It's hard to imagine an 8-1 team facing an absolute must-win situation, but that's life in college football.
Especially in the Southwest Region, and more specifically, the Lone Star Conference.
Tarleton State (8-1, 3-1) suffered its first loss of the season in a homecoming shootout that may never be forgotten.
The Texans fell 70-63 to Abilene Christian in a firework show that resulted in the second-highest scoring affair in the history of NCAA Division II football for games ending in regulation.
Tarleton scored the nation's most points in regulation by any team in a losing effort.
The shell-shocked Tarleton defense allowed 715 yards and 10 touchdowns to a prolific ACU offensive unit that featured Bernard Scott's record-setting 283-yard, six-touchdown rushing performance.
The Tarleton offense kept pace until its last possession ended in a sack of quarterback Scott Grantham, who passed for six touchdowns.
Shamarr Prentice collected 10 receptions for 180 yards and a score, while Devin Guinn found the end zone twice during his eight reception, 132 yard performance. The daunting tandem at wide receiver combined for 18 grabs, 312 yards and three touchdowns.
And still, the Texans lost.
Tarleton dropped to No. 7 in this week's Southwest Region poll. Two games remain before the final poll reveals the top six who will advance to the post season.
Tarleton also dropped from No. 8 to No. 16 in the AFCA national top 25.
For a third consecutive season-ending battle against West Texas A&M with everything on the line to take place, the Tarleton defense must first recover enough to hold off Angelo State (2-6, 1-3) this Saturday in San Angelo.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
The Rams don't have near the offensive firepower the Wildcats used to explode last week, but they do have a true go-to threat at running back in Daniel Thomas.
Thomas has carried the load for Angelo State, toting the ball 176 times for 924 yards. He averages 5.2 yards per run and has rushed for 10 touchdowns.
While Thomas is the only star in ASU backfield, Tarleton maximizes the benefits of having a solid three man rotation with Michael Sampson, Travis Evans and Roderick Smith.
Sampson rushed for two touchdowns last week, Smith ran for one and caught another, and Evans completed a 66-yard pass on a trick play.
The Texans rush for an average of 186.9 yards per game, fourth best in the Lone Star Conference. Angelo State is seventh in the league at 149.2 yards per contest.
While Thomas may be foaming at the mouth after watching film of Bernard Scott running over, around and through the Tarleton defense last week, the Texans are looking to get back to their traditional run-stopping selves.
Tarleton fell to No. 8 in the conference in rush defense after last week's affair. The Texans are allowing 143.1 rushing yards per game. Defensive coordinator Darian Dulin's unit led the league in stopping the run each of the last two seasons.
If Thomas is foaming at the mouth, Grantham must already be in a fully rabid state. The Tarleton quarterback tied an LSC record with his six scoring passes last week, and now faces a Ram defense that is dead last in the league.
ASU has surrendered 483 yards per game, almost 150 more than the Tarleton defense (344.8). The Rams give up 253.4 yards per game on the ground and 229.6 through the air.
Angelo State looks to play the role of spoiler Saturday, while a Tarleton win would officially set the stage for what has become an annual do-or-die affair with West Texas A&M on Nov. 10.
Before a third season-ending war can be fought, Tarleton has business to tend to in San Angelo.
Brad Keith is the sports editor at the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241, or by e-mail at email@example.com.