There was so much unknown around UIW in the preseason with a new coaching staff and a new quarterback. All the Cardinals have done is win and place themselves in position for a home game in the FCS playoffs. Texas A&M-Commerce is another candidate but needs two more wins to surpass their most optimistic preseason expectations.
Southwestern Athletic Conference
Texas Southern has earned the nod as the most surprising team in the SWAC. The Tigers have played a much tougher schedule this season, yet are likely to surpass their 2021 win total this week. TSU could conceivably finish with five wins this year, which would be an incredible accomplishment.
Western Athletic Conference
Stephen F. Austin and Texas Southern are the only two public universities in Texas not aligned with a system. That may change by the end of this semester, according to the Texas Tribune. Since the SFA announced their interest in joining a system in August, Texas A&M, Texas State, Texas Tech, and Texas have been vying to bring the Lumberjacks into their system. While a decision is not expected when the SFA Board of Regents meets at the end of October. However, they are expected to call a special meeting for a decision before the end of this semester. The Texas legislature will need to approve a move and is scheduled to begin its 2023 session in January.
It appears likely that SFA will soon join a system, although which system remains anyone’s guess. A survey of faculty last January showed that 73 percent of faculty supported joining a system. Another factor is enrollment, which fell by 7.5 percent between 2019 and 2021 and dropped another five percent this fall.
Abilene Christian was my preseason pick to surprise, and they have followed through on that prediction. The Wildcats are 5-2 with three demanding road trips ahead, followed by a rematch at home against SFA. One more victory would give ACU its first six-win season since 2018.
Lone Star Conference
Another team that was one of my picks to surprise this year was Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Javelinas have been led by a solid defense and will earn a spot in the NCAA DII playoffs if they can manage all three games remaining on their schedule. However, it will not be easy, beginning with a road trip to Central Washington on Saturday.
American Southwest Conference
The most surprising sub-FBS team in Texas is Sul Ross State. Lobos interim coach Barry Derickson reshaped the entire roster and has been able to mesh multiple transfers into what has become one of the top passing attacks in the ASC.
Southern Athletic Association
The SAA has been pretty chalky this year. The only big surprise is not a positive one, with Hendrix at 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the conference. Millsaps would’ve been the surprise pick if they hadn’t inexplicably dropped a home game against Rhodes last week.
Sooner Athletic Conference
No one knew what to expect from SAGU before the season, as evidenced by the Lions receiving votes in seven different places in the SAC preseason poll. Greg Ellis brought a stifling defense to the Lions, and the offense is beginning to catch fire late in the season.
Southwestern Junior College Football Conference
- It seems crazy to have Trinity Valley as the most surprising team in the SWJCFC, considering their run of five consecutive conference titles in the last decade. The Cardinals are on a six-game win streak and will be in prime position to win their first SWJCFC title since 2017 if they can beat New Mexico Military Institute this week.
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