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SoCon Weekend Primer

By Southern Pigskin Staff
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The first conference game of the 2015 season takes place this Saturday.

Mars Hill (0-1) at #12/#10 Chattanooga (0-1)

Finley Stadium, Chattanooga, TN 1:00pm SoConDN

This is the first meeting between the two schools.  The Chattanooga Mocs remain the only SoCon team ranked in both FCS weekly polls this week.  The Mocs are ranked 12th by the FCS coaches and remain in the top 10 (#10) in the STATS LLC poll.  The Mocs drew 15,812 for the season opener against No. 7 Jacksonville State. It was the third-largest crowd in school history and the best since 17,414 saw a 35- 27 Homecoming win over Georgia Southern on Oct. 16, 2010. It was also the eighth-largest FCS crowd in the nation on opening weekend.  Chattanooga had trouble getting the running game going last week in its loss to Jacksonville State, rushing for only 110 yards after averaging 210 yards per game last year on the ground.  SoCon preseason Offensive Player of the Year Jacob Huesman struggled as well against the Gamecock defense going 9-of-16 for 86 yards and an interception.  Mars Hill plays its second consecutive SoCon member to open the season.  The Lions lost on the road last week to Western Carolina 42-14.

Prediction: Chattanooga 58 Mars Hill 10

Morehead State (0-1) at VMI (0-1)

Foster Stadium, Lexington, VA 1:30pm ESPN3

The series is tied 1-1 with Morehead State winning 41-38 in 1998 in the schools' last meeting.  The Keydets are looking for their fourth consecutive win in a home opener, after defeating Chowan, Glenville State and Davidson in those games over the past three years. In fact, VMI has won nine of its last 10 games at home overall, with the lone exception being a 2011 loss to Delaware State.  VMI’s 444 yards total passing against Ball State – thanks to quarterback Al Cobb and special teams contributors Hayden Alford and Dane Forlines – set a new school single-game record for most passing yards in a game, surpassing the 422 yards against Appalachian State in 1986.  VMI's redshirt sophomore quarterback threw for a career-high 399 yards in the 2015 season opener at Ball State including a career-long 80-yard touchdown pass for VMI’s first score against the Cardinals. That play tied for the 10th-longest pass play in school history. The 399 yards passing was the second-highest single game total in school history.  Morehead State of the Ohio Valley Conference lost its season opener to #12 James Madison 57-6.

Prediction: VMI 31 Morehead State 17

Florida A&M University (0-1) at Samford (1-0)

Seibert Stadium, Birmingham, AL 3:00pm ESPN3

Samford leads the series 1-0, winning the only game between the two schools 27-20 in 2013.  Samford is looking to start 2-0 for the first time since 2012, when the Bulldogs started the season 4-0.  Samford has an all-time record of 6-0 against current members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC): 1-0 vs Florida A&M, 2-0 vs Bethune-Cookman, and 3-0 vs Morgan State.  Samford opened the 2015 season and the Chris Hatcher era with an impressive 45-16 win over Central Arkansas on Sept. 3 at Seibert Stadium. The Bulldog offense was led by senior quarterback Michael Eubank, who completed 21-of-37 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman receiver Kelvin McKnight caught six passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Denzel Williams rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown. Defensively for Samford, senior linebacker Josh Killett had 10 tackles. Justin Cooper, Josh Kimberlin and Trey Wesley added eight tackles each.  Florida A&M lost its season opener 51-3 to South Florida.

Prediction: Samford 42 FAMU 6

Furman (0-1) at Virginia Tech (0-1)

Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA 3:30pm ESPN3

Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 5-0, which began with a 20-7 Hokie win in 1939. Most recently, Virginia Tech defeated Furman 24-7 in 2008.  Furman will take on an FBS school each of the next two weeks: this week against Virginia Tech and next week at Central Florida.  Prior to this year the last time Furman played two FBS foes in a season was 2009 when the Paladins faced Missouri and Auburn.  Since being reclassified from NCAA I-A to I-AA in 1982 and, most recently, re-branded from I-AA to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Furman has posted a 5-25-1 record against FBS competition.  From 1982-86, Furman went 4-1-1 against FBS teams, registering wins over South Carolina (1982, 28-23), Georgia Tech (1983, 17-14), North Carolina State (1984, 34-30; 1985, 42-20), and a tie versus Georgia Tech (1986, 17-17).  Since 1987 Furman has gone just 1-24 against FBS competition, with the one victory coming against North Carolina (28-3) in 1999.  Furman redshirt junior quarterback Reese Hannon passed for a school-record 365 yards and two touchdowns against Coastal Carolina. Making his first game appearance following an absence of a year due to injury, Hannon, who completed 27-of-41 attempts, also rushed for 35 yards to finish with 400 yards in total offense, another Furman single game record.  Virginia Tech lost to FBS #1 Ohio State 42-24 to start its 2015 campaign.

