SoCon Weekend Primer
By Southern Pigskin Staff
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Russell Varner and David England get you ready for the opening weekend of SoCon football.
Congratulations. You’ve made it. The 2012 college football season has kicked off. You have survived the dreaded offseason and now have months of tailgating and pigskin to look forward to. You deserve a reward, so find your favorite couch, find your lucky shirt or jersey and wear it with pride this weekend. It’s the best time of the year ladies and gentlemen – enjoy it in all of its glory.
Western Carolina 42 Mars Hill 17
The Mark Speir era got off to a strong start Thursday night as, for the second year in a row, the Catamounts trounced the Lions. QB Troy Mitchell scored two rushing touchdowns and was efficient in his debut and Western’s trio of running backs (Darius Ramsey, Shaun Warren and Michael Johnson) combined for 271 yards and two touchdowns. On top of that, Western’s defense – which struggled to stop anyone a year ago – held Mars Hill to 209 yards of offense. Yes, it is against a D-II school. Yes, it is the same school they beat by a similar margin last year. But you know who doesn’t care? Anyone in the Western Carolina locker room, and nor should they.
No. 5/6 Appalachian State at East Carolina, Noon, Fox Sports Net
2012 marks the 31st meeting between these cross-state rivals, as QB Jamal Jackson leads a new-look Mountaineer team to Greenville to take on the Pirates. These teams last met in 2009, when an Armanti Edwards-less App fell 29-24 to the Pirates. App actually leads the all-time series 19-11, and the Pirates are looking to replace all-everything QB Dominique Davis. Expect a big day of Jeremy Kimbrough and another nailbiter.
Prediction: East Carolina 27, Appalachian State 21
Elon at North Carolina, 12:30 p.m., ACC Network, ESPN3
The second year of the Jason Swepson era begins against a familiar foe for the former NC State assistant. In the first meeting between the two schools, the Tar Heels and new coach Larry Fedora will look to send a message after what has been a trying offseason for all of North Carolina athletics. The offense of the Phoenix should be able to put some points on the board thanks to receiver Aaron Mellette, but if Elon wants any chance at a victory, their defense will have to step up and make some plays.
Prediction: North Carolina 38, Elon 17
Charleston Southern at The Citadel, 6 p.m., Bulldogs Insider
Kevin Higgins begins his eighth season in charge against cross-town rival Charleston Southern, as he and many others hope this is the year the Bulldogs break through. QB Ben Dupree and RB Darien Robinson lead a triple option attack that should have a strong game against the Buccaneers. The defense will be worth keeping an eye on though, as they play their first game without star DL Derek Douglas. But I expect the Bulldogs should enjoy a strong start to the season.
Prediction: The Citadel 24, Charleston Southern 10
No. 13/10 Wofford at Gardner-Webb, 6 p.m., Big South Network
For the first time in five years, Wofford and Gardner-Webb face off to kick off the 2012 campaign, one that sees high expectations for the Terriers. When these two teams last met in 2007, Wofford enjoyed a 52-17 shellacking to increase their series lead to 15-6 over Gardner-Webb. QB Brian Kass makes his debut under center as he attempts to help fans forget about Mitch Allen. Fortunately, he has plenty of talent in the backfield to help ease him into the role. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t another blowout.
Prediction: Wofford 51,Gardner-Webb 10
Chattanooga at South Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN3
And so marks the official beginning of the Terrell Robinson era for the Mocs. The 2011 co-Freshman of the Year leads Chattanooga into Tampa to face off against B.J. Daniel and the Bulls. While many eyes will be on Robinson and how well the offense fairs, equal attention should be paid to the Moc defense and the job LB Wes Dothard does. He is the key to slowing down Daniels and the Bulls and giving the Mocs a shot at the potential upset.
Prediction: South Florida 20, Chattanooga 13
Furman at Samford, 4:30 p.m., Comcast Sports South
Both teams in this early season conference contest return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. The running game is where Furman will show their true colors, as senior running back Jerodis Williams returns. The talented back rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and reached paydirt nine times. The Paladins, however, will have to replace last year's starting quarterback, Chris Forcier. Samford comes into the new season with slightly lower expectations, but head coach Pat Sullivan feels this team has the ability to shock people in 2012. Samford won last year's contest on the road, but Furman leads the all-time series 8-6.
Prediction: Furman 27, Samford 17
Jacksonville at No. 3 Georgia Southern, 6 p.m.
The target is on Georgia Southern's back this season, and now they are expected to live up to lofty expectations following back-to-back trips to the FCS semifinals. The Eagles' triple option offense is led by sophomore fullback Dominique Swope, who won SoCon Freshman of the Year last season. Ezayi Youyoute and Jerrick McKinnon will split time under center for a Georgia Southern offense which should be very good again this fall. Jacksonville finished third in the Pioneer Football League in 2011 (7-4 overall, 6-2 conference), and will have a tough time against the No. 3 team in the land.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 42, Jacksonville 7