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Four Teams, One Title

By Robbie Ross
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Wofford, Western Carolina, Furman and Samford all enter the last weekend in October with one league loss, tied for first in the league standings.

Although seven of the nine Southern Conference teams remain mathematically alive for the 2017 Football Championship the four tied atop the league standings as Halloween draws near will engage in a fight to the finish.  Wofford, Western Carolina, Furman and Samford all enter the last weekend in October with one league loss tied for first in the league standings (Samford technically is a half game back due to one fewer win).  Mercer, The Citadel and ETSU sit tied for 5th with three losses in SoCon play and can still all win the league but it would take a total upheaval of the top four for that to take place. 

In the SoCon, if more than one team is in first place at the end of the regular season Co-Champions are crowned and ring makers across the Southeast are jumping for joy.  The tricky part comes when determining the automatic bid recipient to the FCS Playoffs that comes with being crowned the league champion.  If only two teams share the SoCon championship obviously the FCS Playoff bid goes to the head to head winner between those two teams.  Where the waters get murky is if there are more than two teams being co-champions, which is a possibility and last happened in 2013 with Furman gaining the automatic bid over co-champions Samford and Chattanooga, the Mocs were left out of the playoffs altogether that year even as a co-champion.  For the sake of sanity at this point as we still are in October, digging out the SoCon’s somewhat convoluted three-way tiebreaking procedures is not necessary quite yet, although it is a possibility. 

Wofford has the clearest path to winning at least a share of the SoCon title as their three remaining league opponents, ETSU, Chattanooga and VMI, are a combined 2-12 in conference games.   The Terriers had a stranglehold on the league title and could have pretty much clinched it last Saturday in Spartanburg had they beaten Samford.  The Terriers hold tie-breakers over Furman, based on their season opening 24-23 win, and Western Carolina, who they beat 35-28 on overtime earlier this month. 

Furman, picked to finish 6th by the media and 7th by the coaches in the preseason polls, has the toughest road to winning a share of the SoCon Title.  The Paladins travel to two of their fellow co-leaders over the last three games of the season.  Games at Western Carolina and Samford bookend an off week and home game against arch rival The Citadel, who have beaten Furman 4 out of the last 5 years. 

Western Carolina has a tricky road remaining as they vie to win a share of their first league title in school history.  The Catamounts host Furman this week, travel to The Citadel before finishing up the league portion of their schedule at home against Mercer.  Facing the upstart Paladins, who also have hopes of a SoCon title followed by two teams in the Bears and Bulldogs that will be playing spoiler roles will be tough for the Catamounts. 

Samford’s path to a share of the SoCon title is a bit longer than their other three co-leaders as they have four league games remaining.  However, three of those four games are going to be played within the comfy confines of Siebert Stadium.  A trip to Macon to take on Mercer is sandwiched in between Chattanooga, ETSU and Furman visiting Birmingham to take on the Bulldogs.

With Wofford and Samford facing teams with only one league win this week in ETSU and Chattanooga, this week presents the first elimination game in the race for the SoCon title as Furman heads up to the mountains to Cullowhee to take on Western Carolina.  It is truly survive and advance time in the race to win the SoCon Title.  

Robbie Ross - Robbie Ross is Southern Pigskin's lead SoCon writer. A 19-year veteran of the Furman Radio Network, Ross also spent time with the Georgia State Radio Network prior to his ventures with Southern Pigskin. He is a voter in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll.