Here are game-by-game predictions for the Lions, who are ranked No. 15 in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.
RELATED: Southeastern Football Preview
at Mississippi State
Mississippi State went 9-4 last year and received votes in the AP Top 25 Preseason Poll.
at South Alabama
South Alabama is a strong G5 team, going 10-3 last season. It got a vote in the AP Top 25 Preseason Poll.
While scheduling two FBS opponents helps your athletic department with the guaranteed payouts, it really is a disservice to your players and hurts a team’s playoff positioning. Unless you snag a rare FBS win, this is two fewer opportunities to notch a D1 victory on your playoff resume.
An 0-2 start looks likely for an SLU team with no great gauge on where the Lions sit in the FCS landscape.
at Eastern Washington
EWU, a usual playoff participant, fell off last season with a 3-8 record. The red turf will be a tough spot to win, and EWU’s offense is still going to put up plenty of points in 2023.
But SLU’s offense should have a big day too. The Eagles ranked No. 121 in FCS scoring defense last year (42.4 points allowed per game). EWU brought in six FBS transfers on the defensive side to shore things up. But the Lions win in an entertaining shootout.
vs Houston Christian
The first home game for SLU occurs in late September. It should be another good day for the offense over an HCU team that went 2-9 last year.
vs Tarleton State
Tarleton has some very nice skilled players as it continues its transition to D1. The Lions will be tested defensively here trying to contain WRs Darius Cooper and Jaden Smith, plus 1,000-yard rusher Derrel Kelley III and All-American transfer RB Kayvon Britten from Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
At home, though, and on a winning streak, SLU gets it done with the stronger QB play from Eli Sawyer and Zachary Clement.
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at No. 9 UIW
UIW has a bye week to prep for this massive showdown that likely decides the Southland champ and playoff auto-bid. Southeastern snapped a four-game losing streak to UIW last year, winning 41-35. The previous two games saw scores of 55-52 and 56-45.
UIW loses 12 of its 13 All-Southland Conference selections. Fifteen players left for the FBS. And 20 FBS players transferred in. Despite all the UIW roster questions and Southeastern returning a conference-high seven All-Southland players, UIW gets a needed ranked FCS win here.
Lamar went 1-10 last year, giving up 56 points to UIW and 47 points to SLU.
at Northwestern State
SLU transfer QB Zachary Clement was an All-Southland player last year at Northwestern State, making this a juicy matchup. He expects to have a big impact on the SLU offense in 2023.
Northwestern State went 4-2 to finish third in the Southland last fall. But SLU and UIW will continue to have a gap between them and everyone else.
As McNeese gets more stability at the top of the football program, the team with a strong tradition should get better. SLU keeps it rolling here as it likely needs to win out to secure a playoff bid.
at Texas A&M-Commerce
Texas A&M-Commerce pulled the upset on the Lions during SLU’s Homecoming last season. It was a massive win for the program transitioning to D1. Texas A&M-Commerce loses all of its All-Southland players, though, so expect SLU to get its revenge.
Nicholls reached the playoffs from 2017-2019. But it’s been in decline since and finished 3-8 in 2022. A day before Selection Sunday, the Lions can’t afford an upset loss here.
With no ranked wins, style of victory will be important for the Lions. But at eight D1 wins and enough respect from poll voters and the playoff committee, they should make the bracket.
Regular-Season Record Prediction: 8-3