Sep. 25—HUNTSVILLE — WAC vs. ASUN.
The one-year juicy interconference challenge starts Saturday in Conway, Arkansas when No. 25 Central Arkansas (1-2) hosts No. 1 Sam Houston (2-0).
However, the two foes are extremely familiar with each other, each opting to leave the Southland Conference earlier this year. The Bearkats and Bears have clashed 14 times and the series is split right down the middle.
"[There's] no better time to have a 'get better' week than when you are playing one of the best teams in the country," said Bearkats head coach K.C. Keeler, whose team is coming off its first of two bye weeks. "They are wounded right now, they lost two games, but that 0-2 start is misleading. It's a good chance for us to go on the road and see just how good we are."
Sam Houston has one of the top-offenses in FCS football, averaging 560.5 total yards of offense through two games. A large part of the production has come from junior running back Ramon Jefferson, who has tallied 296 yards with an average of 13.5 yards per carry. The Bears defense has allowed an average of 158 yards per game on the ground.
The Kats passing game has also been a big factor, with junior quarterback Eric Schmid having thrown for 518 yards and six scores.
And he's doing it behind a deep receiving corps.
Graduate transfer Cody Chrest has quickly become Schmid's favorite target with 13 receptions for 185 yards and a score, but Schmid isn't just locked in on one receiver, as he has connected with 11 different targets on the season.
"It definitely makes my job a lot easier having those guys out there," Schmid said. "The depth that we have here at Sam Houston is unmatched. Jequez [Ezzard] didn't even play last week and guys like Cody Chrest, Ife [Adeyi] and Chandler [Harvin] all stepped up and had great games. It makes things easier for me. I just know that I've got to get the ball to them and let them do their thing."
Defense for the Kat's is remaining strong. Through two games the Bearkats have held opponents to 343 yards per game. Sam Houston has also been strong with getting to the quarterback, garnering four sacks. The Kats will look to continue their strong season against a Bears' offensive line that has given up six sacks in three games. But given that the Bearkats have played the Bears 14 times, they have an idea of what to bring as the conference opens up.
"It is pretty exciting, it will be pretty competitive," senior defensive back Zyon McCollum said. "We're just gonna go out there and play our hardest and fall back on our training. Defense will swarm and compete and do what we do."
The Bears will be led by quarterback Breylin Smith, who is currently averaging 319 yards per game through the air. Central Arkansas has averaged under 100 yards per game on the ground.
They enter the game coming off a 45-23 win over Arkansas Pine Bluff.
"Winning last week gives us momentum leading into this game," Bears head coach Nathan Brown said. "We have a ton of history with Sam Houston, and bottom line is right now, they are the best team in the country. Some teams are going into playing Sam Houston hoping that they can win the game, we are going into it, hopefully, expecting to win. Not many people in Conway like orange."
The top 25 matchup will kickoff at 4 p.m. today, and will be broadcasted via the ESPN+ streaming platform.