Week five in the Southern Conference brought us one upset and another team looking to take the next step into contention. As we get into conference play, the Southern Conference teams will continue to separate the haves from the have nots. As of now it’s an open race, although a favorite has emerged. We start with our quick look back at each of last week’s games.
Western Carolina played last week without their quarterback Rogan Wells for most of the game. With him absent, also absent were their chances to compete. Chattanooga racked up 518 yards of offense and forced four turnovers in the 45-17 win.
The Citadel pulled the upset of the week beating VMI in the Military Classic of the South 35-24. Jaylen Adams accounted for over 300 yards of offense for the Bulldog. Seth Morgan returned for the Keydets but he couldn’t lead them to victory this week.
Wofford held a lead entering the fourth quarter over East Tennessee State looking for the upset. Quay Holmes had other ideas, scoring on a 77 yard pass to provide the winning points. Holmes had 81 yards rushing and 104 in the game.
Mercer looks like a contender after their 45-42 win over Samford. Fred Davis was unstoppable, running for 276 yards and five touchdowns on the day. For Samford, Liam Welch threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw two costly interceptions.
There are again four conference games on the schedule this weekend with Samford getting the bye week.
Last Week: 2-2, Season: 22-10
Chattanooga at VMI Saturday October 9, 1:30pm ESPN+
Chattanooga has alternated wins and losses to start the season. They sit at 2-2 with their wins against two teams without a win so far this year. The Mocs entered the season as the favorite for the Southern Conference but their play to this point has not backed that up. These next two weeks will tell us a lot about the Mocs. They play at VMI and then host East Tennessee State. Two more losses and their done. Two wins, and they are right back in the race. But you cant win two if you don’t win one. The defense has been good, as expected, allowing just over 300 yards and 18.75 points per game. The six interceptions thrown have hurt the Mocs this year. This week will be a tough road test at VMI.
VMI is coming off a devastating loss to a bitter rival last weekend. Instead of picking up a win against a potentially lesser opponent, the Keydets dug themselves a 21-10 hole they could not climb out of. Overall, the Keydets have not looked great to start the year. IN games where they should have pulled away and won easily, they let the opponents hang in the entire game. Seth Morgan has been in and out of the lineup at quarterback, but Collin Ironside has filled in nicely. VMI’s defense in the spring was markedly improved. However, this fall they have yet to hold an opponent under 21 points. VMI has a tough remaining schedule and if they want to repeat as conference champions, they’ll have to be much better than they have been to start the year
Both these teams have underachieved so far this year. Instead of this being a potential battle for the top spot in the conference, it is a game to see which team will remain in the playoff picture. I think this game will be close throughout, but I’ll give a slight nod to the home team.
Fearless Prediction: VMI 37, Chattanooga 30
Furman at Wofford Saturday October 9, 1:30pm ESPN+
Furman started the season 2-0, giving optimism that the Paladins were back and ready to compete. There is no shame in losing to NC State. But then the Paladins lost to Mercer two weeks ago and looked bad doing so. Furman had only 292 yards and threw four interceptions in that loss. Hamp Sisson started the season well but is now under 60% completion and has thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4). As a team, the Paladins have scored just 6 touchdowns in four games. They should be amped up for a huge rivalry game this weekend. Scoring 16 points per game is a recipe for a lot of losses. The Paladins are in danger of throwing away their strong start.
Wofford isn’t looking any better than their in state rival. They enter this game on a three game losing streak. The Terriers give up over 400 yards per game and gain just over three hundred. They have been able to force seven turnovers to keep themselves close in games, but that hasn’t translated to wins. Irvin Mulligan has 311 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He has been the lone bright sport for Wofford so far. The Terriers get almost no participation from the passing game. Wofford looks like a team who has lost their identity and don’t know how to get it back.
In recent memory, this has been one of the most anticipated games on the SoCon schedule. Now its just another game. Its important for those schools, but it will not move the needle from an FCS perspective. Both teams are down, but Furman has shown a little more life than Wofford to this point.
Fearless Prediction: Furman 23, Wofford 16
Mercer at Western Carolina Saturday October 9, 3:30pm ESPN3
Mercer finished the spring season strong with an outside chance to win the conference in the last weekend. It didn’t happen then, but the Bears have carried that momentum into this season with a 3-1 start only losing to FBS Alabama 48-14. Last week, Mercer proved they could win a shootout by outlasting Samford. In that game, Fred Davis ran for 276 yards and five touchdowns. At quarterback, the Bears seem to have settled in on Fred Payton as their starter over Carter Peevy. The Bears are averaging 487 yards of total offense a game including 290 on the ground. Defensively they give up 333 and already have seven interceptions. This is a team with the arrow pointing up.
Western Carolina continues to scuffle as they have for the last few years. This is one of the worst defenses in the entire FCS allowing 49 points and 516 yards per game. Offensively, the Catamounts have gotten some big plays from Rogan Wells. However, they continue to turn the ball over. They have thrown 11 interceptions and have lost seven fumbles in five games. There was a lot of optimism in Cullowhee when Kerwin Bell was hired, and it may come to pass at some point. But this team severely lacks talent.
This is a game that Mercer MUST win if they are going to continue to be thought of as a contender. Slipping up against a winless team is a recipe for disaster. They won’t though. The Bears keep rolling.
Fearless Prediction: Mercer 47, Western Carolina 33
The Citadel at #12 East Tennessee State Saturday October 9, 4:30 ESPN+
The Citadel picked up a huge rivalry win with their victory over VMI in the Military Classic of the South. The good news for The Citadel is that they have found their field general. Jaylen Adams has handled the offense well recently and had a huge game last week with 188 yards rushing and 114 passing. Defensively, The Citadel still trails behind. But there is some talent. They wont win the conference this year, but they can ruin other team’s seasons like they may have done to VMI last week. You can pass on the Bulldogs; they’ve allowed 266 passing yards per game.
East Tennessee State just keeps rolling. The Buccaneers are 5-0 and are riding their stud running back, Quay Holmes, game after game. Holmes has 617 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground for a running attack that averages 236 per game. Hiding in the shadows of Holmes has been quarterback Tyler Riddell who has been very good so far this year. He is completing over 60 % of his passes and has eight touchdowns against just two interceptions. Defensively, the Buccaneers have been exactly what we thought they would be: tough. They only allow 18 points per game, forced nine turnovers, have 31 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. This team will be in every game they play. Can they run the table?
It will be interesting to see which team runs for more yards in this game. The balanced Buccaneers or the run heavy Bulldogs. This seems to be a big mismatch. Take the Bucs.
Fearless Prediction: East Tennessee State 28, The Citadel 10
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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