Southern Conference Week 4 Previews

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Southern Conference Week 4 Previews
Furman Rolled Up A 62-21 Win Over Presbyterian Last Season

Overview of Week 4:

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will be looking to rebound from losses (both which came to The Citadel the last time out) as the SoCon race begins to enter the meat of league play in Week 4, with three league matchups.

Appalachian State, which is coming off a 52-28 home loss to The Citadel last Saturday, heads to the Scenic City to meet Chattanooga for the Mountaineers' first road contest of Southern Conference play.

If two teams can afford to start off Southern Conference play with a loss, it's Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, two of the three teams that have managed to win a league title after losing the league opener.

The Mountaineers, which lost their league opener 42-31 to Wofford, went on to claim a share of the 2007 Southern Conference league title before also eventually claiming the FCS national title.

The Eagles, which lost their Southern Conference opener 14-7 to Wofford in 2002, went on claim the league's outright title that same season.

Georgia Southern (1-1, 0-1 SoCon), meanwhile, had an off week to lick its wounds from a 23-21 loss to those same Bulldogs in Charleston. The Eagles will host Elon, looking for their third straight win over the Phoenix.

The Citadel (3-0, 2-0 SoCon), which is off to its best start since its last Southern Conference title season two decades ago, will step out of Southern Conference play and take on FBS foe North Carolina State on the gridiron for the first time since 1986.

The unbeaten Bulldogs will be in search of their first win over an FBS foe since defeating Army 15-14 in that very same championship season of '92. The Bulldogs also were able to knock off Arkansas 10-3 to open the '92 campaign, shocking the college football world.

Samford (3-0, 1-0 SoCon) is quietly making some noise in the Southern Conference this season, and the other Bulldogs head to Western Carolina (1-2, 0-1 SoCon) to try and move to 2-0 in league play for the first time since Samford joined the league in 2002.

Samford is off to its best start since 1995 and the best start the Bulldogs have enjoyed under sixth-year head coach Pat Sullivan.

The Catamounts will be in search of their first win of the Bulldogs since the Bulldogs joined the Southern Conference in 2008, and if Samford is able to pull off the win, they will deliver head coach Mark Speir his first Southern Conference win as a head coach, as well as the first win against a Division I opponent.

The Catamounts opened the season with a 42-14 win over Mars Hill.  The Catamounts' only win in nine meetings with the Bulldogs came way back in 1969.

Finally, Furman heads to Presbyterian for a non-conference test, and it will mark the first time since 1975 that the Paladins have played in Clinton, snapping a streak of 16-straight clashes in Greenville.

The Paladins are off to their first 0-3 start since 1979, which interestingly enough, is the last time the Paladins lost to PC on the gridiron, which was a 17-10 loss in Greenville.

Furman's 13 straight wins over PC is the second-most consecutive wins over an opponent, with the only other opponent the Paladins have more wins over being VMI, as the Paladins have claimed 21 consecutive wins over VMI.

WHO: Furman (0-3, 0-1 SoCon) at Presbyterian (1-2, 0-0 Big South)

WHERE: Bailey Memorial Stadium (6,500)

WHEN: Sept. 22, 2012, 12 p.m.

Overview: When Furman heads to Clinton, S.C., to face Presbyterian College on Saturday, it will look to right the wrongs of the opening three weeks of the 2012 season. It's the first time Furman has begun a season 0-3 since 1979.

Interestingly enough, that 1979 season is also the last time the Paladins tasted defeat against PC, as the Paladins dropped a 17-10 decision to the Blue Hose at Sirrine Stadium in Greenville.

Furman has dropped its opening three games of the 2012 season against Samford (24-21), Coastal Carolina (47-45, 3 OTs) and then-No. 11 Clemson (41-7).  

Meanwhile, Presbyterian opened the 2012 campaign with a 45-10 win over Division II Brevard, but have been outscored 117-3 in the past two weeks against Georgia Tech (59-3) and Vanderbilt (58-0). 

Saturday, PC will be hosting Furman in Clinton for the first time 1975, ending a streak of 16 straight games played in Greenville.

Furman comes into the matchup holding a commanding 41-11-1 all-time series edge and have claimed 13 straight wins over the Blue Hose, which accounts for the longest streak held by the Paladins against any opponent.

