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.