Welcome to the first edition of Nooga.com’s Southern Conference roundup. There’s only so much you can take from Week 1, but we’ll look back, look ahead and rank all the SoCon teams each Thursday as they prepare for the upcoming week of action.
1. *Georgia Southern (1-0)
The Eagles are good, and you didn’t have to see last week’s lopsided victory over lowly Savannah State to arrive at that conclusion. The Tigers, who’ve won a total of 16 games since 2002, are by far the easiest opponent on Georgia Southern’s schedule, and it showed in the 77-9 win. Fullback Dominique Swope, the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week, ran for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 carries, as the Eagles outgained the Tigers 651-183. They’ll have another “tune-up” game this week against St. Francis (PA), before beginning SoCon play the following week at Wofford.
Last week: Georgia Southern 77, Savannah State 9
This week: vs. St. Francis (PA)
2. Samford (1-0)
The Bulldogs had probably the most impressive Week 1 showing of any SoCon school. No, they didn’t roll to an 80-point victory, but they did beat a talented Georgia State squad. All-SoCon return specialist Fabian Truss returned the game’s opening kickoff 100 yards for a score, but Samford actually trailed the Panthers 14-7 at the break. All-American safety Jaquiski Tartt’s third-quarter interception was the difference maker. Tartt returned the pick 33 yards for a touchdown, knotting things up at 14-14, and the Bulldogs outscored their opponents 17-7 in the final quarter. This week’s trip to Arkansas probably won’t result in a win, but if they keep the final margin within 25 points, it’ll be a good night.
Last week: Samford 31, Georgia State 21
This week: @ Arkansas
3. *Appalachian State (0-1)
Appalachian State had probably the most shocking Week 1 performance — and not in a good way. The visiting Mountaineers, without the services of All-American wide receiver Sean Price, were throttled by the No. 13 Montana Grizzlies, 30-6, and the SoCon’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Jamal Londry-Jackson, was injured in the process. Jackson, who threw for 89 yards and ran for 13, should be back for App State’s Week 2 matchup against North Carolina A&T. Price’s return, on the other hand, is still up in the air after he was suspended “for an undetermined number of games” for a violation of team rules.
Last week: Montana 30, Appalachian State 6
This week: vs. North Carolina A&T
4. Wofford (0-1)
Wofford came out on the losing end of a 69-3 loss Saturday in Waco, Texas, but in the words of Tony Soprano, “What are ya gonna do?” The Terriers were obviously outmanned by the FBS’s No. 23-ranked team, and it showed. They managed 233 yards of total offense in the 66-point setback, but averaged just 2.9 yards on their 60 rushing attempts. Saturday’s trip to The Citadel will be a more realistic challenge for the Terriers — one that might have SoCon title implications.
Last week: Baylor 69, Wofford 3
This week: @ The Citadel
5. Chattanooga (0-1)
Perhaps no team other than App State experienced a more disheartening Week 1 performance than Chattanooga. 2013 is supposed to be the season the Mocs break free from mediocrity, but the product on the field last Thursday felt pretty average. In reality, though, it was just one non-conference loss to a superb FCS team. Sure a win would have been nice, but an early-season reality check isn’t always a bad thing. UTC’s defense isn’t as good as advertised — at least without the services of starting safeties D.J. Key and Zach McCarter — and the team’s offense still has some work to do as well. If Chattanooga can capture a win Saturday at Georgia State, then most — if not all — will be forgotten. Make no mistake, though, the Panthers are better than their 2012 record (1-11) indicates. Just ask Samford.
Last week: UT Martin 31, Chattanooga 21
This week: @ Georgia State
6. The Citadel (0-1)
The Citadel, just like Chattanooga, was another SoCon squad entering the season with sky-high expectations, and the Bulldogs, just like the Mocs, came up empty in Week 1. Crosstown rival Charleston Southern trailed the Bulldogs 16-0 late in the first half. What came next, nobody could have predicted. The Buccaneers put together a pair of scoring drives before half, pulling to within 16-14 at the break, and they outscored The Citadel 18-13 in the final two quarters. It was an extremely disappointing start to coach Kevin Higgins’ ninth season in charge of the Bulldogs, but a win over Wofford on Saturday would make up for it.
Last week: Charleston Southern 32, The Citadel 29
This week: vs. Wofford
7. Furman (0-1)
The Paladins, who were without injured starting quarterback Reese Hannon, led for the first 50 minutes of Saturday’s game against Gardner-Webb, but they were unable to preserve the win. Lucas Beatty’s five-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Cook — in addition to a successful two-point conversion attempt — spotted the Runnin’ Bulldogs a 28-21 lead with 9:49 left to play, and Furman came up empty on its final four offensive possessions. Hannon, a SoCon All-Freshman selection a season ago, is expected to play this week at Coastal Carolina.
Last week: Gardner-Webb 28, Furman 21
This week: @ Coastal Carolina
8. Western Carolina (0-1)
Don’t let the final score fool you — the Catamounts weren’t even close against MTSU. Western Carolina trailed the Blue Raiders 28-0 early in the second quarter before breaking up the shutout with Richard Sigmon’s 21-yard field goal. Sophomore Troy Mitchell, who split time under center with teammate Eddie Sullivan, completed 7-of-15 pass attempts for 161 yards and two touchdowns while carrying 11 times for 38 yards. Things will only get tougher for Western Carolina this week when it travels to Virginia Tech for a showdown with the Hokies.
Last week: MTSU 45, Western Carolina 24
This week: @ Virginia Tech
9. Elon (0-1)
Georgia Tech put up 70 points on Elon, and if that wasn’t embarrassing enough for the Phoenix, the Yellow Jackets accomplished that feat with a running clock for the entire fourth quarter. Elon should get a win this week against Division II West Virginia Wesleyan, but it appears the Phoenix are in for another long season.
Last week: Georgia Tech 70, Elon 0
This week: vs. West Virginia Wesleyan
* NOTE: Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are transitioning to the FBS’s Sun Belt Conference. Both squads have more than the FCS-allotted 63 scholarships, and are therefore ineligible for the SoCon title and the FCS playoffs. The Eagles and Mountaineers will both be included in the SoCon roundup throughout the season.
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