Samford set to meet Chattanooga in pivotal SoCon game

The Samford Bulldogs are hoping the comforts of home will help against Chattanooga at 2 p.m. Saturday. (Samford Athletics)

(AP) -- The Samford Bulldogs are hoping the comforts of home will help against Chattanooga at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Bulldogs (6-4, 4-2 Southern Conference) have had four road games and an off week since the last time they played at Seibert Stadium on Oct. 5. They won the first two of those road games and lost the last two.

Samford's two consecutive losses has dropped the Bulldogs from the conference lead into a three-way tie for second place with Wofford and Furman. Chattanooga (8-2, 6-1) holds down the top spot in the conference, thanks to a six-game winning streak.

"We have to get ready for a team that is playing better than anybody in the Southern Conference right now," Samford coach Pat Sullivan said. "But our guys have shown resiliency all year."

Chattanooga is at or near the top of the Southern Conference in almost every defensive category. The Mocs lead the league in total defense (320.1 yards per game), pass defense (143.6 ypg), scoring defense (17.9 points per game) and interceptions (10). They rank second in sacks (18) and turnover margin (plus-6), and third in rushing defense (176.5 ypg). Davis Tull leads the league with eight sacks.

"They have all the pieces to the puzzle," Sullivan said of the Mocs. "Their defensive end, Davis Tull, is probably the defensive player of the year in the conference."

Samford counters with one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS. Andy Summerlin has completed 65 percent of his passes this season, throwing for 2,945 yards and 19 touchdowns. Tailback Fabian Truss is seventh in the conference in rushing, with 838 yards and eight touchdowns.

A victory would give the Bulldogs a good chance of claiming at least a tie for the conference championship, since they end the regular season next week with a home game against last-place Elon (2-8, 1-5).

North Alabama at Tarleton State, 2 p.m.

As far as North Alabama coach Bobby Wallace is concerned, the Division II playoffs begin this weekend when the Lions (7-2) play Tarleton State (7-2) in the regular-season finale for both teams.

UNA is ranked third in Super Region 2, while Tarleton State is ranked sixth in Super Region 4. The top six teams in Sunday's final regional rankings will advance to the postseason.

"With the regional rankings, you never know what can happen. So we have told our kids that we are approaching it like the playoffs begin this week," Wallace added. "We are playing to make the playoffs and for seeding, and Tarleton State is doing the same."

West Alabama vs. Central State, 6 p.m.

West Alabama (7-3) also needs a victory to help secure a Division II playoff berth. The Tigers are ranked sixth in Super Region 2, with only the top six teams advancing to the playoffs.

They have split their past four games after opening the season 5-1, but they are coming off a 63-17 victory over Shorter. Javae Swindle rushed for 182 yards and three touchdowns in that game, and was named GSC offensive player of the week.

Central State (2-7) is on a three-game losing streak, though two of the losses were by less than a field goal.

Jacksonville State at Eastern Illinois, 12 p.m.

Jacksonville State must defeat Eastern Illinois for the Gamecocks to have any chance of winning the Ohio Valley Conference championship.

JSU (8-2, 4-2 OVC) trails Eastern Illinois (9-1, 6-0) by two games in the conference standings with two to play.

The Gamecocks defeated Eastern Kentucky 68-10 last week for their third consecutive victory. Eastern Illinois is on a six-game winning streak.

Alabama State vs. Mississippi Valley State, 1 p.m.

Alabama State (6-4, 6-2 SWAC) has been relegated to playing for second-place in the East Division following the Hornets' 31-28 loss to Southern last week.

ASU and Alcorn State are tied for second in the division, two games behind Jackson State with only one conference game left to play.

Mississippi Valley (2-8, 2-6) broke a four-game losing streak last week with a 20-17 victory over Texas Southern.

Alabama A&M vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 1 p.m.

This is the final home game of the season for Alabama A&M (3-7, 3-5 SWAC), which has won only once at home all year.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-7, 2-5) has won two straight after opening the season 0-7.

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