Southern Conference Week 4 Preview

Week three was a fairly tame week across the entire FCS. The results in the Southern Conference followed along that path, but there were some good games and some near upsets. There were seven games to look back at last week and there are four to look at this week.

Chattanooga held a lead over Kentucky entering the fourth quarter before giving up two touchdowns, losing by 5. The Mocs, despite being 1-2, look like they are prepared for conference play and have the early bye this week to get ready for the grueling stretch run.

VMI got a bigger challenge from Cornell that expected, only winning by 10. Colllin Ironside filled in for injured Seth Morgan as VMI continues to roll out capable quarterbacks. VMI’s defense also continues to improve.

Western Carolina gave Samford all they could handle. The Catamounts look much better on offense than they have over the last few years. Rogan Wells looks really good so far; the type of player a team can build around. The defense needs to catch up. But this was a typical shootout game involving Samford. Liam Welch threw for 352 yards but also threw four interceptions.

Wofford dropped a game at Kennesaw State, one that really could have helped their potential FCS playoff resume. Instead, they have a close victory against Elon as their only non-conference win. The Terriers could not solve the Owls on either side of the ball and the final score showed it.

The Citadel was able to get in the win column with an easy win over a D-II opponent. The Bulldogs will take this weekend off, and then its the conference schedule the rest of the way.

Furman got walloped by FBS NC State last week, but this should have no bearing on them moving forward. The Paladins were overwhelmed the entire game, but they got a taste of superior competition would should ready them for the conference schedule.

East Tennessee State cruised to a 3-0 start with an easy 38-6 win over Delaware State. Quay Holmes continued his strong start to the season with another 157 yards and two more touchdowns.

This week’s schedule brings three conference matchups and one out of conference game. Chattanooga and The Citadel both have this week off before eight straight weeks of conference play. Lets jump right in to the previews and predictions for this weekend.

Last Week: 6-1, Season: 18-6

Wofford at VMI Saturday September 25 1:30pm ESPN3

Wofford and VMI will both be opening conference play this weekend. In the Spring, these two teams played a classic game with VMI coming out with a 36-31 win. In that game, Jakob Herres scored the game winning touchdown on a 14 yard pass from Seth Morgan. Through two games this season, Wofford eeked out a win over Elon and then was blown out by Kennesaw State. The Terriers have given up 227 yards rushing on average. Granted, Kennesaw runs a triple option.  Wofford has a lot to clean up. The Terriers have been able to force four turnovers so far which has keep them in games a little longer. Offensively, Wofford has been uneven. They have thrown three interceptions and continue to struggle to install a new pass game. Its just not working. Look for Wofford to go to the run a little more.

VMI comes in 2-1 with the loss against an FBS team. Seth Morgan has struggled with injury. Collin Ironside, a freshman, has come in and played steady enough. They have struggled with interceptions, having thrown six so far, that’s not good enough. They both have benefitted by having Jakob Herres on the outside. He has all four of the Keydets’ receiving touchdowns. Korey Bridy is playing well at running back as well. Defensively, the Keydets needs to tighten up a little bit as they go into conference play.

This game will boil down to which offense can protect the ball better. Despite the struggles, I trust the VMI offense more than the Wofford offense. It looks like the tables may have officially flipped in the Southern Conference where VMI is the team on the rise and Wofford is heading the opposite direction. Take the Keydets.

Fearless Prediction: VMI 30, Wofford 20

Mercer at Furman Saturday September 25 2:00 ESPN+

Mercer is yet to play an FCS opponent so we don’t really know what they’re going to be this year.  The Bears destroyed DII point and lost big to FBS Alabama. With a 10 game schedule, Mercer only has Southern Conference games left. Mercer has used 11 different running backs so they are getting experience for a lot of kids and searching for the right combination. At quarterback, Mercer has used three different guys. It looks like Fred Payton may be the top guy with Carter Peavy on his heels. They Bears will most likely settle in on one guy moving into conference play starting this week. Mercer’s defense is stocked with linebackers led by Isaac Dowling. We will learn more about Mercer starting this weekend.

Furman started the season strong with two out of conference wins, including one over North Carolina A&T. This past weekend, the Paladins travelled up to Raleigh and lost big to North Carolina State. That wont have any bearing on Furman’s final standing when the season is done. Hamp Sisson has taken the reins at quarterback for the Paladins and has played well. He has 644 yards and four touchdowns. He has provided stability that makes you think that Furman can make a run at the conference title again this season. Furman looks to be back in the hunt. The true offensive leader is running back Devin Wynn. The Paladins defense picked up a shutout against Tennessee Tech before getting beaten badly by NC State. Furman looks to be heading in the right direction.

Mercer is an improving team that could compete in the next couple years. But Furman is established and looks good early. Look for the Paladins to pull away late.

Fearless Prediction: Furman 34, Mercer 18

East Tennessee State at Samford Saturday September 25 3:00pm ESPN+

East Tennessee State started their season with a bang beating FBS Vanderbilt easily. In that game the Buccaneers showcased exactly what kind of team they are: one that runs the ball with a stud running back and plays strong defense. Since then, ETSU has won two more games and sits at 3-0 entering conference play. The Buccaneers have rushed for 247 yards per game and allowed just 7 points per game. The run game is anchored by Quay Holmes. He is one of the top backs in the entire FCS. He already has amassed 368 yards and four touchdowns. He has only been tackled for a loss on two of his 60 carries. The Buccaneers also have Jacob Saylors who has added three touchdowns and 7.4 yards per carry. Tyler Riddell has settled in as the starting quarterback and he is protecting the ball and moving the offense completing 62.5% of his passes. The defense is very balanced and doesn’t have one stand out player. They clearly play as one unit. The top five tacklers all have between 16 and 19 tackles. The main disruptor is Jalen Porter with five tackles for loss, four sacks and an interception

Samford has all the offensive talent in the world, led by Liam Welch at quarterback. But they always tend to play in nail-biting shootouts. The defense has been a little better, allowing just 28 points per game while the offense has averaged 40. But for all the talent Welch has, he turns the ball over too much. Welch has thrown for six touchdowns this season, but also has thrown six interceptions. With a struggling defense, they cant give short field opportunities. They were cut up by Western Carolina last week and escaped with a win after turning an early 21-3 lead into a 31-21 deficit. They can get away with that against WCU, but that kind of effort wont beat the better teams in the conference

It will be interesting to see how much success Welch and the Samford offense can have against the stout East Tennessee defense. Expect a huge game from Holmes where he gets near or over 200 yards.

Fearless Prediction: East Tennessee State 34, Samford 24

Western Carolina at Gardner-Webb (Big South) Saturday September 25 6:00 ESPN+

Western Carolina enters this weekend 0-3 but having shown much more fight than they have shown over the last few years. The defense still struggles, but the offense has taken many steps forward under Kerwin Bell. The Catamounts lost by three to Eastern Kentucky and five to Samford. This weekend they travel to Gardner-Webb where they lost in the spring. The offensive resurgence has been led by Rogan Wells who transferred in as a grad transfer for this year. His completion percentage is just 50% and he has thrown five interceptions against four touchdowns, but Wells has kept the Catamounts in games. TJ Jones has contributed in the run and pass game emerging as a reliable all-purpose back. Defensively the Catamounts continue to struggle, but they have been able to force eight turnovers, including seven interceptions: three by Andreas Keaton. This wont be a great season for WCU, but theyre building for the future. Gardner-Webb has not played an FCS opponent so far, so we aren’t real sure what they will be. But in this game look for the Catamounts to get into the win column

Fearless Prediction: Western Carolina 28, Gardner-Webb 27