With Furman losing at home to The Citadel, the Southern Conference race was ripped wide open. Furman was cruising, leading many to think the league was decided, but outside of East Tennessee State and Western Carolina, there is a path for any of the other seven teams to find their way to the conference title. The last six weeks should be exciting as there are only going to be two or three playoff bids available for the SoCon.
Conference Game of the Week:
Chattanooga (4-3, 3-0) at Wofford (4-2, 3-1)
Where: Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg, SC
When: Saturday October 26th, 1:30 PM
TV/Streaming: ESPN+ ($$/subscription req’d)
After a challenging non-conference schedule left them with a 1-3 start, many had written off Chattanooga as a serious contender in the Southern Conference as they’ve rattled off three straight conference victories without a conference loss. But the games get harder from here, starting this week at Wofford. The Mocs can only afford one conference loss at most, and that may still not be good enough depending on how the rest of the teams fair.
Key Player: Freshman RB Aylim Ford has been exactly what the Mocs have needed on offense. Ford in the top ten in rushing in the country with 729 yards. His seven rushing touchdowns are also in the top 20 in the nation. Watching Ford run, you forget he is a freshman. In what is sure to be a ground battle this weekend, the Mocs need Ford to meet or exceed his current season average.
Wofford started the season as a top 10 team, but after two shocking losses, the Terriers found themselves on the outside looking in. As the season has worn on, the two losses (South Carolina State and Samford) are not seen as weak as they appeared early in the year. The Terriers have righted the ship, having won their last four games to once again stake their claim as one of the top teams in the conference. This is a team that has talent to make the quarterfinals of the playoffs, but they have to get there first. Their showdown with Furman in mid-November is likely to determine their playoff destiny.
Key Player: After two extremely bad outings to start the season, much like his team, QB Joe Newman has completely turned his season around. In the first two games he accounted for zero touchdowns and threw three interceptions. During the four game winning streak, Newman has 13 touchdowns and only one interception, with a mammoth 266 all-purpose yards and 4 TDs vs. Western Carolina last week. Its not a far stretch to say that as their senior leader at quarterback goes, so goes the fate of Wofford.
Fearless Prediction: Both teams come in on winning streaks, but this one will go to the home standing Terriers in a hard fought game. Wofford 21, Chattanooga 20
Fearless predictions for the rest of the slate
East Tennessee State (2-5, 0-4) at Samford (3-4, 2-2), Saturday October 16th, 1:00 PM, Seibert Stadium, Samford, AL, ESPN+ ($$/subscription req’d)
ETSU was hoping to build on last year and win a conference title. Everything has gone wrong for them. A rebuilding Samford team has shown resilience this year and will pick up a home win. Samford 34, East Tennessee State 18
Mercer (3-4, 2-2) at The Citadel (4-4, 2-2), Saturday October 26th, 2:00 PM, Johnson Hagood Memorial Stadium, Charleston, SC, ESPN+ ($$/subscription req’d)
The loser of this game will have their playoff bubble burst early (if it already isn’t). Look for The Citadel to pick up the win this week. The Citadel 27, Mercer 17
Furman (4-3, 3-1) at Western Carolina (1-6, 0-4), Saturday October 26th, 3:30 PM, EJ Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC, ESPN College Extra, ESPN3 (cable subscription req’d)
Furman will bounce back from its home loss last week to pick up an easy road win this week against a bad Western Carolina team. Furman 48, Western Carolina 21
Jamie is a proud 2002 graduate of James Madison University. He’s witnessed the growth of the program from no one in the stands in 1998, to the hiring of Mickey Matthews, to the 2004 National Championship, to the 2008 team, to the struggles in the early 2010s, and finally the rebuild under Mike Houston. He also allegedly really enjoys Washington, DC-based Stanley Cup winners.
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