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PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: With NCAA DI (FCS) postseason berths on the line, fourth-ranked Sam Houston State travels to San Antonio to face Incarnate Word in regular season finale

In what looked like would be a classic showdown for the Southland Conference title, the regular season finale has become more of a clash between a national championship contender and a postseason pretender.

Hoping to earn the coveted automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs as Southland Conference champions, fifth-ranked and undefeated Sam Houston State (5-0) hits the road to take on 22nd-ranked Incarnate Word (3-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium in San Antonio. 

Incarnate Word stumbles into the season finale riding a two-game losing streak, getting crushed by 14th-ranked Nicholls State, 75-45, on the road three weeks ago before falling in a shocker to previously winless Northwestern State, 49-47, last Saturday.

But behind freshman quarterback Cameron Ward, the Cardinal offense ranks first in the nation with 599.2 total offensive yards per game while collecting 391.6 passing yards per game.

Despite the shortened spring season, Ward stands one touchdown pass away from breaking the school record for most TD passes in a single season by leading the nation with 22 scoring strikes.

On the other hand, the Bearkats clinched at least a share of the Southland Conference championship for the first time since 2017 as quarterback Eric Schmid led a 27-13 victory McNeese State at Bower’s Stadium last Saturday.

Coming into the game, the Bearkats average 511 offensive yards per game while led by Schmid  has passed for 330.2 yards per game. Defensively, SHSU boasts the best defense in the league by limiting opponents to 91 points, allowing just 11 touchdowns and five field goals. 

Elsewhere in the Southland Conference, 23rd-ranked Southeastern Louisiana Lions (4-2) hopes to earn more points with the selection committee for one of the six at-large bids when they visit Southern Illinois (4-3) in a non-conference game. For the unprecedented spring season, the FCS playoff committee reduced the postseason field from 24 to 16 teams, leaving only six at-large bids up for grabs.

Other FCS games in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) feature Mississippi Valley State (1-3) at Texas Southern (1-2); Prairie View A&M (2-0) traveling Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-0); Jackson State (3-3) visting Alcorn State; Grambling State (0-3) hosting Southern (3-1); and Alabama State (3-1) at Alabama A&M (2-0).

Throughout the unprecedented spring football season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus prognosticators will select NCAA FCS and Division III college football games featuring Texas teams.

This season, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel consists of newcomer Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25), while Meridian Yellowjacket football head coach Wade Morton, The Sports Buzz photographer David Harding and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

For the record, Gridiron Gurus’ friendly battle for bragging right during the “real” fall football season came down to the final game of the season, the Super Bowl. With both Wade and Brett amazingly tied after picking 245 games going into Super Bowl LV, Wade correctly picked Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to upset Brett’s choice and favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs. Congrats, Wade.

Join us every Thursday throughout the 2021 spring football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for the unprecedented spring football games. Be sure to make your picks as well!

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