The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 8, 2012

ASU-Alabama A&M still in SWAC contention


Associated Press

— The only scoreboard Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow wants his players to watch on Saturday is the one involving the Hornets in their game at Southern. But ASU's chances of playing for the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship will also depend on the final score of Alabama A&M's game at Jackson State that same day.

ASU, A&M and Jackson State are all still eligible to win the SWAC's East Division title, and none of them can do it Saturday without help in the other game. ASU and A&M are tied for first place with 6-2 division records, while JSU is 5-2 with a final conference game to play next week.

So while none of the three is in with a win Saturday, each is out with a loss. That is why Barlow said he stressed to his team to concentrate only on ASU's game against Southern and to not worry about what is taking place in Mississippi.

"It will be hard not to wonder what's going on, but those are the things we talk about removing," Barlow said. "It's mental clutter. Things that you have no control over.

"So we'll make sure we keep them focused on our game, and whatever happens over there on the other side will be what it is. When you get to thinking about things that have nothing to do with what's taking place on the field and you're thinking about all the 'what-ifs,' then you lose."

ASU beat A&M earlier this season and lost to JSU. If the Hornets win Saturday and A&M defeats Jackson State, then ASU and A&M will both finish 7-2 in conference play and the Hornets will win the division based on the head-to-head tiebreaker. If ASU loses and A&M wins, then the Bulldogs will win the division outright.

"You talk about putting all the marbles on the table," Alabama A&M coach Anthony Jones said. "This is an all-or-nothing game for everyone involved. We still need some help, but it's one of those games you aspire to be a part of."

If ASU and Jackson State both win Saturday, then the division crown will not be determined until next week, when JSU plays Alcorn State. A victory in that game would give the Tigers the title, since they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Hornets.

THURSDAY'S GAME

North Alabama at West Alabama, 6:30 p.m.

West Alabama will attempt to win the outright title in the Gulf South Conference when the Tigers (7-3, 4-0 GSC) take on longtime rival North Alabama (5-4, 2-2).

"We have been a good football team all year, and we have one more big game to close out the season," UWA coach Will Hall said.

UNA needs a victory to secure the team's eighth consecutive winning season and avoid the first four-game losing streak since 2002. The Lions opened the season 5-1 but have lost three straight since.

"Our goals are a lot higher than that, but playing so many freshmen this year and having so many injuries, that's the goal we will try and get," UNA coach Bobby Wallace said.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Jacksonville State vs. Austin Peay, 3 p.m.

JSU goes into its final Ohio Valley Conference game of the season without any chance of claiming even a share of the conference championship.

The Gamecocks (5-4, 4-3) lost to UT Martin 49-47 last week, dropping two games out of first place in the OVC.

"There are not many games played around here that don't have some kind of conference championship bearing, but this happens to be one of them," JSU coach Jack Crowe said. "Now it's all about Jacksonville State and the tradition that these seniors represent."

Austin Peay (1-8, 0-6) beat Culver-Stockton last week 56-0 for its first victory of the season.

Samford at Elon, 12:30 p.m.

Samford can finish in the top half of the Southern Conference standings with a victory over Elon. A victory would assure the Bulldogs (6-3, 4-3) of finishing no worse than fourth in the nine-team conference.

Samford is coming off a victory over Wofford, which averages 373 rushing yard per game. Now the Bulldogs take on Elon (3-6, 1-5), which leads the league in passing at 300.4 yards per game.

"Wofford threw the ball seven times last week and Elon will probably throw it seven times in the first series or two," Samford coach Pat Sullivan said. "We have to get back into the mode of an up-tempo ballgame."

Stillman vs. Concordia-Selma, 1:30 p.m.

A winning record is on the line for Stillman when the Tigers (5-5, 4-3 SIAC) play Concordia-Selma in their season finale.

Stillman broke a three-game losing streak last week with a 37-12 victory over Clark Atlanta.