Wolves prepare for third consecutive ranked opponent

Photo credit: Matthew Bish

The eighth game of the season may prove to be the University of West Georgia (UWG) Wolves toughest test. The University of North Alabama (UNA) Lions will be the Wolves single highest-ranking opponent this regular season. And will mark the first time that the No. 2 and No. 17 ranked teams compete at University stadium.

Coming off of their dominating 28-7 victory over the Delta State University (DSU) Statesmen, the University of West Georgia (UWG) Wolves are preparing for their tightest match-up of the season, on paper. When their biggest conference threat, the UNA Lions, visit for their annual meeting.

After suffering their first loss of the season on the road to the University of Western Oregon (WOU) Wolves, the Lions regrouped and rebounded well the following week as they dismantled the UNC-Pembroke Braves, 62-28.

The rankings are not the only dimensions that make this an interesting contest. It is also marks the first time the No. 2 and No. 17 teams have met at Ra-Lin Field at University Stadium. Making for the biggest game in University Stadium history, and possibly the biggest home game until this point in school history.

This will also be a meeting between two potent offenses. The Wolves and Lions are the top scoring offenses in the Gulf South Conference (GSC), averaging 42.7 and 40.2 points per game. But UWG has not allowed a team to score more than 28 points on their defense, a trend that the Lions will try to end. On the other hand, UNA’s defense has not shown the same consistency. The defense allowed a 28-point outing against UNC-Pembroke, along with surrendering 48 points to the Florida Tech Panthers.

While the Wolves may score more per game the Lions gain an average of 50 yards more than any other GSC team per game. The Lions boast an average of 500 yards per game, with UWG maintaining a modest 435 yards per game.

Of course, there is more at stake besides statistics when the two teams take the field this weekend. For the UNA Lions it is a chance to creep into a more stable spot in the playoff picture. Because of an unexpected loss at Western Oregon, the team is currently sitting right at the edge of playoff contention. It is the top-24 teams that will end up competing for the National Championship.

Another loss could leave the Lions on the outside of any NCAA Division II playoff scenario. With three games remaining after their trip to Carrollton, Ga. the Lions will be desperately looking to right their ship in time for the season’s end.

The Wolves sit in a more advantageous place at this juncture in the season. UWG holds an undefeated record, 7-0, which is the best record amongst the GSC teams. They also hold a 3-0 record against GSC competition, tied for best in the conference with UNA. On top of that, the Wolves occupy in the No. 2 rank in the nation, according to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll. All of this combined allows UWG some cushion, should they lose any of their remaining games.

The remaining schedule for UNA is more equipped to provide the Lions with a loss late in the season. Aside from their match-up with the Wolves, the Lion’s final three opponents are versus DSU, University of West Alabama (UWA), and at Shorter University (SU).

The Statesmen (5-2) are coming off of a loss to the Wolves, and had previously maintained the No. 15 rank in the AFCA polls, a rank two positions higher than the Lions. DSU’s predicament is similar to UNA’s, with time running out in the season, victories are a premium. This sets up a crucial must-win situation for both teams, in order to compete for a Nation Championship.

The Shorter University Hawks (2-4) has had some bright spots in their season, most notably against Mississippi College. But the Hawks have struggled to create consistent success and are currently on a two-game losing streak. The Lions will travel to Rome, Ga. to take on the Hawks in their tenth week of the season.

The final week of the season has a scheduled match-up between the UNA Lions and the UWA Tigers. This is an intriguing contest because the winner could possibly be placed into playoff contention. Of course, that scenario all depends on their performance prior to meeting; however, the implications of that contest cannot be ignored.

The remaining schedule for the Wolves looks different, but not by much. After their game with UNA, UWG goes back on the road to play two conference opponents. First, the Wolves travel to Clinton, Miss. for a contest against the Mississippi College (MC) Choctaws (2-4). A team that is 0-3 against conference competition thus far in the season, 0-10 lifetime, will be looking to get its first conference victory since joining the GSC.

Again on the road, the Wolves will travel to Melbourne, FL, to play the Florida Tech Panthers (4-3). The Wolves are 2-0 against the Panthers in their previous two meetings. The Panthers have taken home an upset victory this season over UWA, so it is not beyond the realm possibility that they could do the same to the No. 2 team in the nation.

And in the season finale, the Hawks will come to Carrollton, GA, in a contest against the Wolves. A common late season opponent for the Wolves and Lions. Should the Wolves have success against the Lions, Choctaws, Panthers and Hawks it would be UWG’s first undefeated season since joining NCAA Division II football.

The Wolves and Lions are primed and on course to collide in a contest to decide GSC supremacy. With one team’s post-season chances dwindling in the balance, and the other looking to establish dominance in the conference it could be one of, if not the most appreciated game in UWG school history.



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