SoCon teams are on the verge of turning in some historically bad records this season, so the Panic Poll goes into the wayback machine to measure the level of anxiety in league outposts and cow towns:
1. Appalachian State (1-5, 1-2): The Mountaineers edged out The Citadel for the top spot in this week’s Panic Poll thanks to their talented wide receiver, Sean Price. Price, a 6-5 sophomore and would-be NFL prospect, was dismissed from the team last Sunday after being arrested for “felony strangulation,” among other things. It was the third strike for Price, who was suspended last year and earlier this season, and coach Scott Satterfield really had no choice but to kick him off the team. Things sure didn’t look right with Price on Oct. 5, when App State played at The Citadel and he looked like he couldn’t care less. Things are so bad in Boone after last week’s 34-10 loss to Samford that even the strength and conditioning staff is under fire. Even mild-mannered Pat Sullivan rubbed it in a little, as Samford scored an add-on TD with just 22 seconds left when the Bulldogs could have take a knee. App still has to play Georgia Southern, Chattanooga, Georgia and Wofford this season, so four more losses and a 3-9 record are definitely within reason. That would be App’s most losses since 1977, the year the first Commodore PET computer was first sold.
Telling quote: “When you’ve had so much success over the years against a lot of these teams, they’re going to let it all hang out and try to do the best they can do to try to score as many points as they can score…. They know there’s no repercussion.” — App State coach Scott Satterfield.
2. The Citadel (2-5, 2-3): The Bulldogs won’t lose this week — they have an open date. That’s about all the good news for The Citadel, which lost by 28-21 at Georgia Southern last week to pretty much end any hopes of being in the SoCon title chase, or posting a winning record this season. The Bulldogs’ offense, averaging 21.4 points and 318 yards in league play, is just not functioning well enough. There’s no room up the middle for FB Darien Robinson, who is averaging 54.4 yards per game in league play (ie, against teams who know how to defend the option) and slotbacks aren’t able to get around the end. That’s because opposing defenses don’t respect the pass at all (The Citadel is last in passing offense and last in passing efficiency). Injuries forced Georgia Southern into moving QB Jerick McKinnon to fullback and playing redshirt freshman Kevin Ellison at QB; the pair combined for 481 yards of total offense in a 28-21 win over The Citadel last week. GSU passes even less often than The Citadel, but defenses have to pay attention: The Eagles average 11.2 yards per completion and lead the SoCon in passing efficiency. Circumstances should force the Bulldogs to do the same; it’s time for The Citadel to take a lesson from GSU and start Aaron Miller at QB, with Ben Dupree playing slotback and backup QB. The Citadel will be underdogs in three of their final five games (Chattanooga, Samford, Clemson) and the other two (Elon, VMI) are no better than toss-ups. The Citadel has never lost 10 games in a season. On the other hand, Conde Nast Traveler Magazine has voted Charleston the No. 1 tourist destination in America for the third year in a row. So we’ve got that going for us.
Telling quote: “Another great win for our state.” — S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.
3. Western Carolina (1-6, 0-3): The Catamounts lost by 62-3 last week at Auburn, and face Wofford this week before taking on Elon, Georgia Southern, Furman and App State. Hard to believe that the season finale with App State might be WCU’s best shot at avoiding an 11-loss season, which would be its first ever.
4. Furman (2-4, 1-2): With Reese Hannon and Terry Robinson sidelined by knee injuries, The Paladins are down to freshman Duncan Fletcher at quarterback, and he is finding out it won’t always be as easy as he made it look against The Citadel, when he went 3 for 3 for 61 yards in a 24-17 win. Chattanooga racked up six sacks in last week’s 31-9 win over Furman, and the Paladins have lost two straight and now face App State, LSU, Georgia Southern and Samford in the next four games. That looks a lot like a six-game losing streak. Nine losses this year would be Furman’s most since 1972, when Atari (maker of the video game Pong) was founded.
Telling quote: “Chattanooga was more physical than we were tonight, and they did a lot of things well. They were in charge of the game up front.” — Furman coach Bruce Fowler.
