Saturday, October 24, 2009

Now It Gets Interesting

Hello from sunny and windy and cool Stephenville, home of the legendary barbeque at Hard Eight, and Tarleton State University. It's Homecoming for the purple-shirted Texans, an event the Wildcats hope will be just as kind to their hosts as what they experienced last week in Abilene.

That's when West Texas A&M recorded its third straight ACU Homecoming smackdown, sending the Wildcat alumni to their reunions and the Musical humming the blues, not March Grandioso. Coach Chris Thomsen's team hopes to do the same to Tarleton here in Memorial Stadium. Last time ACU was here (2007), it pulled out a thrilling (if you like offense) 70-63 win in the final quarter, thanks to 9 touchdowns between RB Bernard Scott and WR Johnny Knox, and Scott's school-record 283 yards rushing. Last year, Scott terrorized TSU again with 259 yards on the ground in a 37-17 ACU win in Shotwell Stadium.

Some thoughts about tonight's game:
  • Both teams are 7-1 overall, 5-1 in the LSC and 2-1 in the LSC South. Neither can afford another loss and have much hope of a possible NCAA playoff bid. Tarleton's situation is more desperate, as its strength of schedule is poor (the teams they've beat this year are 4-24 overall), and its ranking not as high in the region and nation. Both teams have three games remaining in the regular season. ACU hosts Texas A&M-Kingsville next week, then hits the road to play Midwestern State. TSU plays at Angelo State next week, then hosts WT.
  • Both teams are nationally ranked – ACU No. 9 and TSU No. 11.  ACU is fourth in the regional rankings, and TSU is 10th, that SOS thing again holding the Texans back. Both have stout defenses.  In the LSC, ACU is No. 1 in total defense and TSU is No. 2. Ditto for rushing offense for both teams. The Texans lead the LSC in a category they'd rather not – penalties – 103.2 yards per game of them, in fact. ACU ranks second-lowest in the league in that department.
  • Can the Wildcats find an answer to defending the screen pass that did so much damage last week? TSU has a solid running back, Roderick Smith, who is comparable to WT's Keithon Fleming. 
  • Will ACU need a downfield passing game if it gets behind? It has relied on a strong rushing attack thus far, giving redshirt freshman QB Mitchell Gale time to steady himself. Gale has a strong arm; is it accurate when under pressure, too?

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