Southern Conference Week 9 Preview

Nothing surprised us in the Southern Conference last week. There are four teams will just one conference loss, so a lot is still left to be determined. As usual the champion will most likely be determined in the last week of the season.

Chattanooga had their highest point output and held Samford to their lowest point total on the season in a 55-13 decision. The Mocs are one of the four teams with one conference loss while Samford is starting to fall off the pace.

Western Carolina picked up their first win of the season with a 45-31 decision over The Citadel. Carlos Davis threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.

Tyler Riddell connected with Malik Murray on a three yard touchdown pass with nine seconds left to push East Tennessee State to a 17-13 win over Furman.

Fred Payton threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns in Mercer’s 45-17 drubbing of Wofford. Mercer moved for 4-1 in conference while Wofford is yet to collect a conference win.

East Tennessee State takes the week off. The rest of the conference plays each other as usual. There should be another chunk of good SoCon games.

Last Week: 3-1, Season: 31-13

Furman at Chattanooga Saturday October 30, 1:30 pm, ESPN+

Furman was nine seconds from beating East Tennessee State and putting a big feather in their cap last week. Instead, they allowed a touchdown and fell by four. Winning out would put Furman on the bubble for a playoff selection. They probably cannot afford another loss on the season. The Paladins play solid defense, but their offense doesn’t put quite enough points on the board. They look like a mid-pack team. Theyre beating the lower teams but the teams that appear equal to them are beating them. Tight end Ryan Miller has led a better-than-expected Furman passing attack with 29 catches for 505 yards and four touchdowns. Defensively, the Paladins have 14 sacks and 37 tackles for loss.  The Paladins will play desperate this weekend knowing their playoff lives are on the line.

Chattanooga had their best performance of the year last weekend with a huge 55-13 win over Samford who hadn’t scored less than 27 points in a game all season. With the Mocs holding that high powered offense to just 13 points and Liam Welch only had 131 yards passing and 38 yards rushing in the game. Those are season lows. Chattanooga also picked Welch off three times. Cole Copeland was great in this game. He had 261 yards on just 11 of 14 passing with two touchdowns along with two rushing touchdowns. The Mocs pound the ball on the ground, rushing for 200 yards a game and they have 19 rushing touchdowns. The aggressive defense has racked up 49 tackles for loss and 23 sacks.

Both teams need this game to stay in the race. Chattanooga has been more consistent on both sides of the ball so go with the Mocs in this one.

Fearless Prediction: Chattanooga 30, Furman 20

Samford at #18 VMI Saturday October 30, 1:30 pm, ESPN+

Samford has become that team that scores a bunch, allows a bunch, and sits around .500. That’s where they are again this year. They gain 448 yards per game but allow 480. In seven games they have turned the ball over 16 times. They have forced 14. Liam Welch slings the ball over the yard. But when they play a team with a solid defense, like they did last week against Chattanooga, they get bogged down on offense. Samford opponents get the ball for nearly 37 minutes a game. The defense cant sustain when the offense is off the field fast, whether it be by points or a turnover. They allow 48 percent of the opponent third downs to be converted. Samford cannot overcome their defensive inefficiency.

Had VMI not lost their rivalry game to The Citadel, we may be talking about them as a top 10 team and clear conference favorite. As it stands, they did lose that game and they sit at 18 and are in a pack of teams battling for the Southern Conference title.  They could potentially be staring a first round game against Kennesaw and/or a potential second round against James Madison. The Keydets have balanced using two quarterbacks due to injury and inefficiency (at times). Seth Morgan and Collin Ironside have combined to throw for 1436 yards and ten touchdowns. However, they have thrown eight interceptions. It’s the run game that has propped up the Keydets offense with 1227 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The last two games between these two teams have gone to overtime with VMI coming out on top. This one wont go to overtime, but VMI will again come out on top.

Fearless Prediction: VMI 54, Samford 38

Western Carolina at Wofford Saturday October 30, 1:30pm, ESPN+

Western Carolina finally got their first win on the season last week, defeating The Citadel. The Catamounts rolled up 577 yards of offense in the win. They had a solid defensive effort as well. Allowing 31 points, you wouldn’t think that was a great day, but they held The Citadel’s triple option to 177 yards at 3.1 yards per carry. Carlos Davis has played better than Rogan Wells and may have taken the starting job. Their yardage per game is similar, but Davis has a far superior completion percentage and has a better touchdown to interception ratio. There may not be many wins left in the schedule this year because the defense cannot stop anyone, but if the offense keeps performing, they can make life very difficult for some contenders.

Wofford has lost six straight games and shows no glimpse that they might break out of their slump anytime soon. This team just is not good enough on either side of the ball. This may be their only chance to get a conference win on the season. The Terriers allow 32 points and 442 yards per game. The offense is not talented enough to keep up with that much scoring on the other side. Irvin Milligan is the only player who seems to be having a solid year with seven touchdowns and 618 yards rushing. They do protect the ball well with only eight turnovers in seven games.

It is still doom and gloom for both teams this year. But one of them has to win. There should be some points scored in this game but look for Wofford to ride Milligan to keep the ball as long as possible.

Fearless Prediction: Wofford 33, Western Carolina 31.

Mercer at The Citadel Saturday October 30, 2:00pm, ESPN3

Mercer stormed past Wofford last week 45-14. The defense allowed just seven points (the other seven Wofford points came on a fumble recovery for touchdown.) Offensively, Mercer has surprised averaging 34 points and 436 yards per game. The Bears are doing it on the backs of their dual Freds – quarterback Payton and running back Davis. Davis averages 95 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry and has ten touchdowns in seven games. He is giving Quay Holmes (ETSU) a run for his money for conference player of the year. Payton has seized the starting quarterback job from Carter Peevy. He averages just 153 yards per game but broke out last week with 353 and three touchdowns. Defensively, the Bears are difficult to pass against. They allow an average of 179 yards per game through the air, which is good for 23rd in the FCS.

The Citadel struggled defensively again last week as they gave Western Carolina their first win of the season. Outside of the big rivalry win against VMI, the Bulldogs have had a forgetful season. As we thought in the preseason, The Citadel has a hard time keeping the opponents out of the end zone, allowing 35 points per game. With a weak defense and triple option offense, once they fall behind, its tough for them to get back into the game. The second quarter has not been kind. The Bulldogs have allowed 84 points in that quarter. They also start and end slow with a total of 38 points scored in each the first and fourth quarter. Jaylan Adams has shown the ability to run the offense. He is only a sophomore and should get better over the next couple years. But for this year, The Citadel is just playing out the string.

Mercer has shown that they are one of the top teams in the SoCon and will continue their attempt at their first ever playoff berth with a win this weekend.

Fearless Prediction: Mercer 30, The Citadel 14