There was a time when Copiah-Lincoln was one of the hottest football teams in the nation out of the gate, winning its first five contests.
With an overtime thriller against defending national champion East Mississippi on its resume, the Wolfpack surged to No. 1 in the NJCAA rankings.
Since then, No. 14 Co-Lin (3-4 overall, 2-2 MACJC South) has sputtered with two straight losses. Now, Co-Lin finds itself in a four-way tie for second in the South Division and faces a must-win situation when it hosts No. 7 Gulf Coast at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"They were No. 1 in the country for a reason and right now they're playing really hungry because they have to have the win. We'll get their best," Gulf Coast coach Chad Huff said.
He rattled off D1 signee after D1 signee as reasons the Bulldogs (6-1, 5-0) shouldn't overlook Co-Lin.
"They have some players on both sides of the ball," Huff said. "It's going to take a perfect game."
Along the offensive line, Co-Lin has a pair of 6-foot-5,300-plus pound offensive linemen in Tommy Champion and Kent Flowers who both signed with Mississippi State out of high school.
Then there's former Ole Miss receiver Dayall Harris, Rebel signee Joe Anderson at defensive end and former Illinois defensive lineman Paul James III. DB Lashard Durr (from Harrison Central), DT Tre Brown, Champion and defensive end Deshon Cooper are all current 2016 Bulldog commitments.
James leads the MACJC and is fourth in the nation with 10 tackles. He's also second on Co-Lin with 36 tackles. Cooper is second on the team with seven sacks.
"Last week I thought Pearl River was one of the biggest fronts we've seen," Huff said. "This week, (Co-Lin is) probably the most athletic."
Offensively, the Bulldogs will need to corral running back Lakedric Lee. He leads the Wolfpack with 710 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He also is Co-Lin's leading receiver with 32 receptions for 271 yards and two scores. Harris has 29 catches for 351 yards with one touchdown.
"Offensively, they're pretty balanced. They're around 160 (yards) rushing and a little under 200 throwing," Huff said. "They're a team that's going to try and be physical but at the same time drop back and throw it, too. It's going to take us being disciplined this week and try to take away the run to allow us to do some things we like to do defensively which is put pressure on the quarterback."
Gulf Coast leads the series 50-29-2 and has won nine of the last 13. Co-Lin has won two of last three, however.
Co-Lin forfeited its first two wins, victories over Itawamba and East Mississippi, after the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges ruled Wednesday the Wolfpack played with an ineligible player.