FLORENCE -- It will seem like old times Thursday night when the third ranked University of North Alabama Lions host Valdosta State in a game with major conference, regional and national implications.
This will be the 10th time in the last 11 meetings, since 2003, that both North Alabama and Valdosta State enter the game nationally ranked. UNA is third in the latest NCAA Division II poll, while Valdosta State is 19th.
UNA is off to a 6-0 start and is 3-0 in conference play. After struggling through a 6-4 season in 2009, Valdosta State is back among Division II's elite at 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the GSC. The Blazers only loss was by four points to a nationally ranked Delta State squad.
Kickoff for the game is set for 7 p.m. at Braly Stadium. The game will be televised live on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast.
For UNA, defense has been the story so far in 2010. The Lions have allowed just 36 total points this season, or an average of just six points per game. North Alabama is also allowing just 39.7 rushing yards per game and 219 total yards. Each of those figures have the Lions ranked in the Top 10 in Division II.
The UNA defense has allowed just six total points in the second half all season as the Lions have outscored their opponents 85-6 over the final two periods in 2010.
North Alabama's offense, which fired out of the gate with big numbers through the first three games, has been slowed over the last three weeks. The Lions scored a season low 17 points last week at West Georgia.
Quarterback lee Chapple has solid numbers with a 67 percent completion rate, 1,611 yards passing and 13 touchdown passes.
For Valdosta State, a very balanced offense has been key to its early success. VSU averages 152 yards rushing per game and 199 yards passing for a 352 total. The Blazers have also been stingy on defense, giving up just 83 yards rushing per outing and 17 points.
VSU quarterback Brett Whitmire has thrown for 654 yards and three TDs and David Arnold and Ronnye Nelson lead the Blazers ground attack.
Revenge will certainly be on the minds of the Blazers as UNA scored 62 points on VSU in Valdosta last season, which was the most allowed by the Blazers in the history of their program.
UNA is riding a three-game winning streak in the series and leads Valdosta 18-13-1 all-time.
Each school will have four more conference games left Thursday's battle, but as has been the tradition, the winner of this game will clear a major hurdle on the way to a possible GSC championship.