Yesterday the Lion Football program released the 2020 Football schedule that had some nice surprises and some thought provoking things came to mind. With what returns next year, is this the year that the Lions go undefeated during the regular season for the first time since 1953? We will have weekly preview during the offseason of the upcoming opponents, but here are a few quick thoughts on what we will face. Think of it as the appetizer before the 11 game meal.
Game 1-Simon Fraser Clan-Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium-Commerce, TX
Thoughts: For the second straight season, the Lions will open with an international opponent, however unlike last time, this game counts in the Division II and In-Region rankings. Simon Fraser University is one of only two (I belive) of Canadian Universities that compete in the NCAA, and do so in the GNAC conference in Division II. Last year, Simon Fraser got 1 win, and it was against Azusa Pacific. I can’t help but think that this game is going to get ugly fast for SFU. Heading down to Texas to play the national quarterfinalists on Labor Day Weekend in the late Summer heat is going to be super tough. Lions open the season in a blowout fashion in front of a large crowd at The Hawk for Student Appreciation and CommUniverCity Day.
Game 2-Midwestern State Mustangs-Wichita Falls Memorial Stadium-Wichita Falls, TX
Thoughts: The Lions hit the road against a hated rival early in the season. Last year was a blowout a long time coming for the Lions to paste against the hated Mustangs, but this game will be a complete trap game for the Lions. Last season the Mustangs went 5-6 and got beaten to a pulp in Commerce, but Bill Maskill is still the head coach in Wichita Falls and he will not be down for long. I expect the Mustangs to want revenge. Last year was not fun for them. The Lions must be ready for this game early in the season.
Game 3-Bowie State Bulldogs-Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium-Commerce, TX
Thoughts: First, huge props to Tim McMurray and the entire Lion athletic department for getting this game on the schedule. It was huge, and here is why. Bowie State is the defending CIAA conference champions and notched an 11-1 record in 2019, bowing out to Carson-Newman (remember those guys, 1972 players?) in the first round. This will be a game that tests how good this Lion team can or will be in 2020. A win would be huge and gets the Lions started on the right path. It will be a test for the Blue Gang Defense, as Bowie State scored A LOT of points last year (39.7 PPG). They will be doing so in front of a new Hall of Fame class and former letterwinners.
Game 4-Texas A&M-Kingsville-Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium-Commerce, TX
Thoughts: Last year was rough for the Hogs. 2-9 and only one win against a Division II opponent led to Darren Wilkinson being let go and hired former Kingsville Assitant Coach and Graduate Mike Salinas, who was coaching High School ball. Salinas’ experience among the coaching ranks stretches back to 2000 after he earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M-Kingsville. His first foray into the collegiate ranks was at his alma mater from 2002 through 2004 during the Richard Cundiff era where he coached the secondary and was part of the program that was amid four consecutive Lone Star Conference Championships and four appearances in the NCAA Division II Playoffs. Salinas was the head coach at Weslaco High School last year and led them to an 11-2 record. If he is going to rebuild Kingsville, it will take time. In the meantime, I think the Lions take their 9th straight Chennault Cup and win over the Hogs during Family Day Weekend in dominating fashion.
Game 5-Asuza Pacific-Citrus Stadium, Glendora, CA
Thoughts: For the first time in program history, the Lions will be California bound. They will visit the beautiful San Gabriel Valley to face another opponent from the GNAC, and another team that struggled mightily last year. Azusa Pacific was 1-9 last year, but the Cougars have historically been one of the better teams from the GNAC, posting a 9 win record as recently 2016 and winning 35 games from 2013-2016 and made the playoffs in 2018 with an 8-4 record. The Cougars are coached by Victor Santa Cruz, who has had a good amount of success at APU. Aside from the long road trip, the Lions cannot let their guard down against a program that for the most part, is one of the better GNAC programs. To me, it will be not be a cakewalk game.
Game 6-Middle Georgia State, Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium-Commerce, TX
Thoughts: For Youth Sports Day, the Lions welcome NAIA Middle Georgia State. The Knights are NAIA members, but actually for Football play in the NFCA, which are a mixture of club teams and actual Varsity squads from small colleges and universities. The Knights went 4-3 last year, but I fully expect a big blowout and nothing but a big blowout for this game.
Game 7-Western New Mexico-Ben Altamirano Stadium, Silver City, NM
Thoughts: Western New Mexico won 2 games last year, and some would say pulling an upset over UT-Permian Basin. Western was the top passing team in the LSC last year and a top ten passing offense team in the entire country. Games like these have been tough on the Lions as the road trip is long and the Mustangs are just athletic enough to give you fits. Last season saw a new staff in Silver City with a new offense that scored just enough to keep a lot of games interesting. Lions have to go in with a killer instinct and take the Mustangs down, but that could very well be easier said than done.
Game 8-West Texas A&M-Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium-Commerce, TX
Thoughts: In the great cross state rivalry that features West versus East in the northern half of Texas, The Lions faced off against a resurgent West Texas A&M team last year and gutted out a 14 point win against a Buffalo team that had it’s best year in a long time. Hunter Hughes has the Buffs in the right direction, but as TAMUC welcomes alums for Homecoming, The Hawk have proven to be a very inhospitable place for the Buffs, who have lost by an average of nearly 30 points the last 3 times they have traveled to Commerce.
Game 9-Texas-Permian Basin-Ratliff Stadium, Odessa, TX
Thoughts: Last year, the Falcons of UTPB made huge strides under Justin Carrigan. I have been saying for the past 5 years UTPB is going to get better every year and so far have been right for the most part. Despite the 4-7 record last season, they were a combined 10 points away from being 6-5 after dropping close games to Midwestern and West Texas A&M. The last time the Lions visited the Permian Basin, they almost lost. Carrigan is a good coach and will continue to improve the program, which means this trip will be tougher than the last. We need to be ready, because the Falcons will remember how close they were to getting us last time we were there.
Game 10-Angelo State-Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium-Commerce, TX
Thoughts: Angelo State is a program on the rise yet again. Last year the Rams won 8 games and the Lions had to go to a tough LeGrand Stadium to clinch a playoff spot and did so. Angelo returns most of their offensive firepower and will play the Lions tough at home, like they pretty much always do. I fear ASU in Commerce more than I do on the road. Expect a tough and determined Ram team on Senior and Millitary/Responders Day.
Game 11-Eastern New Mexico, Greyhound Stadium-Portales, NM
Thoughts: Eastern is fresh off an 8 win season and a Bowl victory in the Corsicana Bowl. The Hounds option is getting better and more formidable to contend with. They lost 4 year starting QB Wyatt Strand, but count on Eastern to come at The Lions with everything they have, especially at home. The key to beating Eastern for a 7th straight time is what it always is, contain the flexbone and outscore them.
Tune in for more in depth posts featuring each opponent in the coming weeks.