Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The way teams in the Southland Conference have shuffled around in recent seasons suggests another special season is on tap.
It just so happens the Southland is playing its 50th season of football.
Sam Houston State, which has won two straight Southland titles, has reached the last two FCS national championship games and has a talent group returning on offense.
But Sam Houston didn't even win the conference's automatic bid to the playoffs last season - co-champion Central Arkansas's win in the head-to-head matchup was the difference maker in the Bears earning it.
UCA has a home date against Sam Houston for the second straight year, and this time it's on the final Saturday of the regular season.
It's up to the other Southland programs to keep that game from deciding the title, and quite possibly they can this season.
McNeese State, Stephen F. Austin, Southeastern Louisiana and Northwestern State have enjoyed big moments in recent seasons. It might even be time for Lamar to take a step into being a Southland title contender. Nicholls will try to be a spoiler.
Three more football programs are joining the Southland conference next year: Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist.
Yes, the Southland Conference is on the rise.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2013 Southland Conference race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
1. Sam Houston State
2. Central Arkansas
3. Southeastern Louisiana
4. Stephen F. Austin
5. McNeese State
7. Northwestern State