Only one game remains in the Southland Conference regular season, and Sam Houston State is one of three teams remaining in the chase for at least a share of the SLC championship.
SHSU’s 2014 season will come down to their final game Saturday against Central Arkansas at Bowers Stadium at 3 p.m.
SHSU and Southeastern Louisiana are tied atop the SLC with 6-1 records in conference play. UCA is right behind with a 5-2 record as the only other team alive in the race for the automatic bid for the FCS playoffs. SLU faces winless Nicholls State today at 6 p.m. and will await the weekend games to know their playoff qualifications.
SHSU comes off a 76-0 blowout over Houston Baptist as UCA comes off their final bye week. The Bearkats will need to win this game in order to be in the playoffs.
“I feel good about where we are right now,” head coach K.C. Keeler said following the Bearkats win over HBU. “I’m really looking forward to playing a championship ball game with these kids”
The 7-4 Bearkats have to win or their playoffs chances are most likely over, whereas the 6-5 Bears need to win, SLU to lose and a lot of luck to steal the championship in the final game.
Following last weekend’s game, Keeler talked about the matchup that decides the fate of the Bearkat season.
“[The Bears] score a lot and they score very quickly,” Keeler said. “It’s going be a ball game all the way to the very end. It’s going to be a championship-style ball game.
The Bearkats have been in a win-or-go-home scenario seven times in the last 28 seasons, coming out on top six of those seven times with the last time being in 2012.
The Bears-Bearkats rivalry is quite new as the Bears hold a 5-3 lead, winning the last two matches. When these two teams meet at Bowers, however, both teams have won two games.
UCA goes into the final game of the season, averaging 41.5 points a game to the Bearkats’ 37.3. UCA’s senior running back Willie Matthews is seventh in the SLC in rushing offense, yet Bearkats sophomore quarterback Jared Johnson is sixth and senior running back Keshawn Hill is fourth.
UCA has the top scoring team in the SLC but the worst scoring defense. The Bearkats are not far behind offensively sitting at the third position. This game sets up to be a high scoring offensive showcase to decide the fate of both teams.
There are six scenarios if SHSU and/or SLU win to finish 7-1 in SLC play. In scenario one, if SHSU wins and SLU loses, the Bearkats will get the automatic qualifier to move onto the playoffs. Scenario two on the other hand is reversed if the Lions win and the Kats lose. If the first two scenarios don’t give an automatic qualifier, SHSU and SLU will rely on help from some of its SLC rivals. In order for the Bearkats to advance, they will need Piney Woods rival Stephen F. Austin State to beat Northwestern State if both SHSU and SLU win. On the other hand SLU will need Northwestern to win in order to be in the playoffs automatically. The McNeese State and Lamar game will also play a part in the final weekend, yet the SFA-Northwestern game is the key for the championship. UCA needs both SHSU and SLU to lose and a whole lot of luck in order to tie SLU to get the automatic qualifier. In SLC rules, if there is a tiebreaker and all scenarios do not work, the team who has the longest playoff drought will get the automatic bid for the FCS playoffs.
If both SHSU and SLU win and either one is the automatic qualifier, all hope is not lost. The FCS selection show will be Monday and the best non-conference winners will get a bid for the playoffs.
Northwestern visits SFA Saturday as kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Lamar at McNeese is set for kickoff at 6 p.m.
Kickoff for the SHSU-UCA game is set for 3 p.m. at Bowers Stadium and can be seen on Southland TV.