ALBANY, Ga. - Albany State, which won its second consecutive Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship on Saturday, jumped to third in the American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II poll.
The No. 3 ranking is the highest in the program's history, and came about because of second-ranked Texas A&M-Kingsville's 17-10 loss to Abilene Christian.
To ensure its first undefeated season since 1997, however, Albany State has to beat Fort Valley State in the Fountain City Classic on Saturday in Columbus. Other things are also at stake, like wrapping up a first-round bye in the playoffs and at least one home game at Albany Municipal Coliseum. The Rams could also stretch their nation-best winning streak to 18 games.
For the Rams to do that, they must stop Wildcats running back Derrick Wimbush. Wimbush rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns during Fort Valley State's 53-11 win over Stillman on Saturday. Wimbush leads the conference with 1,780 yards, which also ranks second in the country.
"He definitely is a great back," Albany State head coach Mike White said. "All 11 of our guys on defense are going to have to be on top of him. If we want to win, he has to be stopped."
The Albany State defense is coming off yet another strong performance. During the Rams' 50-15 win over Morehouse on Saturday, the Rams held the Tigers to just 86 total yards in the second half. Albany State also intercepted three passes and broke up 11 more. Walter Curry and Franklin Turner had one sack each. Going in to the Morehouse game, Albany State's defense ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense and 11th in total defense.
"We are going to have to gang-tackle (Wimbush)," Curry said. "We're just going to have to go out and just play our game defensively."
Wimbush also will be facing an Albany State defense that has scored five touchdowns. Jermaine Collins has scored on three fumble returns, and Demetrius Isom and Luther Newton have returned interceptions for scores.