Walk it back.
Rewind two months ago, to Aug. 8. If someone had told you that today, at A.W. Mumford Stadium, the Southern football team would be playing for first place in the Western Division of the Southwestern Athletic Conference … how hard would you have laughed?
Well, straighten up.
At 6 p.m. Saturday, the Jaguars (2-3, 2-1) host Prairie View (3-2, 3-1) in a game that could go a long way in determining what kind of season they’ll have. If SU wins, it will leapfrog Prairie View and slide into first place. Wow.
As always, you can follow along at http://twitter.com/perrynkeys. We’ll live-tweet from gavel to gavel.
This looks like it should be a close game, if not a shootout. While we wait, here’s a few things worth chewing on:
• Watch the Southern offensive line. We all know that left guard Zach Brown and right tackle Taylon Jones missed last week’s game with ankle injuries. They’re doubtful today. Two weeks ago, after Brown and Jones missed the Florida A&M game, it was no coincidence that FAMU started getting lots of a pressure on quarterbacks Dray Joseph and J.P. Douglas. The line held firm last week at Mississippi Valley — but Prairie View is a step up. The Panthers have a star pass-rushing end in Adrian Hamilton. If the Jaguars can’t slow down Hamilton and his teammates, it could be an ugly home game.
• Remember all those penalties last season? Stump Mitchell never stopped talking about it. Things have changed since then, if only a little. Southern — which ranked 117th in the nation with 104.1 penalty yards per game last season — has started to improve. This year, the Jaguars have 73.6 penalty yards per game this year — the second-lowest average in the SWAC. Prairie View is sixth. Mitchell said his team still needs to cut down, and he’s right (SU had 12 penalties last week against Mississippi Valley). Still, if this game is close, it could come down a few plays and a few yards. And in those cases, penalties never help.
• Also, when it comes to close games, special teams and turnovers are often huge. Southern has a minus-3 turnover margin this season. Prairie View is minus-11, worst in the SWAC. Then there’s special teams. In some areas, SU is great; the Jaguars have three punt returns for touchdowns in the 16-game Mitchell era. In other areas, from short kickoffs to botched punts and shaky place-kicking, Southern is flat-out awful. The Jaguars have to hope this thing doesn’t come down to a 35-yard boot on the last play. If it does, well, close your eyes and hope for the best.
Again, follow us during the game at http://twitter.com/perrynkeys.
Our friends at the National Weather Service are predicting 78 degrees, sunny skies and a 12-mph crosswind at kickoff.
It’s a lovely fall afternoon in Baton Rouge. Let’s get it on.