All of the Southern Conference teams have released their 2010 schedules. Here are my initial thoughts on the 2010 games featuring the Southern Conference teams along with comments on their recruiting classes. Next time, I’ll take a look at the Big South Conference.
<strong>THE 2010 SCHEDULES</strong>
The slate of conference games begins in week one. Defending SoCon champion Appalachian State visits Chattanooga.
<strong>Best opportunity to upset an FBS team</strong>
Wofford at Ohio, Sept. 4 – The Terriers start their move toward a rebound season in Athens, Ohio, and they could strike upset gold over the Bobcats. Ohio did play in a bowl in 2009, but it’s not exactly a Top 25 FBS team. If Wofford can avoid preseason injuries it just might do it.
<strong>Toughest nonconference, non-FBS games</strong>
Everybody has one game against an FBS team and two other nonconference games. Whose two nonconference games appear to be the toughest, right now anyway? I’d say Chattanooga, which plays at Jacksonville State in week two and Eastern Kentucky the next week. These two teams battled for the Ohio Valley Conference title in 2009.
<strong>Big South vs. SoCon</strong>
Because these are the conferences covered in the So South, I’m always interested in such inter-league contests. The 2010 season features just four. On Sept. 11, Charleston Southern finally gets an opportunity to host Wofford. The two teams were scheduled to play in Charleston in early 2008, but the threat of a hurricane hitting Charleston moved the game to Spartanburg. The other three games occur on Sept. 18. Georgia Southern travels to the Grand Strand to play Coastal Carolina. Western Carolina and Gardner-Webb renew their neighborhood rivalry, this time on the Bulldogs’ home turf in Boiling Springs, N.C. Another inside South Carolina rivalry resumes when Presbyterian College ventures to Charleston to play at The Citadel
<strong>Interesting nonconference, FCS matchups</strong>
Sept. 11 – Chattanooga at Jacksonville State, Colgate at Furman and Samford at Northwestern State
Sept. 18 – Elon at Richmond (rematch of 2009 first-round playoff game), Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina and Western Carolina at Gardner-Webb
<strong>Interesting nonconference, FBS matchups</strong>
Elon at Duke, Sept. 4 – Richmond started 2009 with a victory in Durham. Can Elon repeat that result?
Samford at Florida State, Sept. 4 – It’s too bad Bobby Bowden won’t be there to coach against the school where it all started for him.
Georgia Southern at Navy, Sept. 11 – New Eagles coach Jeff Monken returns to the academy where he was an assistant coach under former GSU coach Paul Johnson; also should be a special day on the calendar in Annapolis.
Furman at South Carolina – The Paladins play the Gamecocks on the gridiron for the first time since 1982 (which was a Furman victory).
Appalachian State at Florida, Nov. 20 – I find it interesting that the Mountaineers venture to the Swamp in their final game of the season.
<strong>Longest road trip</strong>
The Citadel at Arizona, Sept. 11 – The Bulldogs will travel 2,058 miles to face the Wildcats of the Pac 10 Conference.
The team that will be most tired on Nov. 20
Furman – The Paladins face the scheduling twist of having its open date for the season in week one. That means 11 straight games to close the season without a breather – more if it makes the playoffs. Coaches always talk about getting a break during the season to recharge and heal a bit. Furman will have to be tough.
<strong>Saving on gas</strong>
Western Carolina – All three nonconference games (at North Carolina State, Tusculum at home and at Gardner-Webb) take place in North Carolina. Conference road games take the Catamounts to Charleston (310 miles), Spartanburg (113), Greenville (106) and Elon (245). That’s eight of 11 games in-state. Furman’s travel schedule isn’t bad either. The Paladins first trip outside of South Carolina doesn’t happen until Oct. 16 and also is their longest of the season – at Samford (293).
<strong>A reworked conference slate
Some games between league opponents have been shifted away from weekends that have become the usual. Furman, for example, plays both of its in-state rivals before the season’s half over: The Citadel on Sept. 25 and at Wofford on Oct. 2. Elon and Appalachian State play Oct. 9, not on the next-to-last weekend. The battle for the Old Mountain Jug between Appalachian State and Western Carolina will occur in Cullowhee Oct. 23.
Oct. 2 – Three SoCon teams have their open date that weekend. Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Georgia Southern all take a week off, leaving just three games on the SoCon docket that day.
The conference’s schedule can be seen at the end of this column.
It’s been a busy month, so I’m a little behind in drafting comments on the recruiting classes. Here, then, are brief comments on the signing day accomplishments of the Southern Conference teams.
Appalachian State – The Mountaineers targeted the line of scrimmage as 12 of the 16 signees play there. They signed five offensive linemen, four defensive linemen and three tight ends. Appalachian State also ventured into the junior college ranks, snagging three players from Georgia Military and one from national power Blinn. With Armanti Edwards moving on, the Mountaineers continued to shore up depth at the quarterback position, dipping into the talent-rich state of Georgia for a pair of signal-callers.
