The Saints have had this weekend's home showdown versus the San Francisco 49ers circled on their calendars for a long time now, and indeed, the game between two 10-2 teams is shaping up as the biggest of the regular season. And it’ll just be the climax of a weekend in which the gridiron gods will be pretty busy fielding prayers from local teams and their fans.
Before kickoff in New Orleans Sunday, there’s plenty of college football to be played on the road and a whole lot at stake in what could be a true championship season.
The 10-2 University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns head to Boone, North Carolina with much to prove. They’ll be playing Appalachian State on ESPN for the Sun Belt Conference championship, but also for their very first win against a team that’s beaten them seven times in a row.
Fresh off a heart-stopping 30-28 win over Grambling at the Thanksgiving weekend Bayou Classic, the 8-4 Southern Jaguars head to Mississippi to face Alcorn State at its home stadium for the Southwest Athletic Conference championship. The winner will face the MEAC champion North Carolina A&T Aggies on ABC in the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 21.
Two area schools play Saturday in the second round of the FCS championship. Southeastern faces Montana, after having overcome a 17-point deficit to beat Villanova 45-44 in round one, and Nicholls State goes up against #1 seed North Dakota State. Both games will stream live online on WatchESPN.
And of course there’s Saturday’s big Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta, with LSU facing Georgia on CBS for the chance to cap off a perfect season, a shot at displacing Ohio State as the nation’s No. 1 team and — most importantly — their first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff semifinals and a chance to make the national championship game Jan. 13 in New Orleans. That’s the same day Gov. John Bel Edwards is set to be sworn in for his second term, and he’s already canceled the inaugural ball that night to make the game. But hey, no pressure, guys.
Like the Tigers, the Saints are playing for position, and the good news is that their destiny is in their own hands.
After clinching the NFC South by beating archrival Atlanta Falcons in a glorious Thanksgiving smackdown, the team announced its much grander ambitions when players donned “The South Is Not Enough” T-shirts. The first step toward more came Monday night, when Seattle dispatched Minnesota and handed New Orleans the conference’s top seed, and with it the chance to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs without worrying about what anyone else does.
All they have to do is keep winning — starting Sunday at the Dome.