The race for the title is up for grabs as one game separates first place from fifth place. The team’s two nationally ranked squads — the No. 1 ranked Valdosta State Blazers (4-0) and the No. 14 ranked West Alabama Tigers (4-1) — are currently tied for the top spot in the conference with a 2-0 GSC record. The Tigers and the Blazers have both been powerhouses offensively as they are the top two scoring teams in the GSC at 49.6 points per game and 41.5 points per game respectively. They are also both tops in the GSC in scoring defense as Valdosta State has yielded just 9.5 points per game, while West Alabama has given up only 16.2 points per game. Nationally, the Tigers are second in total offense (571.2 ypg.) fourth in rushing defense (63.8 ypg.) fifth in scoring offense and fifth in team passing efficiency (178.6). The Blazers are third in the nation in scoring defense.
In Livingston, Ala. on Thursday, the Tigers and Blazers will battle each other to see who can get sole possession of first place. Even though this game on paper won’t determine the champion, the winner will have a big advantage down the\ road in their pursuit for the conference title.
The Delta State University Statesmen (3-2) are a team that is alive and well in the conference race. Despite losing to West Alabama 48-14 last week in Livingston, Ala., the Statesmen are still 2-1 in the conference. which puts them a half game behind Valdosta State and West Alabama. DSU, which is off this week, still has three more conference games against Shorter (10-24 at Rome, Ga.), Valdosta State (11-2, Valdosta State in Cleveland) and West Georgia (11-14, Carrollton, Ga.) to make their move. Delta State has been much improved under first year head coach Todd Cooley as DSU’s three wins are already as many as what the team had last year in a 3-7 campaign. The two wins in GSC are already one more than what the team had all of last year.
DSU quarterback Travis Champion is first in the nation in completion percentage (.717) and ninth in the nation in passing yards (1,604 yards). For the year, he has completed 152-of-212 passes with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. Champion’s production has enabled DSU to average 365.6 passing yards a game, which puts the team six nationally in passing offense. The Statesmen are also fourth nationally in total first downs with 141. DSU’s offense and defense will be looking to click as well as special teams will be looking to click on all cylinders in the second half of the season. The off week this should also give some players much needed rest.
The West Georgia Wolves have also had a great season at 4-1 and has won its only conference game with a 31-14 win over Shorter. The Wolves’ early season start appears to be a good sign that they’re in the conference race to stay.
The North Alabama Lions, at 2-2 with a 1-1 mark in the GSC, have gotten off to a slow start for their standards but are always capable of making a run down the stretch, while the Florida Tech Panthers (1-4, 0-3 GSC) and the Shorter University (0-5, 0-3 GSC) will be looking to spoil the playoff part for somebody else.
As the stakes get higher over the next few weeks, the upcoming games should have fans on their edge of their seats.
Andy Collier is the sports editor at the Bolivar Commercial. He can be reached at (662)-843-4241 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.