Run Down the Clock
Southern leads the SWAC in 3rd down conversions (72/145, 49.7%), but Alcorn is not far behind at #2. (69/159, 43.4%) In a matchup featuring two top 5 defenses, whichever team keeps their offense on the field longer will likely have the advantage throughout the game.
One way of chewing the clock is by running the ball, something Southern has been good at all season. The Jaguars are one of three teams (PVAMU, GSU) who have averaged more than 200 yards rushing this season. LaDarius Skelton and Devon Benn utilizing a talented offensive line has had a lot to do with those numbers. A standout Bayou Classic performance from freshman Jarod Sims (89yds, 2 TD) could see him added as another element to the game plan Saturday.
Contrary to the belief of some, Southern’s offense has produced more rushing yards (2721-1779) and more touchdowns this season compared to Alcorn State. However, with the Braves ranking #1 in rush defense, only allowing 127.5 yds/game, whichever team dominates at the line of scrimmage will likely play a huge factor on the outcome in Lorman, MS.
The (Primary) Secondary
The Jaguar secondary will have to play like the focal point of the defense if the Jaguars want to make it to the Celebration Bowl. Reason being, Braves quarterback Felix Harper is the most efficient passer in the SWAC. He ranks second in the conference in passing yards (2387) and touchdowns (29), while only throwing 5 interceptions, tied for the fewest. Alcorn’s top three receivers are averaging 16 yds/rec or better. Look for Tamaurice Smith, who is amongst the best in the SWAC at pass breakups, and the other Southern defensive backs to rise to the challenge with a trip to Atlanta on the line.
For Skelton, he will be going up against a defense that ranks #1 in interceptions, yet second to last in sacks. With a veteran offensive line, the Bayou Classic MVP should be able to have enough time to avoid pressure in the backfield, but it will be up to him to make the right decisions through the air.
Of course, the easiest decision is to find wideout Hunter Register. His 11 touchdowns rank third in the SWAC, including two big endzone catches that gave SU the comeback victory last week. With the attention on him, Timothy Bedford and Cameron Mackey could see big plays open up for them on the field.
Special Special Teams
If the game came down to a field goal, Southern’s Martell Fontenot and Alcorn’s Corey McCullough are two of the best kickers in the conference. The leg of SU punter Caesar Barajas will ultimately be the X-factor. The more times Alcorn takes ball inside their own 20 could make it tougher for them to score, while setting up the Jaguars with great field position.