • Howard Payne (Current 3-1, Massey 7-3) The Yellow Jackets are projected to cruise past their next three opponents, but the schedule makers didn’t do HPU any favors with HSU and UMHB in back-to-back weeks near the end of the season.

  • Sul Ross State (Current 2-2, Massey 4-6) Lobos fans wouldn’t complain about four wins this year, but a fifth win is possible with an upset of either HPU or East Texas Baptist. I’m wondering why SRSU keeps the interim tag on Barry Derickson. What he’s done with this program to this point is impressive.

  • SRSU QB T.J. DeShields and Southwestern QB Landry Gilpin shared ASC Offensive Player of the Week honors, while UMHB LB Johnny Smith-Rider (Defensive) and McMurry K Jared Mendoza rounded out the weekly awards.

Southern Athletic Association

  • Trinity (Current 3-0, Massey 10-0) - The Tigers are expected to dominate the SAA this year, with only Birmingham-Southern giving any resistance. Another advantage for Trinity is hosting its two most formidable remaining opponents.

Sooner Athletic Conference

  • Texas Wesleyan (Current 2-1, Massey 9-1) The Rams should finish with a 9-1 record if they remain focused against SAGU, Langston, and Louisiana Christian. The main question is whether a 9-1 record is enough for a playoff berth.

  • SAGU Current 1-2, Massey 6-4) The schedule becomes favorable for the Lions following a road trip to TxWes in two weeks. The momentum of four straight wins could lead to a seventh win in SAGU’s season finale against Langston.

  • Wayland Baptist DL Gabriel Tito was named the SAC Defensive Player of the Week after tying the program record with three sacks in a win over Texas College.

Southwestern Junior College Football Conference

    Note: Massey only provides projections for games against NJCAA teams.

  • Trinity Valley (Current 3-1, Massey 5-4) The Cardinals are on a roll and are projected to beat Blinn this week. However, Massey gives TVCC a loss in its next three games against Navarro, Kilgore, and New Mexico Military. I would agree, but this is the SWJCFC, and TVCC is talented enough to win every game.

  • Kilgore (Current 2-2, Massey 6-2) The Rangers have lost two games in a row but are expected to win their remaining conference games, with TVCC providing the biggest challenge. However, Kilgore needs more from its offense to achieve its ceiling this year.

  • Navarro (Current 2-2, Massey 6-2) While the Bulldogs are projected to win their remaining conference games, Massey has all four games as a virtual tossup. I think it will be a dog fight for Navarro against SWJCFC foes. 

  • Blinn (Current 3-1, Massey 4-5) A tough road lies ahead for the Buccaneers, and Massey doesn’t believe they will navigate through the challenge very well. However, I’m not convinced Blinn will lose four of its final five SWJCFC games after they nearly beat the defending national champs.

  • Tyler (Current 1-2, Massey 4-5) The Apaches are underrated by Massey, in my opinion, but they need to prove it on the field. This week provides an opportunity to get back into the win column and build momentum.

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