North Alabama and Valdosta State have played each other 37 times. And nearly every one of those games has had a major impact not only on the Gulf South Conference standings but also in the Division II national rankings.
That will be the case once again when UNA (2-0, 1-0 GSC) hosts the Blazers (2-1, 0-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Lions enter the game ranked fifth in Division II, while Valdosta is No. 21.
This marks the 15th time in series history that both teams have been ranked entering the game, and the 27th time that at least one team is ranked. The Lions and Blazers have each won three Division II national championships and have made a combined 30 playoff appearances. They also have combined for 16 GSC titles.
UNA leads the series 21-15-1 and has won six of the past eight meetings.
"This has always been a great rivalry, and Valdosta State has another outstanding team this year." UNA coach Bobby Wallace said. "This is always a special game with the great traditions of both schools, and it's always a hard-fought battle."
The Lions have dominated their first two opponents this season, defeating Mississippi College 58-0 and Langston 56-7. It is only the second time in program history that UNA has scored more than 50 points in consecutive games.
This game is crucial for the Blazers, who lost their GSC opener last week to 14th-ranked Delta State, 49-32.
The Blazers are averaging 30.7 points and 415 yards per game, but their defense gave up 622 yards against Delta State.
The Lions will be attempting to give Wallace his 100th career victory at the school. Wallace has a 99-44-1 record in 13 seasons at UNA. He is the second-winningest coach in program history behind Hal Self, who had 109 victories.
Alabama State vs. Texas Southern, 5 p.m.
It will be a matchup of Southwestern Athletic Conference division leaders when Alabama State (3-1, 2-0) takes on Texas Southern (4-0, 2-0). These are the only two SWAC teams that are 2-0 in conference play.
ASU beat conference opponents Mississippi Valley State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff by a combined score of 89-29. Texas Southern edged Prairie View A&M by two points in the season-opener, but knocked off Alabama A&M 45-23 last week.
Jacksonville State at Murray State, 6 p.m.
Jacksonville State will be looking for revenge when the Gamecocks (2-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley Conference) travel to Murray State (1-2, 0-0). The Racers upset JSU last year 35-34 with a touchdown and successful two-point conversion in overtime.
"I think if we had a game circled on the calendar, this is definitely the one," JSU coach John Grass said. "We have been waiting on this game all year. . Our guys remember last year and it was a devastating loss for our team."
Murray State's two losses this season have been to FBS teams Louisville and Western Michigan.
Samford at Chattanooga, 6 p.m.
Samford will look to maintain its early hold on first place in the Southern Conference. The Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0) currently are tied with Furman.
This is the conference opener for Chattanooga (1-2, 0-0), which is coming off a 42-16 victory over Austin Peay.
Alabama A&M at Mississippi Valley State 4 p.m.
Alabama A&M and Mississippi Valley are trying to avoid claiming last place in the SWAC East Division.
A&M (1-3, 0-1) has lost its three games this season by an average margin of 27.7 points. The Delta Devils (1-3, 0-2) have fared even worse, losing three straight games by an average score of 54-10.
Miles at Albany State, 6 p.m.
Miles and Albany State both enter their Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener looking to stop two-game losing streaks.
Miles (1-2, 0-0) is coming off a 34-30 loss to Hampton. The Rams (0-2, 0-0) lost to Tuskegee 20-12 in their most recent game.
Tuskegee vs. Lane, 1 p.m.
Tuskegee (1-2, 0-0 SIAC) looks to maintain its perfect record in the series against Lane (1-2, 1-0). The Golden Tigers have won all 19 meetings.
Tuskegee lost to nationally ranked Winston-Salem State 24-13 last week. The Dragons won their SIAC opener last week, beating Paine 18-16.
Stillman vs. Kentucky State, 3 p.m.
Stillman (1-2, 0-0 SIAC) will attempt to maintain momentum after picking up its first victory of the season last week against St. Augustine's. Kentucky State (1-2, 0-0) is allowing only 13.3 points per game.
West Alabama vs. Concordia, 6 p.m.
West Alabama (2-1) looks to bounce back from last week's lost to Jacksonville State by taking on Concordia (1-2), which is coming off a 59-16 loss to Southeastern.