Sam Houston State has been picked to repeat as Southland Conference champions according to Dave Campbell's Texas Football preview magazines 2012 league forecast.

The magazine tabbed the Bearkats to finish atop the Southland again, followed by Stephen F. Austin, McNeese State, Central Arkansas, Lamar, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State.

"The Bearkats, who return 19 starters, enter 2012 as the prohibitive favorites," the preview article by Jake Shaw said. "Stephen F. Austin, the two-time defending conference champ before SHSU unseated the Lumberjacks last fall, likely poses their biggest threat."

Sam Houston and SFA will face off against each other in what Texas Football predicts is the game that will decide the title at the 2012 edition of the "Battle of the Piney Woods" at Reliant Stadium in Houston Saturday, Oct. 6, at 3 p.m.

McNeese State and Central Arkansas also look to figure in the championship race according to the preview article.

The Cowboys look to field a strong running attack behind Marcus Wiltz and quarterback Cody Stroud returns to lead the offense. UCA was last year's Southland runner-up and earned an NCAA Division I playoff at-large berth. Quarterback Nathan Dick signed a free agent contract with the Cowboys but junior Wynrick Smothers is waiting in the wings to take over the offense.

Sam Houston opens Southland action against the Bears on Saturday, Sept. 22, in Conway in a critical contest for both teams.

The Bearkats will play host to McNeese State for homecoming in Huntsville on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 2 p.m. at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.

Texas Football points to improvement in the passing game and the return of the Bearkats' strong rushing attack that ranked second in the nation last year as reasons to pick SHSU as the favorite.

"As loaded as SHSU is on offense, it is arguably better on defense," the article said. "The Bearkats lose only their two starting linebackers."

Season tickets for Sam Houston State football now are available online at or at the SHSU athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium.

Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The ticket office telephone number is (936) 294-1729.