Saturday, October 31, 2009

Just win, baby

With Game No. 10 on tap for both the Wildcats and their opponent today, the math and the plot for two teams with national playoff ambitions are pretty simple: win. 
The 7-2 Wildcats, who have lost their last two, control their own playoff destiny in the final two regular season games. Ditto for the Javelinas (8-1) of Texas A&M-Kingsville, who share the Lone Star Conference South Division lead with Tarleton State. Those two teams have a 6-1 division record. ACU, Midwestern State and Angelo State are tied for second with 5-2 marks.

It's a beautiful West Texas autumn day: a cloudless sky, only a wisp of a breeze from the northwest, and an expected high of 70.  Today's burning questions:
  • ACU sports the top rushing defense in the nation (32.6 yards per game), coming off a suffocating smack-down of a good Tarleton State rush offense last week, which netted only -16 yards for the Texans. The Javelinas are the top rushing offense in the LSC at 191.7 per game. Last week, Kingsville junior RB Fred Winborn set a school rushing record with 263 yards, bettering the mark of the Javs' three-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner, Johnny Bailey. The run game and its defense are the keys to each team's strength; which one will prevail? 
  • Can the Wildcat defense put behind it the two big plays that were the difference in last week's 13-6 loss to Tarleton? TSU's offense was dead except for a 57-yard punt return and and a 75-yard TD pass, both of which turned the game in the Texans' favor. Will ACU turn the screws down even tighter on this week's opponent?
  • Can the ACU offensive line return to form and keep Mitchell Gale on his feet and away from an alarming number of sacks the past two weeks? 
  • If Gale can't keep the offense moving, will Chris Thomsen call again on Zach Stewart, who was 7-0 in his starts before Gale took over earlier this season?
  • Can ACU resurrect its dropback passing game, which has lately morphed into more of a sprint-out, Veer-look offense while Gale runs for his life to escape seemingly constant blitzes? The Javelinas are reportedly susceptible to downfield passing attacks.
  • Can the ACU pass defense befuddle Kingsville's strong-armed senior QB, Billy Garza? He rose to No. 2 on the depth chart at the University of Illinois before transferring to play for the Javs last year.
  • Is this the final home game for a long list of seniors, including arguably NCAA Division II's top NFL draft prospect, OL Tony Washington, and defensive back Tony Harp? If the Wildcats win their final two regular-season games, their strength-of-schedule rating (and record against a large handful of regionally and nationally ranked teams) could help them snag an early-round home game.

No comments: