SoCon Week 12 FCS Football Game Breakdowns

George Hammond

 Week 12 Southern Conference Breakdowns

It’s guaranteed a share of the league crown, but Chattanooga (8-2, 6-1) doesn’t want to share any part of the SoCon title and a victory on Saturday against Samford in Birmingham, Ala., will make that a reality. The Mocs took a big step toward that scenario on Saturday with a 20-10 triumph (its sixth straight victory) over Wofford while Furman was upsetting Samford, giving Chattanooga a share of the crown for the first time since 1984. “It feels great to see this program turn around,” said senior linebacker Wes Dothard to the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press. “When I got here, we weren’t good at all. And then we started progressing, going 6-5. Over the past couple of years, it’s been average, but now we’re having a pretty good season.” Chattanooga was 1-11 in 2008, the year before coach Ross Huesman arrived. “We’ve got to go play next week and play well, and just make sure we get this thing by ourselves,” Huesman said in the same Free Press article. “I don’t believe Samford’s going to give it to us.”

If Samford (6-4, 4-2) wins, it’s possible the SoCon could end in a three-way tie for first among Samford, Chattanooga and the winner of the Wofford-Furman contest (Nov. 23). In that case, three teams finish at 6-2. According to league rules, the won-loss records of the tied teams against each other is first considered (i.e., head to head concept). If the teams are still tied, then each team’s record against the highest-seeded team not involved in the tie is considered.  Unofficially, if Samford, Chattanooga and Wofford finish atop the standings at 6-2, Samford would get the automatic playoff bid because it defeated Chattanooga and Wofford. But if Samford, Chattanooga and Furman finish atop the standings at 6-2, it gets trickier because of Furman’s victory over Samford. And because the Mocs finish at No. 1 Alabama, an 8-4 overall record might not get them a playoff bid, so Saturday’s game against Samford is huge.


VMI at The Citadel, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

The Citadel (4-6, 4-4) earned its first victory at Elon since 2006 with a 35-10 triumph on Saturday. The Bulldogs, the No. 3 rushing team in the nation, rushed for 258 yards, but that was 21 yards below their season average. They broke open a 14-10 halftime lead with two third-quarter touchdowns to end their league season at the .500 mark. Ben Dupree rushed for three scores to give him 33 for his career, third-highest in school history, and he also has 15 rushing TDs this season to lead the conference. The Citadel has won six straight meetings against VMI, dating to 2002. The Bulldogs won last year, 27-24, in Lexington, Va. VMI is 2-8 but the Keydets scored a 28-9 victory over Gardner-Webb on Saturday to snap a seven-game losing streak.

Projected Score: The Citadel 30, VMI 17


Appalachian State at #25 Wofford, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

In the wake of Saturday’s 20-10 loss to Chattanooga, the Terriers (5-4, 4-2) need help to grab a share of the SoCon title, and they need to win their last two games to have any chance of being considered as an at-large team for the FCS playoffs – and even that might not be enough. The Terriers finish the season against a resurgent Furman. Although it did score 27 points in an earlier loss to Samford, Wofford has scored a total of 13 points in its other three losses. It had just 172 yards rushing against the Mocs, 90 yards below its season average. In addition, the Terriers have struggled with third-down efficiency and turnover margin this year. Still, it’s been even worse for Appalachian State (2-8, 2-4). The Mountaineers were smoked by Georgia, 45-6, on Saturday although it was a 14-6 game at halftime. App State had only 59 yards of offense in the final half, although Kam Bryant did throw for 221 yards. Bryant has thrown just four interceptions (one against Georgia) in 211 attempts this season. With two games remaining, App State needs to win both to equal the four-win season in 1993, its worst record in 20 years. The Mountaineers haven’t finished a season with fewer than four wins since 1981. Wofford has won two straight in the series, but here’s a hunch App State plays its best game of the season on Saturday.

Projected Score: Appalachian State 20, Wofford 17


#19 Chattanooga at Samford, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Can Chattanooga play with the same intensity it did against Wofford in an emotionally draining game? Can Samford rebound at home after losing two straight? The Bulldogs haven’t played a home game since Oct. 5 so that might be one reason for the inconsistent play. Still, they figure to have their hands full with Chattanooga. On paper, the game pits the Bulldogs’ passing attack against Chattanooga’s stout defense, a unit that has played well despite several injuries. But the Mocs’ All-American linebacker Dothard and defensive end Davis Tull, the defending SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, have inspired the group. They’ll need to do it again as Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin, who set school records for completions and attempts, completing 44-of-69 passes for 372 yards and two interceptions in the loss to Furman, has now thrown for a school-record 2,945 yards this year. But the Mocs, 13th nationally in total defense, are No. 2 against the pass, yielding just 143.6 ypg. The Bulldogs have another weapon in running back Fabian Truss, who has rushed for 3,049 yards, making him just the third player in school history to rush for more than 3,000 yards. Truss also is No. 3 in the nation in kickoff returns and is No. 1 in all-purpose yards. This should be an outstanding game, but I’m giving the nod to Samford to pull the upset here. The Bulldogs seem to be a different team at home, and why not? The schedule might have played a factor. They started the season with three games on the road, followed by three at home. And as mentioned, they’ve been in a stretch of four more consecutive road games before they finish with two home games.

Projected Score: Samford 24, Chattanooga 20


Georgia Southern at Elon, Saturday, 3 p.m.

The Eagles (5-4, 3-4) finished their home season on Saturday with a 35-19 victory over Western Carolina. Georgia Southern hits the road for its final two games (it finishes at Florida) before moving to the FBS Sun Belt Conference next year. It has yet to win on the road this season, and the Eagles need one win to guarantee a winning season. Since the new era of Georgia Southern football began in 1982, the school has had only three losing seasons – 1996, 2006 and 2009. Eight Eagles contributed to the 345-yard rushing total against WCU as Georgia Southern has posted the top team rushing average among FBS and FCS schools this season. Jerick McKinnon needs just 64 rushing yards against Elon to match Jayson Foster’s career rushing total of 3,835 yards. Elon (2-8, 1-5), meanwhile, struggled against The Citadel, losing 35-10 on Saturday. It was the Phoenix’s fourth consecutive loss (after three heartbreaking defeats) as they’ll try to rebound on Senior Day.

Projected Score: Georgia Southern 34, Elon 17


Furman at Western Carolina, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

After a slow start, Furman (5-5, 4-2) is on a roll and with season-ending victories Saturday and on Nov. 23 against Wofford, the Paladins could grab a share of the SoCon title, provided Samford knocks off Chattanooga. Furman upset Samford 35-17 on Saturday, one week after beating Georgia Southern. Ironically, Samford ran 102 plays to Furman’s 51 and had a 531-336 edge in yardage, but Furman used big plays to spring the upset. Andrej Suttles scored on an 85-yard reception just before the half and Marcus McMorris added an 89-yard interception return for a TD late in the contest for the Paladins. Western Carolina (2-8, 1-5), meanwhile, fell at Georgia Southern, 35-19, its 20th consecutive road loss.

Projected score: Furman 31, Western Carolina 14


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