Prediction: VA Tech 34 Furman 17

Western Carolina (1-0) at The Citadel (1-0)

Johnson Hagood Stadium, Charleston, SC 6:00pm ESPN3

The Citadel leads the series 22-16-1 with Western Carolina winning last year 29-15 in Cullowhee.  Western Carolina is looking to start a season 2-0 for the first time since 2006, when WCU defeated Chowan, 42-0, before upsetting then-No. 19 Eastern Kentucky, 20-17, both coming in Cullowhee.  The Citadel has won four out of the last five meetings with Western Carolina in Charleston.  This is Western Carolina’s earliest SoCon-opening game since hosting No. 2 Furman back in 2005 (W, 41-21), and its earliest league road opening game since visiting The Citadel in 1998 in week two (W, 14-8).  The Citadel enters Saturday’s game atop the Southern Conference statistics in several categories, including scoring offense (69.0), scoring defense (0 – only league team yet to allow points) and rushing offense (535 rushing yards vs. Davidson, the most by a NCAA FCS team on opening weekend).  The Bulldogs lead the league in total offense - 602 yards in their opening game - and are just ahead of WCU, who is second with 583 yards.  Since 1989, the WCU–Citadel game has been postponed or moved on three separate occasions.  In 1989, the two played to a 22-22 tie at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., after Charleston suffered damage from Hurricane Hugo.  In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused the game in Cullowhee to be moved to November 20th, with WCU winning the makeup game, 24-17.  Most recently in 2001, in the wake of the events of Sept. 11, the game was rescheduled for Nov. 17 in Cullowhee, a 28-25 WCU victory.

Prediction: Western Carolina 31 The Citadel 24

Stetson (1-0) at Mercer (1-0)

Five Star Stadium, Macon, GA 6:00pm ESPN3

This is the 11th meeting between these two schools, with Mercer leading the series 9-1. The last meeting was won by Mercer 49-0 in 2014.  Mercer returns to Five Star Stadium for its 2015 home opener, a place where it is 12-3 under head coach Bobby Lamb.  The Bears are 2-0 in home openers under Lamb thanks to a pair of thrilling three-point victories to kick off the 2013 and 2014 campaigns.  The Bears are 7-2 against Pioneer Football League opponents since 2013, after going 6-2 as a member in the first year of the program. Mercer is 10-0 in non-conference games under Lamb.  Stetson comes into the game with a 1-0 record after last Saturday’s 42-13 victory at home over Webber International in which it set a modern era program record with 42 points. The Hatters totaled 393 yards of total offense in the contest, thanks to a balanced attacked that compiled 234 passing yards and 159 yards on the ground. The Bears broke open a tie game on the opening drive of the second half, moving 62 yards on nine plays thanks to a pair of APSU penalties and 32 yards rushing from Alex Lakes. Lakes capped off the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the day to hand Mercer a 14-7 lead. The Bears added two more scores in the fourth quarter to run away with the 21-point win. Mercer’s defense took care of the rest, holding the Governors scoreless in the second half. The play of the night on the defensive side came from Lee Bennett in the fourth quarter, as the sophomore linebacker stopped a potential game-tying drive with an interception deep in Bears’ territory.

Prediction: Mercer 38 Stetson 7

Tennessee Tech (0-1) at Wofford (0-1)

Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg, SC 7:00pm ESPN3

Wofford leads the all-time series with Tennessee Tech 2-0, with the last meeting being a 26-7 Wofford win in 1949.  Wofford was defeated 49-10 by 12th-ranked Clemson University last week at Memorial Stadium. The Tigers scored touchdowns on six of their first eight possessions of the game and limited the Terriers to 213 total yards. Wofford was led by Nick Colvin with 31 rushing yards and 48 kickoff return yards. Evan Jacks had 21 rushing yards and 42 passing yards. Will Gay added 49 receiving yards. The Terriers leading tackler was Daryl Vining with nine, while Drake Michaelson had seven, including a sack.  Wofford had 213 total yards, with 123 on the ground.  Last season Tennessee Tech was 5-7 overall and finished fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 4-4 record.  In the season opener, Tennessee Tech was defeated 52-24 at the University of Houston.  Junior quarterback Jared Davis passed for a career-high 312 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore Brock McCoin hauled in nine passes for a career-high 264 yards and two touchdowns to highlight the Tech offense. The Golden Eagles (0-1) managed just 29 rushing yards against the Football Bowl Subdivision Cougars (1-0).

Prediction: Wofford 24 Tennessee Tech 16

* Written by Robbie Ross