- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

It will be a rematch of last year’s SIAC championship game - and perhaps a preview of this year’s title matchup - when Tuskegee plays Albany State at 4 p.m. Saturday in Phenix City.

The Golden Tigers captured the 2014 SIAC championship with a 47-41 victory over Albany State, and the two teams are the favorites to win their divisions again this year, according to a preseason poll of the league’s head coaches.

“We beat them twice last year, so they definitely feel like they owe us one,” said Tuskegee coach Willie Slater, whose team also defeated the Golden Rams in the regular season last year 20-12 in the inaugural White Water Classic.

The Golden Tigers (1-0) opened this season with a 26-0 victory over Clark Atlanta. Tuskegee’s defense gave up only 203 yards on 70 plays, an average of 2.9 yards per play.

“We’ll take a shutout every game,” Slater said. “We looked good 80 percent of the time and the other 20 we didn’t. We just need to make sure to correct those things as we move forward.”



The Golden Rams (0-1) are coming off a 21-13 loss to Valdosta State, the 16th-ranked team in Division II. Albany State coach Dan Land said that loss increases the importance of Saturday’s game for his team.

“Once you get behind, it’s hard to catch up. It’s tough to hold and maintain the things that you have if you don’t start off with a win,” Land said. “So this is a very huge week for us. I’ve been expressing that to the guys, letting them know how important this game is.”

Albany State linebacker Tavarius Washington, the preseason SIAC defensive player of the year, had a game-high 10 tackles and returned an interception 53 yards against Valdosta State.

The Golden Rams led the SIAC in all the major defensive categories last season, including points allowed (14 per game) and total yards (229.4).

“There’s no mystery when you look at their defense,” Slater said. “They’ve been playing the same defense since 1993.”

THURSDAY’S GAMES

West Alabama vs. Cumberland, 6 p.m.

The Tigers (1-0) host NAIA Cumberland (1-0) before playing five of their next seven games on the road.

UWA defeated Stillman 52-9 last week. Take away a 66-yard touchdown pass against blown coverage, and Stillman managed only 116 yards in total offense.

Cumberland is coming off a 33-26 upset of Georgetown College, which had been ranked No. 11 in NAIA.

Alabama State vs. Alcorn State, 6 p.m.

It has been a short week for Alabama State. The Hornets (0-1) did not return to Montgomery until 2:30 a.m. Monday after losing a Sunday night game in Nashville to Tennessee State 24-14.

The extra preparation time could have been valuable, since next up for the Hornets is defending SWAC champion Alcorn State (0-1). The Braves beat ASU 33-7 last year.

North Alabama vs. Mississippi College, 6 p.m.

This is the Gulf South Conference opener for North Alabama (1-0), which is attempting to become only the third team in league history to win three consecutive championships.

The Lions will try to contain Mississippi College’s option-oriented offense. The Choctaws (1-0) had seven players score rushing touchdowns in last week’s 61-6 victory over Texas College.

Samford vs. Florida A&M;, 2 p.m.

The Bulldogs (1-0) will attempt to keep their offense clicking against a Florida A&M; team that gave up 51 points to South Florida last week.

Samford quarterback Michael Eubank was named the Southern Conference’s offensive player of the week after throwing for 372 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-16 victory over Central Arkansas.

Miles at West Georgia, 6 p.m.

For the second consecutive week, Miles (0-1) faces a nationally ranked Division II team.

The Golden Bears opened the season with a 34-17 loss to No. 13 North Alabama, and now they face third-ranked West Georgia (1-0).

Stillman vs. Concordia College, 3 p.m.

Stillman (0-1) seeks to bounce back from a 52-9 loss to West Alabama in the season opener.

“When you lose the way we lost, it’s a team effort,” Stillman coach Teddy Keaton said. “We are a better football team than we showed.”

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