Steeldogs Face Tough Rematch Against Wildcats
Birmingham, Ala. - The Alabama Steeldogs head to Albany, Ga. this weekend with one thought in their minds - win to stay alive.
The Steeldogs (5-9) currently sit a game back of the coveted eighth and final seed in the National Conference playoffs, behind Tennessee Valley (6-8) and Lubbock (6-8). The Vipers currently hold the edge over the Renegades with a better strength of schedule tiebreaker.
After a difficult loss to the Florida Firecats at home last weekend, the Steeldogs gave up the rights to control their own destiny in the af2 playoff picture. Alabama, while not automatically eliminated by a loss this weekend, would be out of the playoff picture if they fall to South Georgia and either Tennessee Valley or Lubbock wins.
"We know what we have to do to get into the playoffs," Steeldogs Head Coach Ron Selesky said. "It's all a matter of going out and playing mistake free football for 60 minutes. I firmly believe we would not be in this position right now if we played the way I know this team is capable of playing."
A victory over the Wildcats will be a daunting task for a Steeldogs' team that is struggling with turnovers and a shaky secondary. During the team's current six-game losing streak, Alabama has turned the ball over 13 times.
"We've been our own enemy," Selesky said. "We're battling ourselves right now and it's definitely a mental issue, not a physical one."
In addition to turnover problems, Alabama has given up an average of 263.7 passing yards to their opponents - with only two interceptions.
The Wildcats enter Saturday's contest with the second best passing offense in the league, racking up an average of 288.9 yards per game through the air. South Georgia is led by quarterback D. Bryant, who is ranked second in the af2 for both average passing yards per game (282.7) and total offense per game (286.4).
"We saw how big of a weapon Bryant can be when we played them earlier this year," Selesky said. "We're going to have to get him out of his rhythm early and often if we want to have a chance."
The Steeldogs will also have to rely heavily on their offense to keep pace with the firepower of the Wildcats. Alabama quarterback Mitch Tanney has played solid in his last two starts - completing over 70 percent of his passes with only one interception and eight touchdowns.
Steeldogs' leading receiver Jon Olinger broke the 1,000-yard mark against the Firecats last week as he led Alabama with 12 catches for 126 yards and one score. He now has 101 catches for 1,066 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. Olinger has had over 100 yards receiving in his last two outings and is averaging 10.6 yards per catch.
Alabama's Ironman has been WR/LB Bradly Chavez over the past few games. Chavez has seen substantial time on both sides of the ball - including starting at wide receiver and linebacker against Florida last week. He caught 11 passes for 85 yards and two scores against Florida, while registering 2.5 total tackles on defense.
"We have guys who can, and have, made plays for us this year," Selesky said. "I have no doubt that we have a team capable of being one of the best in the af2. Our problem is no longer our opponents - it's ourselves."
The Steeldogs and Wildcats kick off this Saturday at the Albany Civic Center in Albany, Ga. at 6:30 p.m. CST. The game can be heard live on the Alabama Steeldogs' Flagship radio station WSPZ 690 "The Animal" with veteran broadcaster Matt Coulter calling the action. Fans can also tune in online to www.themightyx.com to listen to the broadcast.
National Conference Standings
7. Oklahoma City (7-7)
Remaining games: at Arkansas (10-4) / vs. Lubbock (6-8)
8. Tennessee Valley (6-8)
Remaining games: vs. Mahoning Valley (6-8) /at Louisville (8-6)
9. Lubbock (6-8)
Remaining games: at Rio Grande (13-1) / at Oklahoma City (7-7)
10. Alabama (5-9)
Remaining games: at South Georgia (10-4) / vs. Cincinnati (1-13)
If the Steeldogs fall to South Georgia, they would need losses by both Tennessee Valley and Lubbock to stay alive in the 2007 playoff race. Alabama would then have to defeat Cincinnati and hope that both the Vipers and Renegades lose their final regular season games. This would create a three-way tie, which would go to Alabama based on strength of schedule.
If the Steeldogs defeat South Georgia, they could move into the eighth playoff spot with losses by both Tennessee Valley and Lubbock. Alabama would lose a tiebreaker with the Vipers (Head-to-head matchups) if the two teams finished with identical records at the end of the season, but the Steeldogs would win a tiebreaker with the Renegades based on common opponents.
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