SIU lands game with Top 20-ranked opponent in bid to keep playoff fires burning

After its last two regular-season opponents opted out, Southern Illinois has added Southeastern Louisiana to its spring schedule in an intriguing matchup of ranked FCS teams with playoff aspirations. (photo courtesy siusalukis.com)

In an effort to keep its playoff hopes alive, Southern Illinois has landed a game with a Top 20 opponent.

The Salukis, ranked No. 16 in the latest Stats Perform FCS poll, will host 19th-rated Southeastern Louisiana in Carbondale April 17. Kickoff is set for noon.

The matchup works out well for both teams and their desire to gain a win against a quality opponent and improve their playoff stock. The NCAA will announce the 16-team postseason bracket April 18. There are six at-large spots in the spring playoff field.

The game replaces the Western Illinois contest, which was originally scheduled for April 10, but was canceled when the Leathernecks opted out of their season Monday.

SIU head coach Nick Hill said the game came together when Southeastern Louisiana head coach Frank Scelfo reached out, upon seeing Hill’s comments about teams opting out.

“I’m super-thankful for coaches like Coach Scelfo,” Hill said on siusalukis.com. “He told me he really appreciated my statement, and that he felt the same way. They feel like they’re a playoff team, too, so this game is a great opportunity to showcase two outstanding football programs that love to play football.”

Scelfo said, “We’re excited to have an opportunity to travel to Southern Illinois and play. We’re thankful for the opportunity to give our student-athletes an opportunity to compete.”

SIU carries a 4-3 record into the game; Southeastern Louisiana is 3-2.

Southeastern Louisiana is located in Hammond, La. and is a member of the Southland Conference. The game will mark the first meeting between the schools.

Southeastern Louisiana will make the eight-hour bus trip to Carbondale for the game.

The Salukis are 7-6 all-time against Southland Conference opponents. The last time SIU played a Southland school was a 24-12 victory over Central Arkansas in 1996. 

Originally scheduled for the WIU game, the contest versus the Lions will be billed as SIU’s annual “Blackout Cancer” game, sponsored by Southern Illinois Healthcare. The Salukis will wear special black jerseys with names on the back that were selected by winning jersey bidders. Bids raised $31,896 this year for the Coach Kill Cancer Fund, bringing the 10-year total of the charitable event to $364,023.

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