Live Video Link, visit http://www.themiaa.tv - kickoff at 6 p.m. central time.
The Wildcats have waited more than nine months to rid themselves of the bitter taste of last year's triple-overtime playoff loss at Chadron State. Their wait is down to hours now as we are finally ready for the start of the 2008 football season.
It's 9 a.m.. here in Maryville, Mo., and everyone here is ready for the kickoff of the only game featuring two top-10 teams in the country, regardless of NCAA division. The eighth-ranked Wildcats and fourth-ranked Bearcats of Northwest Missouri State will get started at 6 p.m., and ACU's new play-by-play voice, Grant Boone, will join Lance Fleming (color commentator) and Brandon Stover (sideline) will bring you the broadcast on KYYW 1470 AM. We'll be on the air at 5:40 p.m. with the pre-game show.
Both of these teams are anxious to get back on the field, but for totaly different reasons. ACU, of course, because of its 76-73 triple-overtime loss to Chadron State last year in the second round of the playoffs. The Wildcats carried a 29-point lead into the fourth quarter only to see it evaporate in the final 15 minutes.
The Bearcats are anxious to get back on the road to the national championship game, a game they've played in in each of the last three seasons. However, they've lost all three games by a combined 12 points (losing to Grand Valley State in 2005 and 2006 and Valdosta State in 2007). So the Bearcats are eager to prove they can not only get to the big game, but win it.
Look, it's no secret that the Lone Star Conference as a whole still trails the MIAA in national respect, title-game appearances and just about anything else you want to look at. But the LSC has a chance to make a statement over the first couple of weeks of the season with several games between teams in the two leagues.
Saturday night's game is the first, and it will pit an ACU team that is trying to reach the level that Northwest has reached against a Northwest team trying to win again on the biggest stage in Division II football.
If you go by the people picking this game, it apparently doesn't need to be played because they all believe the Bearcats are going to win. The columnists on d2football.com (LSC and MIAA) both pick the Bearcats to win, and so does the Abilene Reporter-News. I'm not saying the Wildcats are going to stroll into Bearcat Stadium and kick the Bearcats around like they did so many early season opponents last year.
I will say, however, that I believe the Wildcats will play much better than they did in last year's season-opening loss at Central Oklahoma. This subject came up at dinner last night between Grant, Brandon, Kyle Robarts and myself, and what I said was this: since Chris Thomsen became the Wildcats' head coach, I haven't seen this team go into one game (other than last year's UCO game) where it didn't look totally prepared to play.
Now, does that mean we've always won or played as well as we could have? No. But the bottom line is, the Wildcats were in position to win each of their last 12 games last year because they were well-schooled and well-prepared during the week of practice.
I don't expect Saturday night to be any different. We've all talked about this game ad nauseum since it was announced in February that the teams had agreed to play. The time for talking about it is over. It's time to play and I can't wait.