Stephen F. Austin Football

FB: Southland Conference Power Rankings - Week 7

October 11, 2017

A week after falling to Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State looked anything but sharp in their rivalry game with Stephen F. Austin at NRG Stadium. The Bearkats get a pass for hanging on to win (and mostly dominating the stat sheet) but they can't afford to drop another if they have their eyes on the SLC title.

The Bears kept rolling and now face SFA at home this weekend. Elsewhere, very little movement in our rankings. Here's where everyone stands entering the season's seventh week:

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. Central Arkansas

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

Against a solid Houston Baptist defense, UCA continues to look like the top dog in the Southland. Hayden Hildebrand had an efficient 19/30 game while throwing for 293 yards and a couple scores. The Bears outgained the Huskies 407 to 281 and the final score was never really in doubt.

They'll need to take care of business again this weekend as they host Stephen F. Austin (a team trying to avoid their third-straight loss after starting 2-0 in the conference), but right now it doesn't look like anyone is quite up for challenging the best team in the league. Especially not when the Bears are at home.

2. Sam Houston State

2017 record: 4-1 | Last week's rank: 2

It was as ugly as any football game I've witnessed in person, but Sam Houston hung on to win a battle they mostly dominated on the stat sheet this past weekend in the Battle of the Piney Woods. The Bearkats had no issue moving the ball but had a very difficult time finishing drives in the redzone against SFA's zone. I wouldn't surprise me to see more teams dropping eight in coverage like the Lumberjacks did frequently, at least when operating near the goal line, after seeing the tape on this one.

But the reality is, the Bearkats hung on to win by two possessions and played easily their best defensive game of the season. If they can avoid some of the mental mistakes on offense and special teams, SHSU should have no trouble winning out.

3. McNeese

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

Again, not a pretty game, but the Cowboys took care of business against a tough Abilene Christian team on the road. McNeese's defense, a week after shutting out SFA, was dominant once again. The Wildcats gained just 138 yards for the entire game and fell 7-13.

Right now, McNeese is probably Sam Houston State's best hope for a UCA loss between now and the end of the season as the Cowboys face the Bears on the 28th. In the meantime, McNeese gets a well earned break and a meeting with Incarnate Word after.

4. Nicholls

2017 record: 4-2 | Last week's rank: 4

After starting the season on a tear, Nicholls seems like they're starting to fade just a little bit. Northwestern State took them to the brink this weekend while quarterback Chase Fourcade nursed an injury for the majority of the game before the Colonels scored a go-ahead touchdown inside of 4:00 to play and hung on by a score of 14-10.

Maybe Northwestern State is better than we think? Or maybe Nicholls is finally coming back down to earth. I debated putting SELA in this spot, but that early season win over McNeese is just too valuable. The Colonels need to get back on track quickly because Abilene Christian is coming to town this weekend. That's a game we could legitimately see going either direction.

5. Southeastern Louisiana

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

It hasn't exactly been a tough schedule stretch, but Southeastern has quietly won three-straight and continues to look better with each passing day. They get a pass for giving up 30 points to Incarnate Word because the Lions' defense has showed what it's capable of in the past. Offense, specifically the passing attack, has been the big question all season for SELA, and they've been better there.

The numbers they've put up the last couple weeks have been downright respectable, in fact. SELA quarterbacks combined to throw for over 200 yards a five touchdowns on Saturday - and if they keep that up, the Lions aren't far behind the top four on this list.

6. Abilene Christian

2017 record: 2-4 | Last week's rank: 6

Still no movement on this list. ACU got wrecked statistically and still had a chance to win against an excellent McNeese team. That should offer some hope for Wildcats fans who are looking for a reason to believe after offensive blues in two of the last three games.

The good news is, ACU gets Nicholls - a team good enough for a very good win, and bad enough to be in a bit of a funk the last few outings. A win there would be the measureable progress ACU fans have been looking for as the offense has (at times) taken a few steps back under the new coaching staff this year.

7. Stephen F. Austin

2017 record: 2-4 | Last week's rank: 7

All the way down to 7th place and not a single team has moved since this time last week. Much like ACU, the Lumberjacks had a chance for a big upset this weekend late in their game with Sam Houston State. There are a lot of "what ifs" regarding injured quarterback Foster Sawyer as the Lumberjacks have struggled mightily to move the ball without him. Sophomore Jake Blumrick is having to grow up early and it won't be any easier this weekend as SFA faces Central Arkansas on the road.

Does Clint Conque's team have a league-changing upset in store against his former team a week after pushing Sam Houston State to the brink? If so, they'll need a lot more production from an offense that mustered just 219 total yards.

8. Northwestern State

2017 record: 1-4 | Last week's rank: 9

FINALLY! Movement in our seventh week rankings. In a losing effort, Northwestern State looked surprisingly impressive in their narrow loss to Nicholls State. The rivalry game for the title of "real" NSU in Louisiana was decided by a late touchdown, but it was an encouraging step for a Demons defense who has struggled mightily this season.

Now they get Sam Houston State, so it is unlikely the winning ways will be returning to Natchitoches on the bus from Huntsville - especially because that game is followed by contests that include meetings with McNeese and Central Arkansas as well. Yikes.

9. Houston Baptist

2017 record: 1-4 | Last week's rank: 8

They had the unfortunate honor of playing the league's top team, but Houston Baptist is well on their way to another basement finish in the conference. I believed they'd be a much better team this year, and they have been on defense, but the inability to score points is ruining the season for a team stacked with veteran starters.

They get a crack at another team that has struggled at times on offense too, in Southeastern Louisiana, but they certainly won't be favored in the contest with a surging opponent.

10. Incarnate Word

2017 record: 0-5 | Last week's rank: 10

They still haven't won a game in 2018 and they're still not the worst team on this list. The team who is comes to town this weekend for a battle of bottom feeders with Lamar. It is easily the best opportunity for either of these teams to pick up their first win in the Southland (and UIW's first overall) and the loser will be well on their way to a winless campaign.

The Cardinals did manage to put 30 on the board against Southeastern but were still thoroughly dominated in the game. They've shown flashes of potential this season which is more than can be said for Lamar, but they'll have to prove they deserve this 10th spot on the field.

11. Lamar

2017 record: 1-4 | Last week's rank: 11

A week off and they're still the worst team in the league. They get a chance to prove me wrong but they'll have to do it on the road in San Antonio when they meet Incarnate Word. In the meantime, here they are, sitting pretty at the bottom with a single win over a DII squad and little life in Southland contests.

Lamar hit the reset button on their program after last season and these growing pains should be expected, but a winless campaign is not fun for anyone involved. In that way, this weekend feels like a big deal for both our 10th and 11th place teams.

FB: Southland Conference Power Rankings - Week 7

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Poor Lamar...losers to the end.

SFA has some tough sledding ahead of them. Maybe Conque can provide some unseen magic against his former team. Though more than likely they'll send him packing as is their wont to do.
Kinnaird Guitars
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My upset pick of the week is HBU over SELA. I watched a bit of the HBU-UCA game on TV, and their defense was not too bad -- gave up lots of yardage but didn't break... much.
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I wish that I could be more confident but a rose would wilt in Conque's hand and I think that he came here for the purpose of playing his son at quarterback. He failed to go out and find another quarterback but he has also had no success of bringing in good linemen on offense. There is no run blocking or quarterback protection at all from our line.
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Is NWST moving up?
Kinnaird Guitars
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Well I guess you could say UIW could move up one on a win, but who else could move? Was SELA's dominate win over HBU better than Nicholls steady win over ACU? Looks like the Southland wants to stay where you have it.
Kinnaird Guitars
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