Last week in the Southern Conference was pretty tame, especially compared to the rest of the national landscape where upsets ruled the day. That’s not to say there was no excitement last week. There was one conference game that went to overtime. Here is our quick recap of last week’s action.
VMI and Chattanooga played an intense back and forth game last week. Both teams led for periods of time. The game was tied three separate times in the fourth quarter including each team making a field goal in the last minute: VMI with 41 seconds left and Chattanooga with just a single tick left to send it to OT. The Keydets prevailed in overtime on a 37 yard Jerry Rice field goal
Furman, led by 206 yards rushing from Devin Wynn, easily outpaces in state rival Wofford. After the Terriers held a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Paladins outscored them 42-10 the rest of the way.
Mercer continued its hot start with a 10 point win over Western Carolina. The Bears got another big game from Fred Davis (126 yard, 2 touchdowns) to jump out to a 3-0 conference start. The Catamounts remain winless on the season, but Kenny Benjamin had 144 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns
East Tennessee State moved to 6-0 on the year with a blowout win at home over The Citadel. Quay Holmes continues to dominate with 132 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs were unable to string together back to back wins. But they got another decent performance from Jaylan Adams, who looks like the right guy to lead this offense.
Western Carolina takes this week off. But the rest of the conference is in action with four head to head matchups.
Last Week: 4-0, Season: 26-10
#10 East Tennessee State at Chattanooga Saturday October 16, 1:30pm, ESPN+
Its hard to find a weakness in the East Tennessee State football team. Granted, they haven’t played the strongest schedule, but they are a fundamentally sound team. The have forced ten turnovers and have only committed five. Quay Holmes leads the FCS in rushing with 749 yards and six touchdowns. Holmes and Jacob Saylors lead a rushing attack that averages 245 yards per game. In 128 carries, Holmes has only lost yardage on 3 carries. Defensively, the Buccaneers have 37 tackles for loss and fifteen sacks. The offensive line has only allowed Tyler Riddell to be sacked four times all season.
Chattanooga has not had a great season to this point. They are 2-3 and have only beaten the teams significantly worse than them on the schedule. The Mocs lost to the two FCS teams that are in their tier of teams. They did play a close game against FBS #11 Kentucky, but it has been pretty a pretty forgetful start for the Mocs. Defensively, they do a good job stopping the run, allowing just 103 yards per game. The defense was always going to be the strong point of this team. But they are not getting key stops the push them to wins. Ailym Ford is averaging just under 100 yards rushing and has five touchdowns. But he is the lone bright spot on offense. The quarterback position has been underwhelming. They’ve settled on Cole Copeland as the starter but as a team they compete 52 percent of their passes and have more interceptions than touchdowns.
Coming into the season this in state rivalry game looked like it could be one that helped determine who wins the Southern Conference. But with the struggles of Chattanooga, its an opportunity for East Tennessee State to continue building toward a conference title.
Fearless Prediction: East Tennessee State 34, Chattanooga 18
Samford at Wofford Saturday October 16, 1:30pm ESPN+
Samford has been a “high event” team over the last few years. You don’t know what side its going to come from, but there will be excitement. It could be a big play for a touchdown by either team, it could be a big turnover. Samford averages a staggering 500 yards per game on offense, led by Liam Welch’s 366 per game. Defensively? They allow 459 yards per game. The Bulldogs have forced 13 turnovers, but they have committed 12 themselves. Third downs are converted at 45% in Samford games. You can guarantee there will be points scored. Their games average nearly 80 points per game. The Bulldogs are 2-3 for a reason. These trends don’t look to stop anytime soon.
Wofford has lost four straight games after their opening game win. They are struggling on both sides of the ball, scoring 19 per game and allowing 30. The Terriers only gain 318 yards per game. Quarterback play for Wofford has been essentially non existent. The only bright spot for the Terriers has been running back Irvin Mulligan. He has 440 yards on the ground with five touchdowns and averages nearly seven yards per carry. He should be set up for a big game this weekend. But can they get production from anywhere else across the lineup?
Wofford would be well served to lean on Mulligan and keep Welch off the field as much as possible. It may not matter as Samford slings the ball around the yard. This should wind up as a big win for Samford.
Fearless Prediction: Samford 55, Wofford 37
VMI at Mercer Saturday October 16, 4:00pm, ESPN+
VMI bounced back from its first conference loss in their rivalry game by defeating Chattanooga in overtime. They Keydets are still in the race for the Southern Conference title and potential at large consideration for the playoffs. If they are going to stay in the race, this week’s game is nearly a must win. With the injury that quarterback Seth Morgan has been dealing with, it has been running back Korey Bridy who has paced the VMI offense. The senior leader averages 102 yards per game and has six touchdowns. Morgan played the entire game and threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. Where the Keydets have been burned is by their opponents run game. They allow an average of 282 yards per game on the ground and have allowed 22 rushing touchdowns to their opponents. That’s a tough deficiency in a Southern Conference that features several run heavy offenses.
Mercer continues to just win and sits 3-0 in conference. They have taken the momentum they built at the end of the spring and carried it into the fall. Over the last two weeks, running back Fred Davis has seven touchdowns and 304 rushing yards. His carries and yardage numbers increased each week leading up to their game against Samford. He didn’t have the extreme success that he did against Samford last week, but his performance was more than enough to lead the Bears to victory. As a team, Mercer runs for 281 yards per game. Defensively, Mercer has already grabbed eleven interceptions in their five games and they only allow 334 yards per game overall. The Bears’ three leading tacklers (LB Ken Standley, LB Isaac Dowling, S Lance Wise) are all either freshmen or sophomores. This is a young defense that will only get better.
This will be a matchup of VMIs pass game vs Mercer’s run game. With the way Mercer runs the ball, and VMIs struggles against the run, that looks to be the difference in the game.
Fearless Prediction: Mercer 30, VMI 27
The Citadel at Furman Saturday October 16, 6:00pm, ESPN3
The Citadel couldn’t back up their huge rivalry win with another win last week, falling big to East Tennessee State. The Bulldogs’ Jaylan Adams again went over 100 yards rushing and scored a touchdown and threw for another again to Raleigh Webb. Adams does need to avoid the negative plays. He only threw 15 passes but had one intercepted with five completions and was sacked twice. Webb has caught 13 of Adams’ 24 completions and all three of the touchdowns. Webb also has two rushing touchdowns on three carries. Defensively, The Bulldogs continue to struggle, allowing well over 30 points and 400 yards per game on average.
Furman has scored and allowed the exact same number of points through five games, 107. Last week the Paladins defeated their rival, Wofford, led by Devin Wynn who had 204 yards and two touchdowns rushing and added 43 yards and another score receiving. In the Paladins three wins, Wynn has at least 84 total yards and has scored in each game. In their two losses, Wynn has 65 yards or less and has not scored. The Paladin offense must go through Wynn to have success. Defensively, the Paladins have been solid, but not spectacular but they do allow just 334 yards per game.
Both teams expect to run the ball, especially The Citadel. Furman works in the pass game much more. The Paladins much better defensively than the Bulldogs and that will be the difference in the game.
Fearless Prediction: Furman 27, The Citadel 22
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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