VALDOSTA -- One of Valdosta State's oldest rivals comes to town today. Of course, if you asked West Alabama, it could have probably done without the series.

When the Blazers and Tigers kick off homecoming today at 1 p.m. inside Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, it will mark the 23rd game in a series dominated by Valdosta State. The two have played every season since the inception of the Blazers' program in 1982, with Valdosta State holding a 22-1 series advantage.

"We've played West Alabama ever since we've been playing ball here," Valdosta State head coach Chris Hatcher said. "This is one of the few old Gulf South Conference rivalries."

The series continues today, and like recent years, the circumstances surrounding both teams are the same. Valdosta State (5-1, 5-0 Gulf South) sits atop the conference standings with Arkansas Tech, while the Tigers (1-6, 1-4 Gulf South) are looking to spoil somebody's season.

"Everybody is out to get the Blazers," Hatcher said. "We sit in the driver's seat and we make no bones about it."

A win today for the Blazers, ranked No. 8 in the coaches' poll and No. 2 in the Southeast Region, would set up a showdown next week at North Alabama, which handed the Blazers their only regular season loss a year ago.

But first Valdosta State must stop West Alabama and its 5-foot-10, 246-pound senior running back Marcus Ross. Ross leads the conference in rushing with 128 yards a game and has scored eight touchdowns this season.

However, the Tigers are 1-6 for a reason. They've turned the ball over 21 times (11 interceptions, 10 fumbles) this season in seven games. That's bad news for West Alabama considering the Blazers lead the nation with a turnover margin of plus-12.

Hatcher isn't taking the hook, though.

"Don't let their 1-6 record deceive you," he said.

"Their problem has been hanging on to the football and that's been a bonus for us. If they don't turn the ball over their record could very easily be the opposite of what it is."

Hatcher said almost all the Blazers are back at full strength this week with the exception of cornerback Antwan Harris, who will may see limited action.

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