Welcome to Week 3 of the college football season and the third SoConversation between The Citadel beat writer Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston Post and Courier, Elon beat writer Adam Smith of the Burlington Times News and UTC beat writer John Frierson of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Each week the three veteran Southern Conference writers will share their thoughts on what’s happening with the teams they cover and within the league.
The Week 2 games had a few interesting results and a bunch of blowouts. What's your take on last week?
JEFF: Chattanooga and Wofford had the most impressive results. I don't know why anybody schedules Wofford if they don't have to. Those guys are a flat pain in the butt, and I mean that in a good way. And the Mocs dominated what was supposed to be a good, FCS-playoff quality Jacksonville State team. Georgia Southern's ascension to No. 1 is noteworthy, but it's far too early to put much stock into that ranking.
ADAM: A lot of these looked like potential laughers and they delivered. App State, Elon, Georgia Southern, Samford and Western Carolina all feasted on cupcakes, winning by no less than 21 points and as many as 52. Personally, Samford spanking Stillman 48-6 was tough. I’ve come to equate Stillman with Hillman (from “A Different World”) and picturing Dwayne Wayne getting beat down wasn’t fun.
But seriously, Wofford giving Clemson fits was interesting considering the Terriers never put away Presbyterian the week before. Furman got coach Bruce Fowler his first win in what sounded like a turn-back-the-clock slugfest at The Citadel, with a combined 98 rushes and only 24 passes. Wow. Sign me up to cover more games like those.
Chattanooga finding a dominating groove and pulling away from 10th-ranked Jacksonville State stood out the most to me. That was a meaningful victory on several levels. It shot the Mocs up in the national polls and really could pay off come playoff time in November.
JOHN: As I’ll get into below, UTC’s win over Jacksonville State was interesting for a lot of reasons. It was a big victory for the program and the fact that JSU had 17 second-half yards is just ridiculous.
In the press box at Finley Stadium I was keeping an eye on the Wofford-Clemson game because it sure looked for a long time like an upset was possible. As Jeff wrote, I don’t know why a bowl subdivision team would want to play the Terriers (or Georgia Southern), though I guess it does give ACC teams a triple-option tune-up before they have to play Georgia Tech.
What are your thoughts on the game you covered last Saturday?
JOHN: The Mocs trailed 14-7 after the first quarter before dominating the rest of the game and winning 38-17 against then-No. 10 Jacksonville State. It was UTC’s first win over a top-10 team since beating Appalachian State in 2000 and it was perhaps the biggest win of the Russ Huesman Era at UTC.
The Mocs piled up 508 yards of offense, quarterback B.J. Coleman had one of his best games and UTC even ran for 212 yards. Defensively, JSU was able to spring a couple of big plays in the first half, but the Gamecocks couldn’t do anything in the second. UTC allowed one first down in the second half and zero drives of more than four plays.
It was pretty stunning to watch, actually.
JEFF: In the lone conference game, neither Furman nor The Citadel looked like SoCon contenders to these eyes. Furman running back Jerodis Williams was the best player on the field, but can he survive 27 carries a game? The Paladins threw only nine times and are going to have to open up their pass game against better defenses. The Citadel's defense played well enough to win a game, allowing only one TD, but the offense mustered only two field goals and failed to cash in on opportunities. Could be a struggle to score vs. SoCon foes again this season for the Bulldogs.
ADAM: On the surface, you’d be tempted to yawn. Elon sprinted ahead of Division II Concord and cruised in with a 42-10 rout, pretty much what was expected. But this one came with some prickly issues for the Phoenix, namely a sprained ankle that knocked quarterback Thomas Wilson out just before the half.
Elon piled up 352 yards of total offense with Wilson under center, yet gained only 48 more yards after Maryland transfer Tyler Smith entered. Elon coach Jason Swepson called that situation an eye-opener, and it really was.
Smith didn’t look sharp and never completed any of his four passes. So at the moment, a position where Elon appeared to feature quality depth now seems shaky if and when Wilson isn’t available.
Apparently Week 3 is when most of the league decided to take a break, so there’s only three games: Savannah State at Appalachian State, UTC at Eastern Kentucky and Elon at North Carolina Central. Any thoughts on these games or the fact that only three teams are in action?
ADAM: Six teams off on the same week is bizarre. Talk about weak sauce. And what’s the deal with App State? Last week N.C. A&T and this week Savannah State? Heads up Howard and Bethune-Cookman, somebody in Boone has developed a strange crush for bad MEAC opponents.
In 2005, dark days for Elon, the Phoenix actually started 3-1 thanks to wins against Savannah State, A&T and Presbyterian. From there, Elon stepped into reality and got drilled in seven straight SoCon games to close the season. Then coach Paul Hamilton quickly was fired after just two years on the job.
Back to the present tense, Elon’s spin on the MEAC carousel should be somewhat revealing. The Phoenix lost big at Vanderbilt, won big against D-II Concord and now faces its first FCS team of the season on the road.
JOHN: It’s probably not a huge deal that only three teams are playing this week, but it sure does seem weird. I don’t get the App State strategy of back to back uninteresting home games, but at least the Mountaineers will be well rested before the Mocs visit next week.
After beating Jacksonville State last week, UTC can emerge as the Ohio Valley Conference frontrunner Saturday with a win over the Colonels. From a numbers perspective, a win over EKU would be huge because it would give the Mocs two wins entering the SoCon slate, which means they’d have to go 5-3 in the league — no easy task, though they did it last season — to be eligible for the playoffs.
JEFF: Weakest weekend in memory. I don't know why everybody needs a break after just two games, but I'll take it. Maybe I'll go see "The Lion King" in 3-D this weekend.
Would you like to see more interesting FCS non-conference games, like UTC vs. Jacksonville State last week or the Elon-Richmond series of a few years ago, instead of cupcake games against Division II opponents? Would games like that maybe help grow the FCS brand?
ADAM: Yes, yes, yes. And yes once more for good measure.
I teased App State in the previous question, so some love is deserving here. Next year App State starts home-and-home series with Montana and McNeese State. Very commendable and very exciting.
App State and Montana are two marquee names nationally across the FCS. Obviously it might not seem like a great idea to whatever team ends up losing, but the matchup could generate an interest level that’s hard to attain for a regular-season game in the FCS.
JEFF: There is no need for App State play North Carolina A&T and Savannah State back to back. That's ridiculous and provides little value for anyone, except for the W, which is all that matters, I guess. Respect is due Chattanooga for Nebraska/Jacksonville State/Eastern Kentucky. More SoCon vs. CAA would be great.
JOHN: I’d love to see more games between teams from the better FCS conferences. I thought the Elon-Richmond series was great for this level of football, just as the App State games with Montana and McNeese State will be.
I get that when you have a home-and-home with another FCS team, that means one less home game every other year, but there’s value in playing interesting games, like UTC vs. Jacksonville State or the Mocs' upcoming series with Georgia State.
Not everybody can afford to do what App State is doing because of the travel expenses, but there are enough schools within a five-hour bus ride from SoCon campuses that some good series could be arranged.
If you’ve got a question, e-mail the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. The guys are also on Twitter: @Jeff_fromthePC, @Adam_Smith10 and @MocsbeatCTFP.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...