Welcome to the second edition of Nooga.com’s Southern Conference roundup. Each Thursday, we’ll take a look back, look ahead and rank all the SoCon teams as they prepare for the upcoming week of action.
1. *Georgia Southern (2-0)
The 10th-ranked Eagles haven’t exactly been tested yet, but through two weeks of play, they certainly appear Sun Belt ready, as GSU has averaged 68 points and 601 yards in wins over Savannah State and St. Francis (PA). The team’s first real challenge will come Saturday, though, when Georgia State travels to Wofford for its SoCon opener against the No. 14 Terriers.
Last week: Georgia Southern 59, St. Francis (PA) 17
This week: @ No. 14 Wofford
2. Samford (1-1)
The Bulldogs not only performed well last week at Arkansas, they had the thousands of Razorback fans in attendance at War Memorial Stadium sitting on the edge of their seats. Samford faced a 10-point deficit after at the break, but it wasn’t until the second half that things really got interesting. The Bulldogs scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns, claiming a 21-17 lead until early the the fourth. And while Samford ultimately lost the 31-21 struggle, it turned quite a few heads in the process.
Last week: Arkansas 31, Samford 21
This week: @ Florida A&M
3. Wofford (1-1)
The Terriers didn’t really know what kind of team they had heading into last week’s SoCon opener, but head coach Mike Ayers knew he’d have a pretty good idea after the team’s trip to The Citadel. Wofford’s triple-option offense churned out 280 yards on the ground, while its defense held the Bulldogs to just 262 yards of total offense. Judging by the team’s 21-10 win, the Terriers look as solid as ever, but they’ll face another tough test Saturday when No. 10 Georgia Southern visits Spartanburg.
Last week: Wofford 21, The Citadel 10
This week: vs. No. 10 Georgia Southern
4. Chattanooga (1-1)
What a difference a week can make. The Mocs salvaged at least some early-season momentum with a dominating performance last week inside the Georgia Dome. The Mocs’ offense was clicking on all cylinders, piling up 509 yards of total offense, while the defense delivered a more Chattanooga-like performance in the 42-14 throttling of Georgia State. UTC hosts Austin Peay on Saturday — a very winnable game — and a 2-1 start heading into SoCon play would only add to the team’s confidence level.
Last week: Chattanooga 42, Georgia State 14
This week: vs. Austin Peay
5. *Appalachian State (0-2)
What is happening in Boone, N.C.? The Mountaineers, under the direction of first-year head coach Scott Satterfield, are transitioning to the FBS’s Sun Belt Conference — meaning they’re playing with more than the FCS-alotted 65 scholarships — and yet, App State is still without a win. The team’s Week 1 loss to No. 11 Montana is somewhat understandable, but a 24-21 setback to North Carolina A&T? The Mountaineers are still without standout wide receiver Sean Price — a preseason All-American — while the SoCon’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Jamal Londry-Jackson, has been benched in each of the team’s first two losses. With the upcoming bye, the Mountaineers have a couple weeks to regroup, but will that be enough time to turn around what has the makings of a disastrous 2013 campaign for ASU?
Last week: North Carolina A&T 24, Appalachian State 21
This week: BYE
6. The Citadel (0-2)
An 0-2 start isn’t exactly what the Bulldogs had in mind for this fall. The Citadel, in its ninth season under head coach Kevin Higgins, was supposed to turn the corner in 2013. Through two weeks, that doesn’t appear to be the case. The Bulldogs, who’ve suffered losses to Charleston Southern (32-29) and Wofford (21-10), have struggled offensively, ranking seventh in the SoCon in total offense (321.5 ypg) and sixth in scoring (19.5 ppg). A win Saturday at Western Carolina would help the team’s early-season confidence level, but a loss to the 0-2 Catamounts would be devastating.
Last week: Wofford 21, The Citadel 10
This week: @ Western Carolina
7. Furman (0-2)
The Paladins began their season with two seven-point road losses to a pair of quality Big South opponents. First, Furman, playing without starting quarterback Reese Hannon, fell to a solid Gardner-Webb squad, 28-21, before suffering a 35-28 setback to No. 21 Coastal Carolina a week ago. Hannon threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns in his debut last Saturday, but the Paladins were playing catch up the entire way. They’ll have another opportunity to get one in the win column Saturday against Presbyterian before kicking off their SoCon slate the following week at The Citadel.
Last week: Coastal Carolina 35, Furman 28
This week: vs. Presbyterian
8. Western Carolina (0-2)
The Catamounts certainly didn’t do themselves any favors with their brutal early-season schedule. Western Carolina suffered its second straight lopsided loss to an FBS school last week, falling to Virginia Tech 45-3. They were drilled by Middle Tennessee State 45-24 the week prior. Well, now that that’s out of the way, the Catamounts can turn their attention to a team that’s more their own size — The Citadel — when WCU welcomes the Bulldogs to Cullowhee, N.C., on Saturday.
Last week: Virginia Tech 45, Western Carolina 3
This week: vs. The Citadel
9. Elon (1-1)
The Phoenix, likely still reeling from the squad’s 70-0 loss to Georgia Tech, captured its first win of the season Saturday, routing Division II West Virginia Wesleyan 49-7. Running back E.J. Bennett, the SoCon’s Freshman of the Week, registered three touchdowns, while quarterback Mike Quinn threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns in Elon’s lopsided victory. Next week’s matchup with North Carolina A&T will be very telling for the Phoenix.
Last week: Elon 49, West Virginia Wesleyan 7
This week: @ North Carolina A&T
* 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.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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