Carson-Newman Preps for Highly-ranked Showdown

JEFFERSON CITY ( - They’ve been here before.

The 7th-ranked Carson-Newman Eagles have hosted their share of South Atlantic Conference showdowns that have had a national impact, and Saturday’s match-up with 12th-ranked Catawba is no different.

The Eagles (6-0, 2-0 SAC) enter Saturday’s game riding an eight-game win streak, dating back to 2006. Catawba (6-0, 2-0 SAC) has also won its last eight. Carson-Newman Head Coach Ken Sparks knows his Eagles’ will get the Indians’ best shot.

“They’re a very good football team,” Sparks said. “It will be a challenge for us. They’re very balanced and have the best speed we’ve seen this season.”

The real impact of the 41st meeting between the Eagles and Indians will come later in the year. Saturday’s winner jumps into the driver’s seat for the SAC regular season title, but the inside track to a playoff berth could await the winner.

Both teams were impressive in conference action last time out. C-N beat Mars Hill 49-28 in its first road contest of the conference season. Catawba dropped Newberry at home 28-18.

Carson-Newman enters the game with the nation’s fourth-ranked rushing offense, averaging 280 yards per game, but it’s the Indian rushing attack that stands out to Sparks.

“They’ve got three very good backs,” Sparks said. “They’re offensive line is a year older and is playing well. Our guys will have to be up for the challenge.”

Defensively, the Eagles have found a way this season.

The Eagles’ have the nation’s 8th-ranked unit. C-N allows only 244 yards per game, including only 67 on the ground. The Eagles have played especially well in tight games, posting second half shutouts at Chattanooga and at home against Newberry.

"I think we've been outscored in the fourth quarter giving up some stuff late when we've been up, but our defense has come up big in the second half of close ones," Sparks said. "We expect them to do the same again this week."

The Indians have one of the nation’s most balanced offensive attacks, posting over 200 yards a game rushing and throwing.

“(Brad) Roach runs the offense well,” Sparks said. “He’s a big kid with a big arm. He can make all the throws.”

Kickoff is at 3 p.m. at Burke-Tarr Stadium. For tickets, call (865) 471-3396.