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SoCon Weekend Primer

By Southern Pigskin Staff
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This week is highlighted by two underdogs looking to keep their postseason hopes alive against the conference’s big boys.

As each week passes by, wins become more and more vital as each squad looks to secure a spot in the playoffs or fight for the SoCon championship. This week is no different, highlighted by two underdogs looking to keep their postseason hopes alive against the conference’s big boys. Buckle up tight – Saturday looks like it could be a wild day.

Furman (2-6, 1-4 Southern Conference) at Elon (3-4, 1-3), 3 p.m., Ustream Elon Phoenix

The Paladins and the Phoenix come off of very different results from a week ago. Furman kept it close with Georgia Southern until a 35-point second half sent the Paladins to their third-straight loss. The Phoenix ended a losing streak of their own with a victory over Western Carolina. These two squads now face off, looking to earn their second conference win of the season.

On paper, Elon and Furman seem to match up well against one another – they rank close to one another in scoring offense and defense, and in total offense and defense. The Phoenix will have home field advantage, obviously, while the Paladins will have the revenge factor on their side – their playoff hopes were dashed by the Phoenix a year ago in a 41-34 Elon victory.

Obviously, when talking about the Furman offense, it all starts with running back Jerodis Williams, the SoCon’s second-leading rusher (913 yards, eight rushing touchdowns). But freshman quarterback Resse Hannon has done well stepping into a starting role. He has thrown for 1,475 yards and six touchdowns to go with a 63.6 completion percentage and just four interceptions.

On the other side, Elon quarterback Thomas Wilson is playing out of his mind. In his last three games, he has thrown for 1,119 yards to go with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. The SoCon’s passing leader earned last week’s Offensive Player of the Week Award and ranks 10th nationally with 286.4 passing yards a game. Did I mention he is also facing the conference’s worst pass defense in Furman (giving up 227.6 yards per game, 12 passing touchdowns and just five interceptions)? Expect another monster day from Wilson and receiver Aaron Mellette, who has caught 18 passes for 391 yards and six touchdowns in his last two games alone.

Prediction: Elon 37, Furman 28

No. 15/16 Appalachian State (5-3, 4-2) at Western Carolina (1-7, 0-6), 3:30 p.m., Catamount All-Access

With both teams licking their wounds following disappointing losses a week ago, App and Western face off once again in the yearly "Battle for the Old Mountain Jug". The series has been quite one-sided over time: the Mountaineers hold a 57-18-1 advantage and have not lost to their rivals since 2004. Will 2012 be the year Western turns things around and coach Mark Speir shocks his former team?

Appalachian State is coming off a crushing loss at the Rock to Wofford, a setback that pushed them down to fourth place in the conference standings. Coach Jerry Moore will surely have the players fired up and ready to go come kickoff at E.J. Whitmire Stadium. The offense continues to rack up yards and points, as the trio of QB Jamal Jackson (SoCon leader in total offense, 19 total touchdowns), RB Steven Miller (SoCon’s third-leading rusher with 832 yards and eight rushing touchdowns) and freshman phenom Sean Price (SoCon’s second-leading receiver with 41 catches for 541 yards and six touchdowns) have led the Mountaineers to average 451.6 yards per game (13th in the nation) and 32 points per game (23rd in the nation).

The Catamounts did fall a week ago at Elon, but quarterback Troy Mitchell provided Western with a spark that nearly led to a second half comeback. The freshman has made quite an impact in his first season, totaling 805 yards of offense and eight touchdowns (including a team-high six rushing TDs) while splitting time under center with Eddie Sullivan (916 passing yards, four touchdowns).

Linebacker Rock Williams faces off against App’s Jeremy Kimbrough in a battle of the SoCon’s top two tacklers. Whichever defense steps up should give their team the extra edge needed to come out on top. If you happen to be in a fantasy FCS league, I highly recommend playing Steven Miller this week – not just because of his great stats, but because Western Carolina has the worst run defense in the nation, giving up 333.8 rushing yards per game.

Prediction: No. 15/16 Appalachian State 48, Western Carolina 17

The Citadel (4-3, 3-2) at No. 8 Wofford (6-1, 4-1), 1:30 p.m. 

If there is a physical, tough, gritty football game in the SoCon, it is between the Bulldogs and the Terriers. Wofford comes into this series with a 40-23-1 lead and a 43-14 win over The Citadel last season. Kevin Higgins' triple option against Mike Ayers' wishbone appears to hold a close ball game in the fray. The Citadel has relied heavily upon the legs of Darien Robinson, who has 616 yards on 81 attempts. Robinson will have a tough test against Wofford, which is ranked ninth nationally against the run.

Wofford is also a running team, ranking tops in the SoCon in the rushing category, while The Citadel ranks 116th in the FCS against the run - a recipe for disaster. With Eric Breitenstein averaging over 150 yards per game on the ground, expect him to touch the ball at least thirty times. Another good stat for Wofford is that home teams against conference opponents are 13-10 this season after going just 18-18 last year. The Terriers are also 3-0 at home this season. There is no easy game in the SoCon, however, and The Citadel is 2-0 this season against top 15 teams.

Prediction: The Citadel 14, Wofford 28

No. 2 Georgia Southern (6-1, 5-1) vs Chattanooga (4-3, 3-1), 6:00 p.m.

Jeff Monken's Eagles have a tough test this week traveling to Finley Stadium to take on the Chattanooga Mocs. If you look at just the win/loss column, your initial thought would be Georgia Southern has an easy task, but the SoCon never works that way. Some consider Chattanooga the hottest team in SoCon play, with their latest win coming over Samord. The last meeting between these two programs was a great game, as Georgia Southern only won by one point.

This season's matchup could be just as close with the Mocs being ranked 17th nationally against the run, and Georgia Southern being the second-best rushing team in the FCS. The X-factor in the matchup is Chattanooga quarterback Jacob Huesman, who as of late just simply continues to find ways to win. Huesman has a cannon arm along with the ability to run. He comes into the game with over 1,400 total yards offense and 11 touchdowns.

The game will be a battle of a physical team against an up-tempo team, and as we have seen in the past, games like this can go either way.

Prediction: Georgia Southern 31, Chattanooga 21


The SoCon Weekend Primer is put together by Southern Pigskin writers Russell Varner and David England.