1. It’s all on the line
Watch the line of scrimmage when Southern decides to pass. Grambling leads the SWAC in sacks, and its pre-snap movement has made it difficult for opponents to identify whom to block and to do so effectively. But the Jaguars are tied for the fewest sacks allowed in the SWAC. If the Tigers can slow the Jaguars running game well enough to force obvious passing situations and turn their pass rushers loose, they could get the Jaguars blockers on their heels. But if Southern can slow the pass rush, it has the playmakers to beat single coverage.
2. Quarterback picture clear now
Grambling began the season playing three quarterbacks, and Southern was playing two. Now, Grambling is playing just one — Johnathan Williams — and Southern is still playing two — Austin Howard and Deonte Shorts. Both approaches have been very effective. Jaguars coach Dawson Odums called Williams “explosive.” Southern will start Howard, a true freshman, and mix in Shorts, a redshirt freshman. “I think youth does matter,” Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said. “It will make a little bit of a difference, but (Howard is) 11 weeks into playing now, so he’s not a freshman any more.”
3. Well-rested teams
Both teams should be about as fresh they could be on the second-to-last day of November. Both had their second open dates of the season last weekend, allowing them to heal as well as allowing added time to prepare for each other. Grambling’s first open date came Oct. 25, and Southern’s came a week earlier, so the Tigers played three straight weeks before their most recent break, and Southern played four. Both teams played well coming out of their first open dates, with Grambling winning at Texas Southern (35-7) and Southern winning at Jackson State (42-28).
4. Little things matter
In a game this evenly matched, things such as turnovers, red-zone efficiency and penalties can make the difference. Here’s what the trends have been in those areas through 11 games for each team. Southern leads the SWAC in fewest penalty yards per game (61.5), and Grambling is ninth (98.9). Southern is plus-3 in turnovers, and Grambling is minus-3. Southern leads in red-zone offense, having scored on 88.1 percent of its opportunities; Grambling is eighth (76.1). Grambling is fourth in red-zone defense, having allowed points 74.1 percent of the time, and Southern is last (89.5).