Stephen F. Austin Football

FB: Southland Conference Power Rankings - Week 5

September 25, 2017
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Do you remember that one big conference game between Nicholls and Sam Houston State? Turns out, there really was nothing to the hype. The Bearkats remain the class of the field and the top two remain consistent for the fifth straight week. Beyond them, only a couple teams managed to stay in last week's position.

After another chaotic weekend around the Southland Conference, here's where everyone stands entering Week 5:

These are not standings, but rather, an indication of weekly momentum. Follow us all season as we reveal our weekly rankings each Tuesday. Be sure to sign up for a free account right here and join the conversation below.


1. Sam Houston State

2017 record: 3-0 | Last week's rank: 1

K.C. Keeler's team enjoyed their week off without losing any focus. Nicholls traveled to Huntsville as a trendy upset pick and were absolutely mauled by the Bearkats' prolific offense. It was never a game and to say that Sam Houston State handled the Colonels better than Texas A&M did would be a tremendous understatement.

Now, sometimes isolated football games are only that. Certainly, SHSU's defense hasn't looked nearly like what they did this past weekend in previous matchups, but maybe that's a sign of growth. Here's what we do know, though: headed into a heavyweight battle with Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State is, and remains, the favorite in the conference by a mile.

2. Central Arkansas

2017 record: 2-1 | Last week's rank: 2

The Bears got a week off to prepare for their mega-match with Sam Houston State this weekend. In the must-see game of the weekend, Central Arkansas hosts the Bearkats in what could honestly turn out to be a de facto title game in the Southland Conference.

They won't be favored but if anyone has an opportunity to take out the Bearkats, it might be the veteran team of UCA who will be looking to avenge a disappointing showing in this matchup a year ago. Of course, teams handle weeks off in different ways: sometimes they look refreshed and electric (like Sam Houston State did this week against Nicholls) and sometimes they come out flat. Steve Campbell will be banking on his team looking like the former this weekend if we wants a crack at the SLC throne.

3. McNeese

2017 record: 3-1 | Last week's rank: 5

McNeese used defense to shut Houston Baptist out of the end zone in a game that looked a lot closer on the scoreboard than the reality. The Huskies actually entered the locker room at the half with a lead, scoring their lone touchdown in the first half on a pick-six. While my belief that the Huskies will surprise someone this season remains, credit McNeese for overcoming a sloppy offensive night with a big win to even their conference record.

The Cowboys travel to Nacogdoches to take on the suddenly not-so-awful Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks who emerged from the weekend as the lone 2-0 team in the Southland Conference. Both teams put a number on their weekend opponent with defense, and if that holds true again, the first to 20 points could emerge victorious this weekend.

4. Nicholls

2017 record: 2-2 | Last week's rank: 3

Despite the smackdown they received at the hands of Sam Houston State, I could only justify dropping Nicholls by a single spot. They've looked too good in past weeks for me to conclude that their weekend sleepwalk in Huntsville was anything more than possibly the wake up call a young team needs to rekindle their early season fire.

It's hard to look any worse than they did this weekend - I mean, it wasn't even a football game - and a part of me questions if their surprising success early was just exposed as fraudulent. They should roll Lamar this weekend and get back on track, but any signs of weakness in that contest and even a win could see the Colonels descend on this list as quickly as they rode the waves to the top.

5. Stephen F. Austin

2017 record: 2-2 | Last week's rank: 8

What a difference a week can make. Just days after entering the conversation as legitimately among the bottom teams in the league, SFA surprised many with a completely dominating defensive performance over last week's fourth place team. Just like Nicholls and Sam Houston State, a single week can sometimes mean nothing more than a single week, but if Lumberjacks fans were looking for a positive sign, they got a big one.

Now, the reality is that the upcoming three games happen to be against the teams ranked first, second, and third on this list. Even the 5th-best team in the Southland Conference (if they are indeed that) could struggle for this next month. Add in that Foster Sawyer, SFA's quarterback with potential to be among tops in the conference, will likely miss extended time with a knee injury. But right now, as things currently stand, SFA is the only 2-0 team in the SLC and our big mover this week.

6. Abilene Christian

2017 record: 1-3 | Last week's rank: 4

They didn't undo all the positive things about their opening weekend at home, but ACU definitely pumped the brakes on the "contender" talk by laying an egg this weekend against SFA. The Wildcats got almost nothing out of their offense while facing SFA's 8-man coverages and quarterback Dallas Sealey had one of the more shaky performances of his college career.

That doesn't mean ACU isn't capable of beating good teams, though. The Wildcats' defense has been miles better than in years past under first year head coach Adam Dorrel and that fact alone will lead them to the win column from time to time. They'll get Incarnate Word this weekend in a promising opportunity to win their second league game of the season.