Chattanooga – Russ Huesman’s first recruiting class a year ago proved to be a solid bunch that contributed to the school’s 6-5 record. This time he signed 16 players and two of them – transfers from Tennessee and UAB – have already enrolled. The Mocs recruits are fairly evenly spread across positions. There are three linebackers in the group, adding depth to a position that featured three seniors in the 2009 two-deep.
Citadel – Kevin Higgins and staff signed a large class of 24 players that tended a little toward the defense. The group includes 13 defenders – five defensive backs, five linebackers and three defensive linemen. The Bulldogs received production last year from a thin runningbacks corps, and the 2010 recruits add depth with four runningbacks. Two quarterbacks signed as well.
Elon – With a recent addition announced this week, the Phoenix class has reached 15 players. Ten of those players are listed as defenders, including five defensive backs. With the loss of record-setting receiver Terrell Hudgins and with three-year starter Scott Riddle heading into his final season calling signals, Elon looked to the future by signing two wide receivers and a quarterback.
Furman – With depth returning at the skill positions, the Paladins staff focused on defense and the offensive line. Eight of the 14 signees play defense, and half are listed as defensive linemen. There are three offensive linemen in the 2010 class, too. Bobby Lamb and staff recruited a fairly wide geographic spectrum that included five Southern states.
Georgia Southern – Some familiar position names dotted the list of 23 players new coach Jeff Monken and his staff signed for the Eagles. There are two runningbacks plus an A-back and a B-back. The group also features three quarterbacks whose heights are 5-9, 5-9, and 5-11½. Georgia Southern signed 13 offensive players and 10 defensive players.
Samford – The Bulldogs went for numbers, too, signing 26 players. They added depth to the offensive line and began planning for Dustin Taliaferro’s departure two years out by adding three quarterbacks. Samford also garnered depth for the defensive line with three signees for those positions.
Western Carolina – The Catamounts announced 19 signees, seven of whom enrolled in January. That seven includes four transfers from Central Michigan, Connecticut, Hofstra and UAB. The recruiting class features 11 defensive players. Western Carolina welcomes two big quarterbacks – 6-7, 220 high schooler Brandon Pechloff and 6-4, 225 UConn transfer Casey Turner.
Wofford – More than half of Wofford’s 18-player class is targeted for the offensive side of the ball. There are two quarterbacks, three wide receivers and four offensive linemen as well as a runningback and a tight end. The defenders include three linebackers.
<strong>THE SOUTHERN CONFERENCE SCHEDULE, WEEK-BY-WEEK:</strong>
Appalachian State at Chattanooga #
Chowan at The Citadel
Elon at Duke
Samford at Florida State
Savannah State at Georgia Southern
Western Carolina at North Carolina State
Wofford at Ohio
Open date: Furman
Chattanooga at Jacksonville State
Colgate at Furman
Georgia Southern at Navy
Jacksonville at Appalachian State
Samford at Northwestern State
Shaw at Elon
The Citadel at Arizona
Tusculum at Western Carolina
Wofford at Charleston Southern
Eastern Kentucky at Chattanooga
Elon at Richmond
Furman at South Carolina
Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina
Newberry at Samford
North Carolina Central at Appalachian State
Presbyterian College at The Citadel
Union (KY) at Wofford
Western Carolina at Gardner-Webb
Appalachian State at Samford #
Chattanooga at Western Carolina #
Elon at Georgia Southern #
The Citadel at Furman #
Open date: Wofford
Furman at Wofford #
Samford at Elon #
Western Carolina at The Citadel #
Open date: Appalachian State, Chattanooga, Georgia Southern
Chattanooga at The Citadel #
Elon at Appalachian State #
Howard at Furman
Samford at Western Carolina #
Wofford at Georgia Southern #
Furman at Samford #
Georgia Southern at Chattanooga #
The Citadel at Appalachian State #
Western Carolina at Wofford #
Open date: Elon
Appalachian State at Western Carolina #
Chattanooga at Furman #
Georgia Southern at The Citadel #
Wofford at Elon #
Open date: Samford
Elon at Chattanooga #
Furman at Appalachian State #
Samford at Georgia Southern #
The Citadel at Wofford #
Open date: Western Carolina
Appalachian State at Georgia Southern #
Chattanooga at Auburn
Elon at The Citadel #
Western Carolina at Furman #
Wofford at Samford #
Wofford at Appalachian State #
Samford at Chattanooga #
Furman at Elon #
Georgia Southern at Wofford #
Open date: The Citadel
Appalachian State at Florida
Chattanooga at Wofford #
Georgia Southern at Furman #
The Citadel at Samford #
Western Carolina at Elon #