With almost half the league yet to win a game this season, there is plenty of panic to go around in the Southern Conference this week. Let’s review the damage:
1. App State (0-2) The last time the Mountaineers started 0-2, they went on to finish 11-3, win the SoCon title and advance to the third round of the FCS playoff. We know that won’t happen this season, if only because App is ineligible for the SoCon title and FCS playoffs.
Surely, this is not what the brass had in mind when they fired legendary coach Jerry Moore after last season and hired Scott Satterfield in his stead. Last week’s 24-21 loss to North Carolina A&T, snapping a win streak of 32 straight against at home against in-state foes, came against an A&T team that did not hold a spring game this year, brought 25 freshmen (out of a total of 55 players) to Boone, and was without its starting QB, suspended for the game. Satterfield said Tuesday that his all-SoCon QB, Jamal Londry-Jackson, will have to compete for his job with sophomore Kam Bryant.
Good news: App is off this week. Bad news: The Mountaineers face back-to-back games against Charleston Southern (2-0) and The Citadel (a 52-28 winner over App last year). Consecutive losses to Lowcountry teams might induce mass hysteria in the High Country.
2. The Citadel (0-2) Aside from App State, there is no bigger early disappointment than the Bulldogs, who were/are looking to make a run at the SoCon title in this Season of the Asterisk*. The Bulldogs have lost to Charleston Southern and the weakest Wofford team I’ve seen in a while (for the 15th straight time), and managed only a field goal on offense vs. the Terriers.
Personnel losses due to honor violations, injuries and discipline issues have chipped away at the Bulldogs’ depth chart and morale, IMHO. The Bulldogs better not sleep this week at Western Carolina, which is even hungrier than they are for a win.
Panic meter: Coach Kevin Higgins went this week to the “back to basics” theme, which is never a good sign.
3. Furman (0-2) and Western Carolina (0-2) The Paladins are 0-2 against the Big South while Western Carolina is 0-2 against FBS teams, so we’ll give Furman a slight edge this week.
The Paladins looked more like a football team in last week’s 35-28 loss at Coastal Carolina, welcoming back QB Reese Hannon, getting 133 rushing yards from Hank McCloud and out-gaining Coastal, 431-375. Four fumbles (one lost), an interception and two missed field goals didn’t help. Furman gets Presbyterian (1-1) this week.
Western Carolina, meanwhile, plays The Citadel this week, its first game against an FCS squad since Nov. 3, 2012, a 45-24 loss to Chattanooga. Since then, the Catamounts have played (and lost to) Alabama, Middle Tennessee State and Virginia Tech (losing 45-3 last week). The last Division I team (FCS or FBS) that WCU beat was The Citadel, by 24-13 on Oct. 2, 2010.
Panic meter: I think it was the Dali Lama who said, “I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”
5. Elon (1-1). The Fightin’ Phoenix won a game last week, 49-7 over West Virginia Wesleyan. But now Elon must face the mighty juggernaut known as North Carolina A&T.
Panic meter: And I quote from esteemed journalist Adam Smith (not Adam Smith, the Scottish philosopher and economist): “N.C. A&T scored on offense, defense and special teams to build a 24-6 lead on Appalachian State with less than nine minutes remaining.”
6. Chattanooga (1-1) The Mocs got Silk Robinson back from what turned out to be a six-quarter suspension and not a hamstring injury. The Mocs also got back on track with a 42-14 win over alleged FBS squad Georgia State (which is 0-2 vs. the SoCon). Silk averaged 11.8 yards per carry and completed two passes, but the story was the 147 yards from running back Keon Williams — almost as many as he gained all last season.
Panic meter: The Mocs this week face Austin Peay, which of course brings to mind the great Fly Williams and one of the all-time cheers: “The Fly is open, let’s go Peay!”
7. Wofford (1-1) The Terriers extended their “insane” (per coach Mike Ayers) win streak over The Citadel to 15 straight with a rather pedestrian 21-10 win over the Bulldogs. Wofford’s defense was good, even when accounting for the Bulldogs’ ineffective offense. But this is the least talented Wofford team I’ve seen in a while, and I don’t know if they can count on backup QB Michael Weimer completing three passes (two for TDs) every week.
Wofford has a big one at Georgia Southern this week.
Panic meter: Not sure what this means, but let’s go with it: “My favorite driver is always either the bad guy or the underdog. — Bo Jackson
8. Samford (1-1) The other Bulldogs hung tough with Arkansas before falling by 31-21, and got 103 yards and a TD from RB Fabian Truss. Coach Pat Sullivan, recovering from July back surgery, has missed the first two games, but defensive coordinator Bill D’Ottavio is doing just fine in his stead. With Florida A&M, Southeastern Louisiana and Western Carolina upcoming, Samford could well be 4-1 heading into a GSU, App State and Wofford gauntlet.
Panic meter: “My name’s Fred Sanford. That’s S-A-N-F-O-R-D period.”
9. Georgia Southern (2-0)* Georgia Southern 136, Savannah State and St. Francis 26.
Panic meter: *