Saturday’s Battle for the Peach Basket will be unlike any other in the series.
That’s because it will be the last such matchup between the No. 17 Blazers (9-1, 6-1 Gulf South Conference) and the West Georgia Wolves (6-3, 5-2 GSC).
In what has become an increasing trend across college athletics, conference realignment will bring an end to the fierce rivalry. On Sept. 8, West Georgia announced that they would be leaving the Division II ranks and move up to Division I to be in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“We know that they’re going to be a little bit more amped up just because of the situation coming here,” head coach Tremaine Jackson said.
The Blazers will be looking to win back the Peach Basket after losing it in a decisive 54-17 loss to the Wolves last year.
Even with the added stakes in mind, Jackson says the team isn’t hoping to win merely to get the last laugh.
“We’re not spiteful people,” Jackson said. “I think that’s what’s wrong with the world today. People are always trying to get the last one up. We’re just trying to go do what we came here to do and keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is winning the next football game. … We’re excited about it, but we don’t try to get the last hiccup or the last laugh or I gotcha. I think we can do that with our pads the right way.”
In addition to the stakes of the rivalry, Saturday is a critical juncture for the Blazers’ postseason fate. VSU once again checked in at No. 3 in the third round of NCAA Super Region 2 rankings.
A win on Saturday would lock up a spot in the postseason for VSU’s first playoff appearance since finishing as the national runner-up in 2021. A loss, however, could cause the Blazers to sweat it out during the NCAA Division II Football Selection Show on Sunday.
The Blazers also have a chance to clinch at least a share of the GSC title with a win and can clinch it outright with a win and a Delta State loss. The Blazers last won the GSC title in 2021 when they shared the title with West Florida.
“Ultimately, getting ourselves ready to control our own destiny and to ultimately get to the playoffs and see what we can do there [is our goal],” Jackson said.
The Wolves limped out the gate to open the season, dropping two of their first four games of the season. West Georgia then rattled off four straight wins, but a blowout loss to Delta State knocked the Wolves out of GSC title contention and dropped them out of the Super Region 2 rankings.
Still, the Wolves are the third best rushing team in the GSC, running for an average of 196.3 yards per game. The Wolves have also had an overhaul under center with quarterback Cameran Brown, who is the top rushing QB in the league and ninth overall.
“They got a guy that can run now,” Jackson said of Brown. “He’s a little different. Last year, they didn’t have that guy. They had more of a pocket passer and a manager.”
Jackson also noted running back Rajaez Mosley. Mosley, a Valdosta native, has rushed for 7.4 yards per carry, good for first in the GSC.
“They got a local running back — Mosley, a guy from Valdosta — that can really go and run them back,” Jackson said. “I think they’re a little bit more balanced offensively than they have been.”
With Saturday being the final regular season game, Jackson is urging for fans to show up in troves.
“I’m excited to see our people show up in a great way,” Jackson said. “I think we’ve had some games here this season where I thought we should have had a better crowd, but now there’s no excuse. This is what college football is about. I’m excited for our student section and just our overall campus community to experience this game in this day. Hopefully, it’s a great atmosphere for a great football game.”
Written by Austin Bruce, Co-Editor in Chief.