With a convincing win over then No. 19 ranked Delta State, the University of North Alabama moved up three spots in this week's NCAA Division II football poll to No. 18. The Lions were ranked 21st a week ago. The ranking extends the Lions' streak of Top 25 national rankings to 74 consecutive polls
With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Lions focus is also on the Gulf South Conference race which is as confusing and cluttered as when the season began. Five schools are still in contention for the conference championship, including UNA and it's Saturday opponent, West Alabama.
Both teams are still in the hunt for a league title and an NCAA playoff berth. Both teams hopes would also be dealt a fatal blow with another loss.
Of the five schools in the race for the GSC crown, Valdosta State is in front as the only team with just one league loss. They are followed closely by UNA, West Alabama, Delta State and Henderson State with two losses each.
UNA bounced back from a two-game losing skid with a 31-7 thumping of natonally ranked Delta State last Thursday. The 6-3 Tigers suffered a painful 30-24 overtime loss at Southern Arkansas last Saturday that put their GSC hopes on life support. But since the Tigers close the season with games against UNA and Valdosta State, they could still earn a share of the league crown with two wins.
There are also many sub-plots in this game beyond post-season implications.
Former UNA Head Coach Bobby Wallace will be returning to Braly Stadium for the third time since he left the Lions following the 1997 season. He and his Tigers lost 49-20 on his first game back at Braly, but then upset the then No. 1 ranked UNA Lions 31-28 in four overtimes last season.
Wallace led UNA to NCAA Division II National Championshipsin 1993, 1994 and 1995 and had an 82-36-1 record with the Lions from 1988-1997. He will be inducted into the Division II Football Hall of Fame in Florence on December 17.
Former UNA quarterback and 2003 Harlon Hill Trophy winner Will Hall also returns to Braly Stadium on the opposing sideline - as West Alabama's offensive coordinator. Hall was UNA's starting quarterback in 2002 and 2003 and led UNA to a 13-1 season as a senior.
This will be the 63rd meeting between North Alabama and West Alabama. UNA holds a commanding 46-15-1 lead in the all-time series. UWA is the only program that UNA has faced in every season since the Lions restored their football program in 1949. In fact, the Lions and Tigers even played twice in 1986. The 62 overall meetings marks the most games UNA has played against another school and the 46 wins are also the most against an opposing institution.
For the last 15 straight years, UNA's battle with West Alabama has been the Lions' regular-season finale. With changes in the schedule this fall, the Lions will now travel to Harding to close out their regular-season on November 13.
All University of North Alabama fans are encouraged to wear Black to Saturday's game as the Lions hope to "Black Out" the West Alabama Tigers.
SENIOR RECOGNITION SATURDAY
UNA will recognize the 22 senior members of its 2010 football team on Saturday during a pre-game ceremony. This year's UNA senior class has a 40-8 overall record with marks of 10-2, 12-2, 11-2 and 7-2. It is the seventh UNA senior class to have won 40 or more games. Among the seniors who are four-year lettermen for the Lions are Harrison Bryant, Chad Daniel, Hilliard Foster, Charles McClain, Jusmon Rivers and Larry Wilson.
WELCOME BACK CLASS OF 1949
UNA will be holding a reunion Saturday of its first football team after the sport was revived at the school in 1949. The members of this squad will be recognized on the field between the first and second quarters of the game.