With the conference championship already decided and 3 FBS games on the slate, it will be fairly quiet in the SOCON this week. The only conference game of interest will be VMI at Wofford. Wofford needs to win it to remain a viable playoff candidate. The other game with possible playoff implications is The Citadel at UNC. A win could propel the Dogs to a higher seed. Chattanooga plays Alabama and while could have an impact, that is not likely. Western Carolina takes on South Carolina. Samford travels to ETSU. And Mercer hosts Furman.
VMI at # 18 Wofford 2PM (ESPN3)
VMI gave The Citadel some fits last week. The Keydets held the Dogs to 233 yards rushing and dusted off some trick plays to make it interesting. I expect they will play Wofford hard, but the motivation will not be as great as against the Dogs. Wofford just keeps playing lights out since they lost to the Citadel. They know this is also a must win game for their playoff hopes.
The Citadel aired it out a bit more against VMIs stiff rushing defense. They did pretty well passing, but I think Wofford has just a tad bit better passing game and they will use it even more if VMI holds them on the ground.
Expect Wofford to take care of business at home and win by 2-3 scores.
#5 The Citadel at North Carolina 3:30PM (TV – ACC Network/ESPN3)
Playing an FBS team is always tough. Playing one in the AP top 25 is even tougher. Playing one the year after a high profile win over another FBS team has to make The Citadel’s job even more difficult. North Carolina will be ready and waiting to make sure the Bulldogs don’t take another FBS scalp.
With UNC playing another FCS team, James Madison, earlier this year, it gives us a unique opportunity to see what we are up against. I am not sure that JMU has as good of a defense as The Citadel. On the other hand, I do not think that The Citadel’s offense is as explosive as JMUs. They scored 21 points by early in the second quarter against UNC. The Tar Heels hung with them score for score until they pulled away for a 56-28 final. Not a bad showing.
North Carolina has a very good passing attack. They are in the top tier of the ACC in passing with 306 yards a game. The Citadel has done fairly well against the pass allowing just 181 yards a game. And that includes the likes of Samford, WCU, VMI, Furman, and UTC. All of which have a pretty good passing games. The step up in competition will be more difficult and if anything, I can see the Dogs getting burned a few times. How do you combat it? You don’t let them have the ball. And the Dogs certainly need to blitz more.
The Citadel needs to have sustained, clock eating drives. If The Citadel can hold onto the ball for 38-40 minutes, it can be in this game. Anything less and they will likely lose. Can the Dogs sustain drives against UNC? Maybe. The Tar Heels are dead last in rush defense in the ACC. They allow 222 yards a game.
All this said, the Dogs need the ball to bounce their way a few times as well. A turnover or two would help. Low penalties and no turnovers for the Dogs is also a must.
When it is all said and done, the Dogs do not need this one, but I am sure they will give it their all and try and bring home another FBS scalp. Look for a 2-4 score UNC victory.
#11 Chattanooga at Alabama 7PM (TV – ESPN2)
I am not really going to go into depth in this one. Suffice it to say, if Chattanooga plays well, they will still be thumped. No harm, no foul against the #1 team in the nation. If they come out with no injuries and a big fat check, they win in the big scheme of things. If they happen to make some noise, all the better. I would love to see Derrick Craine have a 100 yard day though. Tide will win by as much as their feel necessary.
#12 Samford at ETSU 3:30PM (SOCON Network)
Samford has one of the best QBs in FCS. He is money. But I am still not sure why they play so many games close. Their defense is ok. I think the problem is that they score so quickly sometimes, that their defense is playing over time. They need to seriously get a running game that is reliable to, if nothing else, extend their drives by a minute or two. They have had some injuries on defense and it is no wonder. Samford has one of the lowest TOP in FCS. Their defense plays most of the game.
They will have no problem against ETSU. They can score all they want. They need to get back to a more balanced offensive scheme and give their defense a rest. It is nice scoring in 1-2 minutes every time, but not at the expense of your defense getting a breather. They are in the top of the FCS in plays per game as well. This works great when your defense gets stops and your offense goes on 4-6 minute drives, but they are not getting enough stops.
Samford will win by at least 35.
Western Carolina at South Carolina 4PM (TV – SEC Alternate/ESPN3)
I know some of the Catamount faithful were excited about this game earlier in the year. They thought it could be close. With their offensive weapons, it might have been. But Western Carolina has serious issues on defense. They give up over 500 yards a game to SOCON teams. South Carolina is licking its chops right now.
Western Carolina needs to dig deep into its soul and come up with a defensive plan for this game or it could be ugly. I think they can score a couple times on the Gamecocks. Their QB Tyrie Adams and running back Newsome are dangerous weapons. But if they can’t get some stops on defense, it will be over quickly. Look for the Gamecocks to score early and often. South Carolina by 5 scores.
Furman at Mercer 3PM (TV – Fox Sports SE)
The Bears can be like a nagging headache that just will not go away. Look at some of their games. The Citadel, UTC, and Samford all had nice leads on them and they just kept coming back. It’s the mark of a good team. And they are a good team. Now at 5-5 they are again trying for a winning season in their last game. Samford ruined their party last year. Furman might this year.
Furman is a tale of two seasons. Starting 0-6, they have now won three of their last four. Their QB Reese Hannon is having some great games. But so is Mercer’s John Russ. This game may very well come down to which senior wants it more.
Unfortunately for Mercer, I think Furman rejuvenation is still blooming and the Paladins win by 1-2 scores.