5. Elon (2-5, 1-2): Shocking news emerged from Spartanburg last Saturday when Elon’s leads of 17-0 and 24-7 over Wofford were announced in SoCon stadiums. But the Earth kept spinning on its axis as the Terriers roared (can Terriers roar?) back for a 31-27 victory. The interesting part was the end-game, when Elon had four straight plays from inside the Wofford 5-yard line — and handed off to RB B.J. Bennett each time. The four running plays netted three yards. Bennett averaged 2.5 yards per carry in the game. QB Mike Quinn, who threw 54 passes for 285 yards and 2 touchdowns in the game, had this to say of the play-calling at the end: “I’m going to go no comment on that.”
Telling quote: “I’d do the same thing again because that’s where we want to go. That’s who we want to be. We want to be a physical team that runs the football. And we’ve proven that we can run the football. It’s not an unknown.” — Elon coach Jason Swepson, whose team averaged 3.3 yards per carry vs. Wofford.
6. Georgia Southern (4-2, 2-2): The Eagles don’t have their best team this season, but I was struck by the contrast between App State and GSU while in Statesboro last weekend. While App State’s most talented player was kicked off the team, GSU’s best player — QB Jerick McKinnon — willingly accepted a switch to fullback and ran for 198 yards and two touchdowns against The Citadel. App State seems to be mailing in this final SoCon season before the move to FBS and the Sun Belt, but the same can’t be said for GSU. The Eagles played hard and with emotion in a 28-21 win over The Citadel, even if they made enough mistakes to keep the Bulldogs in it. Due respect to coach Jeff Monken.
Telling quote: “We’re not dead yet.” — GSU coach Jeff Monken.
7. Chattanooga (4-2, 2-1): The Mocs rebounded from their narrow loss at Georgia Southern with resounding wins over Western Carolina and Furman. And with Elon, The Citadel and App State next, Chattanooga has a chance to make a move before a tough finishing stretch — Wofford, at Samford, at Alabama. Three straight wins would put the Mocs at 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the league with a shot at their first SoCon title since 1984, when Band-Aid and Bob Geldof (of the Boomtown Rats) recorded “Do They Know Its Christmas?”
8. Wofford (4-2, 3-0): Deficits of 17-0 and 24-7 to Elon on homecoming last week led to speculation that a little too much fun was had at the Terrier Ball on Friday night. The Terriers lost fullback Donovan Johnson, the second-leading rusher in the SoCon, to a concussion on the second play of the game. But the Terriers scored 24 points in the second half and 14 in the fourth quarter to win, the go-ahead points on a 66-yard pass from James Lawson to Will Gay with 5:55 left. Elon’s late-game play-calling was addressed above, but Wofford’s ability to get deep in crucial situations (TD passes of 30 and 19 yards vs. The Citadel, and 40 yards against GSU) continues to amaze. Samford-aggedon comes Oct. 26 when the Bulldogs come to Spartanburg; Samford has a week off to get ready for Wofford, while the Terriers have the next best thing — a game at Western Carolina.
Telling quote: “We came in and it was one of those situations where we had a mountain to climb.” — Wofford coach Mike Ayers on Elon’s 24-7 halftime lead.
9. Samford (5-2, 3-0): Not quite sure what is going on with Samford and the FCS Coaches Poll. The Bulldogs have yet to crack the Top 25, despite a 10-point win over Georgia Southern (No. 23 in The Sports Network media poll) and last week’s trouncing of App State and Boone. Are the coaches jealous of Pat Sullivan and his Heisman Trophy? Are they mad because Samford apparently ran it up against App State, scoring a TD with 22 seconds left and a 17-point lead? Who knows, but QB Andy Summerlin, RBT Fabian Truss, WR Kelsey Pope, LB Justin Shade and S Jaquiski Tartt have it rolling. After the Oct. 26 game at Wofford, only Chattanooga (in Birmingham on Nov. 16) seems to pose a real threat to Samford and its chances for a first SoCon title.
Telling quote: “Coming into today, App. State was the only team in the Southern Conference we hadn’t beaten, and we knew their record wasn’t an indication of the kind of team they had. We had to find a way to just leave it all out there. Our guys did that and out coaches did that, and it was a huge win for our program.” — Pat Sullivan