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Recapping the SoCon Season

By Matt Osborne
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For the first time since 2008, no SoCon team advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.

It seemed like just the blink of an eye before we reached the abrupt conclusion of the 2013 Southern Conference football season.

For the first time since 2008, no SoCon team advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs, as Samford bowed out in the first round, while Furman lost to two-time defending national champs North Dakota State in the second round.

Here is a look back at three of the major headlines from the 2013 campaign.


Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Elon all enjoyed one last go-round in the conference this season before exiting for new ventures in 2014. Although all three teams were ineligible for the SoCon championship and a berth in the FCS Playoffs due to their impending departures, they were still expected to be extremely competitive this fall.

In particular, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern were projected to be the top teams in the league, as they were picked to finish second and first respectively in a preseason poll of the conference coaches.

Thanks to an inopportune offense and a subpar defense, Appalachian State started the season 1-6 before rallying to finish the year with a 4-8 record. Despite finishing with a .500 record in conference play (4-4), it is safe to say that much more was expected out of the Mountaineers prior to their trip to the Sun Belt.

The same can surely be said about Georgia Southern, which also finished with a 4-4 record in conference play. While the Eagles did fare better than the Mountaineers in non-conference competition (3-0), they did lose to three of their biggest conference rivals: Wofford, Appalachian State and Furman. Perhaps the saving grace for the Eagles was the fact that they beat the Florida Gators in the Swamp to conclude the regular season.

Though much was not expected out of Elon prior to the start of the season, the Phoenix still managed to find a way to underachieve. Struggling in all phases of the game, the Phoenix won just one conference game all season, and finished dead last in the league after losing to Western Carolina in overtime.


The Furman Paladins built a perennial power in the SoCon at the beginning of the millennium, but had struggled to contend for conference championships in recent seasons.

That would all change in 2013, however, as the Paladins finished the regular season as co-conference champs alongside Samford and Chattanooga. Due to the tie-breaker process, Furman would ultimately earn the conference’s automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs.

Despite its 7-5 record at the end of the regular season, Furman proved to be a legitimate threat as the season moved along. The Paladins lost two straight non-conference games to start the campaign, but would finally bounce back in week three against Presbyterian. By the time conference play rolled around, the Paladins looked like a completely different team.

In fact, the only two conference games which Furman lost in 2013 – Elon and Chattanooga – were also the only two contests in which starting quarterback Reese Hannon did not play due to injury.

The Paladins were ultimately blown out by North Dakota State in the playoffs, but 2013 still has to go down as a successful year for Bruce Fowler’s squad.


For the last few seasons, Chattanooga and Samford have been teams that have been right on the verge of making the FCS Playoffs. Up until this season, however, neither team had been able to reach postseason play in recent years.

And despite the fact that Samford did finally make the FCS Playoffs as an at-large, it did not change the fact that the Bulldogs are still a team hovering just ever slightly below being a legitimate national title contender. After finally making the playoffs, Samford was immediately destroyed 55-14 by Jacksonville State in its first game.

The Bulldogs certainly deserve credit for a tremendous season, and there is no doubt that Samford is a program on the rise, but the team is still lingering just below where it wants to be.

For Chattanooga, it was an all-too-familiar end to the regular season, as the Mocs were left out of the playoffs despite finishing with an identical record to Samford. It was an even more disappointing end than usual, though, as Chattanooga was listed as the first team excluded from playoff competition.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at