Know Your Opponent: Southern Utah Thunderbirds
Southern Utah has gone 6-5, 6-5 and 5-6 over the last three seasons under head coach Ed Lamb. They left the Great West Conference for the Big Sky Conference for last season.
SUU has to replace a record-breaking quarterback who threw for almost 9,500 yards and 61 touchdowns during his three seasons with the Thunderbirds. His replacement, Aaron Cantu, comes from East Los Angeles College. While Cantu takes over the offense he will have an experienced defense as the offense reorganizes and develops.
The SUU returns all of their starters in the secondary plus three linebackers that are projected to be among the best in the Big Sky Conference including their leading tackler from last year, Zak Browning, who collected 115 tackles last season. They return from a defense that allowed an average of 30.3 points per game, but their defense was tied for third in the FCS ranks nationally with 16 fumble recoveries. They returned two of them for touchdowns.
SUU returns 6 on the defense and 7 on the offense and two special teams players.
The Thunderbird offense averaged 85.8 yards per game rushing and 285.4 yards per game passing for an average of 371.2 yards per game of total offense. They averaged 61.1 yards per game of penalties with 28.5 points per game.
Defensively they average 30.3 points per game and 424 yards per game of total defense. That breaks down to 162.5 yards per game rushing and 261.5 yards per game passing.
Offensively they had slow starts as they got outscored 70-37 in the first quarter then were fairly even the remainder of the game as they slightly outscored their opponents 276-263.
They will probably continue the same offensive attack and will be a good tuneup for the South Alabama defense. The Jags secondary was their weakest unit last season and was one of the positions with the most off-season focus. This game could show how improved the secondary is this season.
However, the first game of the season is really an unknown as you just never know what your opponent will come out with scheme wise. The Thunderbirds added a JuCo quarterback with some freshmen running backs and a senior offensive line and experience receivers. While on defense they are known for playing with great technique and not getting caught out of position.
The Jags is a 19.5 point favorite in this game.
Now we just have to wait until Thursday for the 6:30pm kickoff at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.