The Paladins and Blue Hose met last season, with the Paladins claiming a 62-21 win at Paladin Stadium on what was a record-setting afternoon for Paladin senior quarterback Chris Forcier, who set a league record for TD passes in a game with seven scoring tosses.

Preview: Furman is coming off perhaps its best performance of the 2012 season against Clemson last Saturday in Death Valley, and that may sound awkward, considering the Paladins were beaten handily, 41-7, by the Tigers.

Of particular note was the continued efficiency of the offense under the direction of true freshman quarterback Reese Hannon (41-for-64 passing, 490 yds, 5 TDs, 1 INT), who comes to Clinton on Saturday with officially 1.5 games of experience in his career as a Paladin, making just his first start as a Paladin last week.

Hannon leads a Furman offense that enters Saturday afternoon's showdown with the Blue Hose ranking 57th in the nation in scoring offense (24.3 PPG), 50th in total offense (383.3 YPG), 67th in rushing offense (135.0 YPG) and 28th in passing offense (246.3 YPG).

Hannon has helped the Paladins, who averaged 246.3 yards per game through the air, to the top of the SoCon in passing offense over the past couple of weeks.

All Hannon did last week was show that his SoCon Freshman of the Week performance that he provided two weeks ago against Coastal Carolina was no fluke, turning around and putting up solid numbers against Clemson last week. In the 41-7 setback to the Tigers, Hannon, a freshman from Greer, S.C., completed 19-of-29 passes for 239 yards, with a TD and an INT.

Hannon has plenty of solid receiving options to call upon, including preseason First Team All-America tight end Colin Anderson (8 rec, 114 yds, 14.2 YPR), who enters Saturday's matchup against the Blue Hose having caught 68 passes for 1,157 yards and 11 TDs in his career. Anderson is coming off a solid performance last week, hauling in four passes for 43 yards.

Senior Will King (14 rec, 250 yds, 2 TDs, 17.9 YPR) enters Saturday afternoon's contest against the Blue Hose as the SoCon's leading receiving option. King, a former walk-on, is in his first season as a starting wideout for the Paladins.

It was last year against PC in which King enjoyed his first scoring catch, hauling in a 10-yard pass for a score to give the Paladins a 48-14 lead heading into the halftime locker room. King will start at the slot receiver on Saturday for the Paladins.

Rounding out the starting contingent of receivers on Saturday against the Blue Hose will be split end Ryan Culbreath (15 rec, 200 yds, 2 TDs, 13.3 YPR) and Gary Robinson (3 rec, 27 yds, 9.0 YPR) at flanker. Culbreath is one of the most physical wideouts in the SoCon, as the 6-4, 213-pound junior has really come into his own in now his second season as a full-time starter for the Paladins.

Robinson is a talented sophomore that has yet to see the ball come his way all that much as of yet, but many around the program expect Robinson to be one of Furman's primary big-play receivers in this his first season as a full-time starter. 

Furman has one of the top one-two punches in the backfield of any team in the SoCon and maybe the nation entering Saturday's contest against the Blue Hose. Jerodis Williams (54 rush att, 270 yds, 2 TDs, 5.0 YPC) and Hank McCloud (26 att, 95 yds, 1 TD, 3.7 YPC).

Williams, a senior from Prattville, Ala., entered the season as a First-Team All-SoCon selection and he ranks sixth in the SoCon in rushing through the first three games of the season. In his career, Williams has rushed for 2,197 yards and 20 TDs, currently ranking ninth on the school's all-time rushing ledger.

Williams has yet to eclipse the century mark through the first three games of the 2012 season, but came close in the season opener, rushing for 98 yards and a score. In last season's 62-21 win over the Blue Hose, Williams rushed for 95 yards on 17 carries.

McCloud is Williams' heir apparent in the Furman backfield, and he has already given Furman fans much to be excited about in the very near future.

McCloud is an explosive runner and he can be dangerous if he gets to the second level of the defense with his tremendous speed. McCloud had a solid game against the Blue Hose last season, rushing for 54 yards and a TD on 13 rush attempts. 

The offensive line for the Paladins is anchored by Dakota Dozier, who entered the season as an all-league left tackle.

