Northwestern Oklahoma State, defending NAIA Division I national champions, will bring 22 consecutive victories into its Central States Football League opening contest. The winning streak includes a 1999 preseason Wheat Bowl victory and a season-ending national title. It also has endured the loss of three defensive All-Americas from its championship team and a coaching change.
The winning streak began midway through the 1998 season under the direction of coach Tim Albin, who this season is coaching tight ends at the Nebraska. Garin Higgins moved up from his role as the team's offensive coordinator the past three seasons to become head coach.
Higgins credits, in part, the success of the team to his familiarity with it.
"I was here last year, so that had a little to do with it," Higgins said. "We kept the same system and only had to hire one guy."
Northwestern Oklahoma State (4-0) will face a winless team in Southwestern Assemblies of God (0-4).
"Southwestern has had a tough go of it, but I have no doubt they will play their best game against us," Higgins said.
In a 50-27 victory over Sioux Falls last week, quarterback Al Hunt set a school record with 257 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Hunt leads the team with a 10.2 yards-per-carry average, 644 total yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns. He also has completed 22 of 34 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns.
In its quest to win national titles in three different classifications, Troy State continues to rank No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today NCAA Division I-AA poll. Troy State (3-0) prepares to come down the stretch in its final season before moving up to Division I-A.
The Trojans, NAIA national champs in 1968 and NCAA Division II national champs in 1984 and 1987, will visit South Florida on Saturday.
Southwest Texas State will travel to Louisiana-Monroe, a former Southland member now competing as a member of Division I-A. Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston have the week off.
Three Southwestern Athletic Conference teams remain in search of their first victory of the season with a collective record of 0-13. Among the winless: Prairie View A&M (0-4), which will bring a 66-game conference losing streak to the Cotton Bowl for a 7 p.m. contest Saturday against Grambling State (3-1, 3-0).
Also attempting to crack the win column are Alcorn State (0-4) and Mississippi Valley State (0-5).
Alcorn State, off to its worst start since 1990, will play a non-conference game against SWAC foe Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-1, 2-1) at the Trans World Dome in St. Louis.
Mississippi Valley State will play Alabama A&M (2-2, 1-1 SWAC) in Huntsville, Ala.
Lone Star update
Picked to finish near the bottom in the Lone Star Conference South Division preseason poll, Tarleton State has taken the early lead at 3-1 overall.
Tarleton has won three in a row averaging 37.8 points through its four games, including a 41-0 victory last week over Southeastern Oklahoma.
American SW update
Austin College lost to Mary Hardin-Baylor, 27-0. Austin College was shut out for the first time in 32 games.
But the Kangaroos will attempt to regroup Saturday with an American Southwest Conference home contest Saturday against McMurry. McMurry is coming off a 28-14 upset loss to East Texas Baptist (2-1, 1-1).
Austin College leads the series, 35-26-2, but McMurry has won the last two contests including a 62-41 victory last season in Abilene.
On the heels of its victory over McMurry, East Texas Baptist, playing its first season in 50 years, will travel Saturday to Howard Payne (2-1, 2-0).
Trinity will take a 22-game home winning streak into its Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference game against the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (0-4, 0-1) Saturday.
The Tigers (4-0, 1-0) rank No. 2 in Don Hansen's National Weekly Football Gazette NCAA Division III poll and No. 4 in the American Football Coaches Association poll.