With only three weeks remaining in the Southland Conference regular season, three teams are tied for the lead in the conference with 4-1 records.
McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana and Sam Houston State are all tied for the automatic FCS playoff berth given to the SLC champion.
“We realize we control our own destiny,” head coach K.C. Keeler said following last Saturday’s game against Stephen F. Austin State. “It’s a [three]-game playoff basically. The goal is to be conference champs and make it to the playoffs.”
There are also three teams in the SLC with two losses: Stephen F. Austin State, Lamar and Central Arkansas. The two loss teams need to win out in their last three games and have a little bit of luck on their sides to get the automatic bid into the playoffs.
Going into last weekend’s games, five teams were tied atop the SLC. SFA and UCA both lost crucial games that slimmed their playoff choices. SFA lost 42-28 to SHSU in the Battle of the Piney Woods in Houston, and UCA lost 52-35 to Abilene Christian. The Wildcats played with their backup quarterback.
Although overall records may look nice, they do not matter compared to the weight the SLC record has. Even though SHSU is 5-4 overall compared to McNeese’s 6-2 record and SELU’s 6-3 record, the teams are still looked at as equals due to their 4-1 records of SLC play.
Looking at the three teams tied for first, McNeese has the toughest remaining schedule. The Cowboys play SFA, at Southeastern Louisiana and back home against Lamar. The three opponents have a combined 18-9 record and are all tied for either first or second in the SLC.
The Bearkats’ schedule looks to be one of the easiest of the three teams tied at first, as their remaining opponents have a combined record of 9-19. However, two of the three games are away, and the Bearkats are 1-3 this season on the road so far this season. They go to Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist before returning to Huntsville to face Central Arkansas in the final game of the regular season.
Southeastern Louisiana has two home games against Houston Baptist and McNeese before closing out the season against Nicholls State. Their remaining opponents are a combined 8-19, but the game against McNeese will most likely end up being the deciding factor in crowning a SLC championship.
Following last week’s win over SFA, senior running back Keshawn Hill believes the team has one mindset with the last three games in hindsight.
“We just want to be conference champions,” Hill said. “At the end of the day we’re trying to win conference championship.”
The Bearkats head into San Antonio this weekend for a match with Incarnate Word. The Cardinals may be 2-4 in SLC, but any game can shake up standings.
“We have a big game every weekend, and every weekend is going to be like a playoff game for us,” Keeler said. “I think the kids are ready for the challenge.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.