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  • 24 Aug
    In the Southland and Southern conferences, there are the two teams at the top and then everyone else.The winner between Central Arkansas and Samford on Saturday night would make a good case for being No. 3 in its league, and may even earn a number in the rankings.Last year, Sam Houston State and McNeese were the only Southland teams to finish in the STATS FCS Top 25 and make the playoffs. It was the same in the SoCon with Chattanooga and The Citadel. So it comes as no surprise that those four teams comprise the two favorites in their respective leagues, and theyre all ranked -- in the top 15 no less -- while none of their conference cohorts are.Its very possible, however, they could have company after this week.Though neither Central Arkansas nor Samford cracked the Top 25 following dominant season-opening wins, the Bears got the third-most votes among teams not to make it with 200 and the Bulldogs received 24 of their own. So a victory Saturday would almost certainly push Central Arkansas into the Top 25, and Samford may squeak in by beating a Bears team picked to finish third in the Southland and which suffered its only conference losses last season to Sam Houston and McNeese.A 7-2 Southland record wasnt enough to get Central Arkansas a spot in the FCS playoffs, and Samford was a big reason why. The Bulldogs dominated the Bears in a 45-16 win to open last season, a loss that looked even worse to the playoff committee after Samford went 3-4 in SoCon play.But the site for the rematch is a different one. This time the Bulldogs must head to The Stripes at Central Arkansas, the purple-striped field at Estes Stadium.I have not been since they installed the new turf, said Samford coach Chris Hatcher, who previously coached there while with Murray State. Its a loud and a pretty rowdy crowd.And theyre a big, physical football team. I think, last year was not indicative of how good of a team they had. We jumped on them early, hit them with some deep balls. Were going to have to do the same to get their crowd out of the game, and hopefully well be able to stop the run well like we did last season.The Bears were held to 119 yards on the ground that day, their third-worst total of 2015. This season began in much different fashion, rushing for 283 yards and four touchdowns in last weeks 56-13 rout of Houston Baptist.This week were playing Samford and its a totally different animal, UCA coach Steve Campbell said. ... They are very explosive offensively.The Bulldogs put up 77 points in the opener, but it came against Division II Mars Hill. Devlin Hodges completed 39 of 49 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns without an interception, finding freshman TaDarryl Marshall 14 times for 100 yards and a score.It was a continuation of Hodges impressive play from last seasons 3-0 finish when he threw for 1,047 yards and seven TDs, growing more accustomed to playing in the fast-paced Samford offense.Each week we play a faceless opponent. Its not so much playing against UCA. We dont need to worry about what they do, we just need to come out and be us and do what we do and play with a lot of tempo, Hodges said. Whether we need to run the ball 50 times or pass the ball 50 times, we have to be able to execute.While Hodges didnt play in last years win over the Bears, counterpart Hayden Hildebrand was a second-stringer at the time and attempted only four passes. Hes the reigning Southland offensive player of the week after throwing for 238 yards and two touchdowns while throwing only four incompletions against Houston Baptist, not to mention he rushed for 52 yards and a score.Hayden Hildebrand, I thought, played exceptionally well, Campbell said. He did a great job of controlling the offense and a great job of protecting the football. He did a great job of getting the football to the playmakers.While Campbells team doesnt have to face either of the Southlands ranked teams until visiting No. 11 McNeese on Oct. 15, Samford could use a win to boost its confidence going into a bye week before taking on sixth-ranked Chattanooga.Whichever team wins will show it may also deserve to be mentioned among its conferences elite. Serge Savard Canadiens Jersey .C. -- When North Carolina freshman Ryan Switzer reported to training camp in August he was a little miffed to learn he was third on the depth chart at punt returner. 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PHILADELPHIA -- Carson Wentzs excellent start is nothing compared to what Ben Roethlisberger did his rookie season.Wentz is 2-0. Big Ben was 13-0 in 2004.The two quarterbacks share an agent and other similarities. Theyll meet Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) host their intrastate rival Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0).I think hes doing a really good job of just kind of letting the game come to him, Roethlisberger said of Wentz. Hes not forcing it. You see him throwing balls away and not trying to make too many crazy throws down the field, and using his legs when needed.Hes a really smart guy, smart player, physically gifted, so I think all of that kind of helps. And his preparation is very good.Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick, worked out with Roethlisberger and had dinner with him in California this summer. Roethlisberger thought hed see much more of Wentz.I thought I was going to be facing him two times a year in Cleveland, Roethlisberger said.The Browns traded the pick to the Eagles and began the season with Robert Griffin III as their starting quarterback. Theyre 0-2 and Griffin is injured.Wentz was slated to be Philadelphias No. 3 quarterback until Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota. Hes been so impressive in the first two games that hes already drawn comparisons to Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Roethlisberger.Ive always found it intriguing the way that guy plays the game differently than a lot of guys, and hes fun to watch, Wentz said of Roethlisberger. That guy can make some really big plays and its pretty impressive.Roethlisberger started his first game in Week 2 of his rookie season after Tommy Maddox was injured in the opener. He didnt lose until the AFC championship game against New England.I was blessed with a great defense, and you werent afraid to make mistakes because you knew they were either going to get the ball back for you, or stop them, Roethlisberger said.Heres some things to know about the first Steelers-Eagles game since 2012:DAUNTING TASK: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartzs much-improved defense -- the Eagles are No. 4 in yards allowed after finishing in the bottom five the past three seasons -- has a tough assignment against Roethlisberger, All-Pro wide receiver Anttonio Brown and NFL leading rusher DeAngelo Williams.dddddddddddd. This will be the most complete team that well play this year, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said.Stopping Brown is an even bigger challenge with starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin sidelined for the second straight game. Ron Brooks and rookie Jalen Mills take his spot.You got to keep him in front of you and when hes in front of you, you got to tackle him, safety Malcolm Jenkins said. Hes a great route runner. Hes got speed and he can get behind the defense. If you play too soft, hes a hard tackle in the open field.FAMILIAR LOOK: The Eagles are playing a 3-4 defense for the third straight week. They handled the Browns and Bears well, scoring 29 points against each team. The Steelers actually play a true 3-4, Pederson said. You will see more of that front with this group. They still play their under front and over front and mix it up a little bit in their base packages. As far as the three games, this is more of a 3-4 look.FIELD FLIPPER: One of the reasons the Steelers have allowed just 32 points despite giving up a lot of yards is field position. Punter Jordan Berry has already dropped half of his 10 kicks inside the 20 and his 42.8 net yard average ranks seventh overall. The Bengals started five of their 15 possessions last week inside their 10.NO PRESSURE: The Steelers have just one sack through two games, and that came on a scramble by Cincinnatis Andy Dalton for no gain. Dont expect a lot of changes as Pittsburgh faces Wentz. Our front four is so good, we dont need to blitz, said linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Pittsburgh has focused on dropping more players into coverage to protect a secondary working in rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis.HEAD START: Wentz has led the Eagles to 10 points on the opening possession. He is 12 of 14 for 102 yards and one TD on those drives. The Steelers havent scored on their first drive yet.---AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.---AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL---Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi ' ' '