7. Southeastern Louisiana

2017 record: 1-3 | Last week's rank: 7

They're still just as one-dimensional offensively, but that can be enough to beat bad teams. Southeastern Louisiana rolled over Lamar behind 366 yards on the ground. It isn't always a winning formula but it is terrifying for teams who struggle to stop it and if they can put together any semblance of a legitimate passing attack, this is actually a really good football team.

It helps that they'll get three-straight games that are very winnable in Northwestern State, Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist. It's fools gold, though. This team remains deeply flawed and it will show down the stretch.

8. Houston Baptist

2017 record: 1-3 | Last week's rank: 6

The Huskies actually have a fairly impressive defense. My preseason belief in this team hasn't totally been abandoned, but they have to figure out a way to put up points. They've been shut out of the end zone offensively for two-straight weeks and even the admirable fight they put up in Lake Charles wasn't nearly enough.

They get to enjoy a week off to refocus before facing their toughest challenge yet in Central Arkansas. As much as I think HBU has improved this year, they'll very likely head into their Week 7 game with Southeastern sitting at 0-3. They've lost games they needed to win and for a team losing as much talent as they are after this season, that's a depressing reality they must face.

9. Northwestern State

2017 record: 1-2 | Last week's rank: 9

Northwestern State was another team that took the week off after narrowly squeaking past Lamar in Week 4. The Demons have already won more Southland games than they did all of last season, but the needle still doesn't seem to quite be pointing up. They get a crack at Southeastern's ridiculous rushing offense this weekend and it will represent another opportunity to find the win column.

So long as the Demons remain relatively healthy, they're already a much better team than last year's injury-decimated version. It still might not be enough to keep Jay Thomas employed.

10. Incarnate Word

2017 record: 0-3 | Last week's rank: 11

The winless Cardinals didn't play a game this weekend but they slide out of the basement anyway. Besides Lamar's big loss to Southeastern, UIW's defeat a week ago suddenly feels like a far higher quality game after watching SFA's defensive clinic in Abilene. The Cardinals still may well be the worst team in the league, but there is a glimmer of hope that they've just been sorely overlooked.

They get Abilene Christian, another solid defensive team, this weekend at home. A win would immediately vault UIW out of the bottom three and that possibility feels far more plausible than it did this time a week ago - despite the fact that the Cardinals haven't played a game since.

11. Lamar

2017 record: 1-3 | Last week's rank: 10

Back to the bottom, Lamar continues to look defensively inept against Division I competition. Southeastern does exactly one thing well, every opponent knows it, and the Lions still managed to run the ball right down the throat of the Cardinals. The game was effectively over at halftime and over 500 yards of offense wasn't enough to keep Lamar in a game where they yielded 366 yards on the ground.

They did force five turnovers defensively, but in some ways that only makes the lopsided score of the contest look worse. Lamar will face a Nicholls team this weekend who will be looking to get back on track after a humiliating defeat to Sam Houston State. Expect the Cardinals to fall to 0-3.

FB: Southland Conference Power Rankings - Week 5

BigJack85
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I have a hard time seeing SFA as 5.... If we beat McNeese, OK. Maybe we 3 or 4 at that point. Right now we just have to many question marks to be any higher than 7. I believe 6 is a stretch and 7 is about right.

Axe 'Em Jacks.
INiedrauer
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BigJack85 said:

I have a hard time seeing SFA as 5.... If we beat McNeese, OK. Maybe we 3 or 4 at that point. Right now we just have to many question marks to be any higher than 7. I believe 6 is a stretch and 7 is about right.

Axe 'Em Jacks.
BigJack85, who would you rank above them? In theory, I agree. The numbers just don't add up.
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Isaac Niedrauer
@INiedrauer


BigJack85
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Probably HBU and SLU. I agree that we are splitting hairs at that point.... It could be that SFA and SLU are about the same. I'm convinced that HBU is better than they have shown so far.
nacluth
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Yeah my gut feeling says I'm not buying SFA finishing at 5th in the conference yet, but as a weekly power ranking, it's hard to place a 2-0 team below 1-1 teams. 5-8 though in the SLC cannot be considered all that powerful unfortunately despite FCS rankings.
Ryan
Kinnaird Guitars
BigJack85
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I'm going to say 8 or 9. We're better than ACU and UIW barely. Maybe NW St or Lamar are worse than us. Just is what it is now. We need to get used to a world where SFA goes 3 - 8 or 4 - 7. 6 - 5 is about as good as it gets.
nacluth
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Well UCA beat the kitty kats, so I guess the sugar bears are number one.
Ryan
Kinnaird Guitars
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