There may be no team in the nation entering its game today with as much uncertainty as the team the University of Central Arkansas is set to face.
Texas College, based in Tyler, Texas, lost its game last week to the University of Texas-Permian Basin 96-0.
On the surface, that scoreline may just be the result of a lower-tier NAIA school losing to a team with more talent or better schemes.
But it's not that simple.
The Steers (0-1) played 23 total players in that game, including 16 true freshmen. Two hours before kickoff, 25 players were pulled off of the bus as it was set to head to UTPB's stadium.
According to Corey Hogue of "Dave Campbell's Texas Football," the 25 players were not properly certified with the NAIA at the time they boarded the bus, and were pulled off as a result. Of those 25 players, at least 12 were set to start for the Steers.
On this week's two-deep depth chart, Texas College does not feature a backup at three offensive positions and no backup at all 11 defensive positions.
Ahead of today's matchup with Texas College, UCA (0-1) Coach Nathan Brown said he's had multiple conversations with Steers Coach Jarrail Jackson. The second-year coach has said some of those players will see the field today, but it's unclear how many.
While watching film of Texas College's defeat to UTPB, Brown said he found it hard to discern how much he could glean from the result and the play on the field in preparation for today.
"I've watched every bit of film that we have on them and look, they do some good things," Brown said. "And yeah, they were undermanned. I mean, that's just the facts of the situation.
"It is hard to gauge when you lose a game like that but you know, we look at every snap that they played and we're gonna get a game plan for their schemes and just play good football. They lace it up just like we do, just like we lace it up, just like Oklahoma State does. I mean, things can happen, so I don't want to take them lightly. I don't want to overlook them. I want to make sure I pay them the respect that they deserve because they're a football program and those kids are competing to play football, and we want to give them the opportunity to play football. I think [today] we just get better at us, and then we can consider it a successful Saturday."
The Bears are coming off of a 27-13 defeat to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., where they trailed by six points entering the fourth quarter.
UCA has some uncertainty of its own coming into today as it will be without a handful of key starters that sustained injuries during last week's game.
Right tackle Frazier Rose had surgery on his lower right leg Friday morning and will miss the remainder of the season. Safety TaMuarion Wilson will be limited with a Grade 2 AC sprain in his shoulder. Left guard Will Diggins will miss the game with a strained hamstring he suffered on the Bears' first drive in Stillwater. Wide receiver Christian Richmond dislocated a finger during the OSU game but was able to finish the contest. Brown said he will likely miss four weeks after having surgery on it Wednesday morning.
"Stillwater wasn't kind to us, as far as injuries go, but that's football, right?" Brown said. "I mean, that's part of why you recruit. That's why you have depth. That's why you continue to develop. I mean, if you don't develop your program, you're not going to get where you need to be. So we'll be fine."
The injuries will provide extended opportunities to players further down the depth chart -- some who saw game time against OSU.
Chaylin Peine and Zach Cochnauer will fight for playing time at left guard in place of Diggins while Bakarius Collier will take over the majority of the time at right guard, with William Mayo playing some.
At safety, Dillon Williams, Dude Person, KC Clark and Jacobrien Eichleberger all featured in Stillwater in the absence of Wilson and injured safety Cameron Godfrey.
At wide receiver, Kam Robinson will see the majority of the snaps at inside receiver with Jared Long seeing an increase in time on the field.
"We'll have our guys ready to go," Brown said. "Obviously, we're gonna go in with our football team to win the game and what happens within the game is going to dictate the reps and how we handle all those situations.
"We're in a situation where, hopefully, we've got enough depth to be able to sustain those injuries and be okay moving forward, but we need those guys back, we need them healthy. Those are some injuries that if we don't give them a chance to rest, they could linger all year."