LSU to open the 2017 season against BYU in Houston _lowres

Associated Press photo by ERIC GAY -- NRG Stadium in Houston, site of Saturday's SWAC football championship game.

1. Sacks hard to come by

These are the best teams in the SWAC at protecting the quarterback, each having allowed just seven sacks. If either has a decided edge there, it could tilt the game. Alcorn’s big, experienced offensive line had its way with Southern’s front the first time, but the return of Jaylen Jordan and the recent dominant play of Arthur Miley should be a boost to the Jaguars. Southern’s offensive line has stabilized since the first meeting in which Austin Howard was sacked twice. The Jaguars held Grambling’s league-leading pass rush without a sack last week, and Southern’s defense had six.

2. Benefitting from big returns

Both teams are capable of making big plays in the return game. Alcorn’s Anthony Williams leads the SWAC in punt returns (16.9 yards) and Southern is second (15.1). Willie Quinn has a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown, and he, Danny Johnson and Jaleel Richardson all have reached the end zone on a kickoff return (Richardson twice), helping the Jaguars’ league-best average of 25.0 yards. Alcorn is fourth in kickoff returns (22.1). The Braves are second in net punting (38.6) and net kickoffs (39.7). Southern is fourth in net punting (37.1) and net kickoffs (35.2).

3. Third downs a key

The Braves had a major advantage in third-down defense, and it was a big factor in their 56-16 win in September. Alcorn stopped Southern on 10 of 19 third downs, and Southern stopped Alcorn on just 4 of 15. That helped the Braves run 14 more plays than the Jaguars and possess the ball more than 10 minutes longer. For the season, Alcorn has the best third-down defense in the SWAC (33.9 percent), while Southern has the second-worst (41.0) percent. The Braves are the best at converting third downs (44.4) and the Jaguars are third (42.5).

4. Red lights in red zone

A similar disparity exists in Alcorn’s favor in red-zone defense as well. The Braves have the second-best red-zone defense in the SWAC, allowing points on 69.2 percent of opponents’ trips inside their 20-yard line. The Jaguars rank second-to-last, having allowed opponents to score 88.6 percent of the time they have reached the red zone. In the first meeting Alcorn scored on all four of its red-zone chances and Southern converted on 2-of-3. For the season, the Jaguars lead the SWAC in red-zone offense (87.2) and the Braves are third (81.4).