The Southern Conference continues to look like a strong league in 2019. But, the one team everyone expected to be the top team in the league, Wofford, has looked anything but strong through two games. The biggest win in week three for the conference was picked up by The Citadel who defeated FBS Georgia Tech in overtime. Also of note was VMI picking up its own OT win over a team many though would compete for a playoff berth, East Tennessee State. Furman, for the second consecutive game, took an FBS opponent to the wire, but lost by one score.
BYE: Western Carolina
Conference Game of the Week:
Mercer (2-1) at Furman (1-2)
Where: Paladin Stadium, Greenville, SC
When: Saturday September 21, 1:00 PM
TV/Streaming: NexStar, ESPN+ (subscription req’d)
Mercer will be looking to improve on their .500 conference record from a year ago. An improving program, the Bears believe they have a shot at the Southern Conference title this year. They had a chance to make a strong out of conference statement last week, but wound up falling to Austin Peay 48-34. The Bears do have to protect the ball better having turned the ball over 6 times in their first three games. Mercer travels to Furman this week needing a big conference win. A loss will make the playoffs an uphill climb.
Key Player: QB Robert Riddle has done a decent job as the signal caller for Mercer. He is averaging 273 yards per game and completing just under 60% of his passes. Riddle has thrown 11 touchdowns. However he has also thrown five interceptions. To go on the road against Furman, turnovers will not be acceptable. Riddle will need to understand that he cant give away possessions, even if it means taking an extra sack.
Furman’s 1-2 record does not speak to how good this team is. After blowing out Charleston Southern in their opening game, the Paladins have played two FBS teams in a row. While they didn’t come away from either game with a win, Furman led both games at halftime, eventually losing each by a touchdown. So far, the play on the field shows the Paladins as the top team in the Southern Conference. Can they keep it going in conference play?
Key Player: Furman has always been known as an option running team. While they do still run the ball very well – averaging 249 yards per game on the ground – QB Darren Grainger has given the Paladins a good throwing option. Against Georgia State, Grainger threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns, numbers that really opened some eyes across the FCS landscape. Even if Grainger doesn’t hit those numbers again all season, the threat of his ability to throw should at least keep defenses honest.
Fearless Prediction: While Mercer is an improving program, Furman looks to be the class of the SoCon. Take the Paladins this week. Furman 30, Mercer 20
Fearless predictions for the rest of the slate
Robert Morris (0-3) at VMI (2-1), Saturday September 21, 1:30 PM, Alumni Memorial Field, Lexington, VA, ESPN+ (subscription req’d)
VMI picked up a shocking SoCon win last week. They get another one this week against a bad Robert Morris team. VMI 27, Robert Morris 21
James Madison (2-1) at Chattanooga (1-2), Saturday September 21st, 4:00 PM, Finley Stadium, Chattanooga, TN, ESPN+ (subscription req’d)
Chattanooga has struggled in its last two games against superior competition. Unfortunately that continues for the Mocs this week against a tough James Madison defense. James Madison 34, Chattanooga 14
Charleston Southern (0-3) at The Citadel (1-2), Saturday September 21st, 6:00 PM, Johnson Hagood Memorial Stadium, Charleston, SC, ESPN+ (subscription req’d)
The Citadel needs to avoid a letdown after their big win against Georgia Tech. Brandon Rainey’s ankle is question, but the Bulldogs should roll to a win. The Citadel 27, Charleston Southern 10
Gardner-Webb (1-2) at Wofford (0-2), Saturday September 21st, 6:00 PM, Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg, SC, ESPN+ (subscription req’d)
If Wofford doesn’t get off the mat this week against an inferior opponent, this season will be completely lost. Thankfully for the Terrier faithful, they’ll pick up the win this week. Wofford 34, Gardner-Webb 22
Alabama A&M (2-1) at Samford (1-2), Saturday September 21st, 7:00 PM, Seibert Stadium, Samford, AL, ESPN College Extra, ESPN3 (subscription req’d)
This is looking like a close contest from start to finish. QB Chris Oladokun has emerged as the quarterback for Samford giving the Bulldogs the edge in this game. Samford 28, Alabama A&M 27
Austin Peay (2-1) at East Tennessee State (1-2) Saturday September 21st, 7:30 PM, William B Greene Stadium, Johnson City, TN, ESPN+ (subscription req’d)
Had ETSU not lost to VMI, a lot of people would be pointing to this as a potential playoff berth deciding game. But some of the luster is off with that loss. The Buccaneers will be looking to bounce back from the loss, but Austin Peay will escape with the win. Austin Peay 21, East Tennessee State 17
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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