By MIKE McCALL
October 25, 2012
Forget about Grambling.
For Southern, this is The Big One.
While the Bayou Classic at season’s end will no doubt be emotionally charged — not to mention a good chance for an SU win, thanks to the Tigers’ 0-6 start — for this year, at least, Arkansas-Pine Bluff is the Jaguars’ No. 1 rival.
With a win over the Golden Lions — who currently sit in first place with a 3-1 record in Southwestern Athletic Conference play — Southern (2-2) would take over the top spot in the Western Division by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.
Barring a stunning turn of events, Grambling won’t figure into that race.
Texas Southern is out altogether via a postseason ban (and playing very poorly), and Prairie View, at 1-5 (1-3 SWAC), has a long way to go if it wants to be a serious contender.
That leaves two teams who, right now, are poised to duel for the division title for the rest of the season. There will be other challenges along the way for Southern, which still has to face Prairie View, SWAC East powers Alabama A&M and Alabama State, and of course, Grambling.
But this week, the Jaguars will directly confront the team they’re trying to unseat in the West. In terms of what it means for their conference title hopes, think LSU-Alabama.
And oh, by the way, the last time these two met, it was a one-point UAPB win that ended in a massive brawl, a cloud of pepper spray and a whopping 41 suspensions.
There’s bad blood, revenge and the division crown at stake, making this a potential season climax for both squads.
Of course, either team could still overcome this weekend’s result by going undefeated or tanking, but the bottom line is that a win would put the Jaguars alone in the driver’s seat, rather than riding shotgun with UAPB.
They haven’t been there in a while, so it might take a considerable amount of mirror and seat adjustments to get comfortable. But Southern will take it however it can.
This is a team desperate to get back on top, and the path there is clearly defined.
Go through the Golden Lions, keep winning, and a spot in the conference championship is guaranteed.
“It’s very nice,” defensive tackle Casey Narcisse said, cracking a wide smile. “How would you feel to control your own destiny?”
That’s an empowering feeling for Southern, which, save for a win in the 2010 season opener, hasn’t had a winning record at any point since 2009.
Above all, there’s that well-known streak of SWAC Championship futility to think about.
No SU player needs a reminder of either.
“We haven’t been No. 1 on our side since 2004,” receiver Lee Doss said. “We know what’s at stake right now. We know our season is in our hands right now.”
Plenty could change between now and the end of November, but as far as could be predicted right now, this is as big as it gets for Southern.