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SoCon Weekend Primer

By Anthony Richards
SouthernPigskin.com
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Furman and Samford can each clinch a share of the SoCon title with wins on Saturday.

Game of the Week: Wofford (5-5, 4-3) at Furman (6-5, 5-2) Noon

This game means a lot for Furman, which can clinch a share of the Southern Conference title with a victory Saturday.  The Paladins are looking to win their first conference title since 2004 behind the guidance of third-year head coach Bruce Fowler.  Georgia Southern is looking to end on a positive note and finish the season with a winning record, after its title hopes were dashed last weekend in a 33-21 loss to Appalachian State.  Furman’s defense has held opponents under 20 points in four games this season and averages allowing 24.4 points per game.  The defense is a relentless group that exhibits great fundamentals with a league-high four players over 80 tackles on the year, which includes senior defensive back Greg Worthy and sophomore linebacker Carl Rider with over 100 each.  Making tackles is always a key to slowing down a Wofford rushing attack that averages over 261 yards a game on the ground.  Senior Donovan Johnson leads the way with 854 yards, while sophomore fullback Jonny Martin continues to emerge.  Furman has found consistent play at the quarterback position from sophomore Reese Hannon, and junior running back Hank McCloud is 58 yards shy from 1,000 on the season.

Prediction: Furman 23  Wofford 20

The Citadel (5-6, 4-4 SoCon) at No. 7 Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) Noon  ESPN3

The Citadel stays within the state of South Carolina as it prepares to face off against the Clemson Tigers of the ACC.  The Bulldogs will bring their option attack to Clemson, S.C. as quarterback Ben Dupree and fullback Darien Robinson finish up their college careers.  Dupree and Robinson have combined to average just over 169 yards per game and look to continue that trend in their final game together.  The offense has run for the second-most yards in the Southern Conference this season.  Unlike The Citadel, which looks to control the flow of the game with time of possession, Clemson hopes to control the game by taking as many snaps as possible on offense.  The Tigers are second in the ACC having run 829 offensive plays this season.  The passing combination of senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins is one of the most potent in all of college football.  Both have accounted for the most yards in the ACC at their respective positions.  Because of The Citadel’s option approach on offense, the impact of junior defensive end Vic Beasley, who leads the ACC in sacks, could be minimized.

Prediction: No. 7 Clemson 52  The Citadel 21

Georgia Southern (6-4, 4-4 SoCon) at Florida (4-6, 3-5 SEC) 2 p.m.  ESPN3

The Eagles look to take advantage of a struggling Florida team that has shown an inability to score points on offense.  Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense has given teams that are not familiar with it trouble in the past.  If the Eagles can get on the board early before Florida’s defense makes adjustments, Georgia Southern can make it a close game for all four quarters.  Freshman Kevin Ellison started last week at quarterback for senior Jerick McKinnon and showed great potential within the offensive game plan.  Ellison opens up the offense a little more through the air with his passing ability and allows for the coaches to take a more balanced approach.  The balance will help open up some options within the triple-option offense against the Gators outside of the production on the ground.  Florida has lost two quarterbacks to injury and is down to its third option in freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, who will be making his second career start against Georgia Southern.  However, the reliable unit for the Gators all season has been the defense, which ranks second in the SEC allowing an average of 19 points and 288.6 yards per game.

Prediction: Florida 34  Georgia Southern 14

No. 23 Chattanooga (8-3, 6-2 SoCon) at No. 1 Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC) 2 p.m.  ESPN3

The Mocs face off against the two-time defending BCS national champion and current No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.  Both teams have the top-ranked defenses in their conferences and do a superb job of creating havoc on that side of the ball.  Junior defensive end Davis Tull leads the Southern Conference with nine sacks and 15 tackles for a loss, while the Alabama secondary has returned three interceptions for touchdowns.  They each do a great job of taking care of the ball on offense and creating turnovers on defense.  Chattanooga is +7 in turnover margin and Alabama is +4, which exhibits the amount of effectiveness each team has had with the ball in its possession.  Sophomore quarterback Jacob Huesman is the focal point of the Chattanooga offense with an average of over 230 yards per game, and junior tight end Faysal Shafaat is a red zone target with six touchdowns on the season.  The Crimson Tide are led at quarterback by senior AJ McCarron, who is a proven winner and has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 21 touchdowns and five interceptions.  Sophomore T.J. Yeldon has run for 1,022 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

Prediction: No. 1 Alabama 49  No. 23 Chattanooga 17

Elon (2-9, 1-6) at No. 24 Samford (7-4, 5-2) 3 p.m.

With a win, Samford will own a share of the Southern Conference title, its first since joining the league in 2008.  Head Coach Pat Sullivan has seen his team grow over his seven years at Samford, and a championship would be a culmination of all the hard work he and the team have put forth over the years.  Two of the conference’s most dynamic passing attacks will be on display in this game, as both teams will look to connect on big plays through the air.  It all starts at quarterback and Elon has a talented one in junior Mike Quinn.  He has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 2,391 yards and 16 touchdowns.  One of the major contributions to his success is the stalwart play of Elon’s offensive line, which has given up just eight sacks all season.  Samford leads the Southern Conference with 26 sacks and will look to create ways for senior linebacker Justin Shade and the rest of the front seven to frustrate Quinn’s rhythm.  The triggerman for the Bulldogs is senior Andy Summerlin, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. He has an array of receiving options that range from seniors Kelsey Pope and Chris Cephus, to freshman Karel Hamilton.

Prediction: No. 24 Samford 27  Elon 17  

Western Carolina (2-9, 1-6) at Appalachian State (3-8, 3-4) 3:30 p.m.

It will be Appalachian State’s final game as a member of the Southern Conference, and the Mountaineers are looking to end their legacy and Scott Satterfield’s first season as head coach with a victory.  However, the Catamounts are coming in looking to spoil the party and finish off their season with a second conference win.  The Appalachian State offense has seen increased production lately, and a major reason why is the play of freshman running back Marcus Cox, who leads the league in rushing with 1,035 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He has helped open up the play-action passing game for sophomore quarterback Kameron Bryant, who continues to improve his decision-making by completing a league-best 71.6 percent of his pass attempts.  Junior quarterback Eddie Sullivan has gotten increased playing time at quarterback the last few games and has done fairly well, but not enough to result in a victory.  Whoever starts at quarterback can rely on having a weapon on the outside in sophomore wide receiver Karnorris Benson, who continues to make plays no matter who is throwing him the ball.  He leads the conference with 11 receiving touchdowns. 

Appalachian State 34  Western Carolina 21

Anthony Richards - Anthony was born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla. and currently attends the University of North Florida. He is a sports journalist, with a particular passion for college football in the south and the atmosphere that surrounds it. He enjoys the classic southern combination of Bar-B-Q and a large glass of sweet tea. You can reach Anthony at antnyrich@comcast.net.