JACKSON STATE at SOUTHERN
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: A.W. Mumford Stadium
RADIO: KQXL-FM, 106.5
What’s at stake
For Southern (4-5, 3-3), a winning season hangs in the balance, but there’s also that rivalry with Jackson State which is going to create some nice atmosphere. Southern has been struggling all season to get over the hump with back-to-back victories. This is the toughest assignment to date against the team that looks like the favorite to win the title. Jaguar fans should turn out in big numbers for this home finale because rest assured the Tiger fans will be pouring down I-55 and making the turn at I-12 on two wheels.
Southern secondary vs. Jackson State QB Shedeur Sanders: Southern has been gashed for yardage but is finally getting some of its pieces back, most notably CB Tamaurice Smith. His cover skills make a big difference, especially if Glenn Brown returns after being shaken up last week. Sanders, a freshman, has played like a senior with an eye-popping 67.4 percent completion percentage, 23 TDs and only three interceptions in 291 attempts. Southern will have to make him move around and that could happen if DE Jordan Lewis is back to 100 percent with his pass rush.
Players to watch
Jaguars: WR Jamar Washington has been quiet this season but plays big in big games. Southern needs his speed to get to the perimeter on this hard-edged JSU defense. Screen passes and speed sweeps could help loosen up the middle. DT Davin Cotton is back in the lineup and if he has fellow DT Camron Peterson next to him, it could help push the pocket on Sanders, giving him no place to step up when trying to avoid Lewis and the Jaguar pass rush. Southern needs to control the line of scrimmage to win this game and those two hold the key.
Tigers: WR Malachi Wideman has 26 catches but has scored nine touchdowns, indicating he’s the guy the Tigers look for in the red zone. The 6-5, 190-pound freshman is going to be a tough matchup for Southern defensive backs, and he’s established strong chemistry with Sanders. LB Keonte Hampton is an old adversary whom the Jaguars are well aware of. While others get the publicity, Hampton is the strength in the middle as has his 2019 Defensive Player of the Year honor to prove it. He’s going to be a key to stopping the Southern running game.
Facts and figures
Southern has won the last eight meetings between the schools and nine of the last 11. The last Jackson State win was 19-14 in 2013, which Southern avenged in the SWAC championship game later that year, 34-27. . . Southern rushers are averaging 5.1 yards per carry. . . The Jaguar defense has allowed 27 red zone TDs while the offense has scored 19. . . JSU has lost 12 fumbles but thrown only three interceptions.
Numbers worth knowing
9: Number of touchdowns allowed by JSU in six SWAC games.
19: Rushing touchdowns by Southern, the most in the SWAC.
84: Number of tackles for loss by the JSU defense this season.
Prediction and why
Jackson State 33, Southern 16: It would be nice for Southern if the Jaguars could maintain their alternating wins and losses format but it’s not happening against Juggernaut State. Only two SWAC teams have gotten within three touchdowns of beating these Tigers, with or without Deion Sanders on the sideline. The Tiger defense has been suffocating and the offense efficient when it hasn’t been dominant. There are enough players back from the spring team that was crushed by Southern 34-14, and they feel it’s necessary to settle this score. The distraction of Deion Sanders being a candidate for the TCU job won’t be enough to swing a victory.