Countering what has been a potent Furman offense in the past two weeks will be a Presbyterian defense that enters the contest ranking 117th in total defense (525.6 YPG), 113th in scoring defense (42.3 PPG), 121st in rushing defense (325.6 YPG) and 38th in pass defense (274.0 YPG). The Blue Hose will operate out of a 4-3 defensive scheme on Saturday.

The Blue Hose came into the 2012 season with six regulars from last fall returning on the defensive side of the ball, but also lost some key performers, such as Justin Bethel, which is now playing on Sundays.

Anchoring the defensive front for the Blue Hose this fall have been defensive end Keyadd Miller (12 tackles, 2.0 TFL) and senior defensive tackle Xavier Boatwright (7 tackles). Boatwright was a key component of the PC defense last season and is one of those six returning starters on the defensive side of the football.

Weakside linebacker Donelle Williams (26 tackles) anchors what is a solid linebacking unit, and his 26 tackles lead the team this season. He will be joined on Saturday by bandit L.J. Perry (9 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1 PBU) and Isaiah Lynn (4 tackles) will occupy the middle linebacker position.  

The secondary was the strength of the PC defense last season, but that primarily had to do with the presence of Bethel. Anchoring that unit this season has been Cedric Byrd (16 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 4 PBUs), who ranks second on the team in tackles coming into Saturday's contest. 

Furman, which returned eight starters on the defensive side of the football coming into the 2012 season, has struggled to this point in the 2012 season.

Furman comes into the contest ranking 90th nationally in total defense (422.6 YPG), 97th in scoring defense (37.3 PPG), 54th in rush defense (148.6 YPG) and 100th in pass defense (274.0 YPG). Like PC, Furman will also utilize a 4-3 base on the defensive side of the ball.

The Paladins are led up front by the talented defensive end tandem of Josh Lynn (14 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 PBU) and Shawn Boone (7 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF), as the duo is one of the more talented units in the Southern Conference. For his career, Lynn has 22.5 TFL and seven sacks. 

The Paladins have been solid at linebacker this season, and the unit will be anchored by a pair of seniors, in middle linebacker Matt Solomon (31 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 PBUs) and strongside linebacker Mitch McGrath (21 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT).

Solomon currently ranks second in the SoCon in tackles this season, while McGrath was a preseason All-SoCon selection and has one of the Paladins' two INTs as a defense this fall. Weakside linebacker Gary Wilkins (28 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 PBU), a talented, athletic sophomore, rounds out the trio of starters for Furman.  

After struggling through the first couple of weeks, the Furman secondary seemed to rebound a bit last week, and one of it the bright spots last week was true freshman cornerback Reggie Thomas (6 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 INT), who drew his first start for Furman and picked off his first pass as a college football player. 

Furman's secondary has been anchored by preseason All-SoCon safeties Greg Worthy (19 tackles, 1 PBU) and Nathan Wade (28 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 2 PBUs). Both are hard-hitting players and are playmakers on the defensive side of the ball for the Paladins. 

PC brings an offense that has struggled the past couple of weeks, but that's understandable since the Blue Hose faced a couple of FBS foes the past couple of weeks. Coming into Saturday afternoon's showdown, the Blue Hose rank 99th nationally in the FCS in total offense (274.0 YPG), 93rd in scoring offense (16.0 PPG), 60th in rushing offense (144.0 YPG) and 103rd in pass offense (130.0 YPG).

The Blue Hose have employed the services of as many as three signal-callers this season, with the top performer in that trio being Tamyn Garrick (29-of-54 passing, 291 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs), and it will be Garrick that gets the start on Saturday for the Blue Hose. Kaleb Griffin (8-for-20 passing, 71 yds) and Chad Sanders (1-of-2 passing, 28 yds/7 rush att, 13 yds) have also seen time under center this season for the Blue Hose.

The leading receiving threat for the Blue Hose coming into Saturday's contest against the Paladins are Arthur Williams (9 rec, 80 yds, 1 TD, 8.9 YPR), Jeremiah McKie (6 rec, 59 yds, 9.8 YPR) and Michael Ruff (6 rec, 56 yds, 9.3 YPR). Ruff is probably the best all-around receiving threat of the three, while McKie and Williams are big play threats.

The ground attack will be led by Lance Byrd (45 rush att, 220 yds, 4.9 YPC), who's an All-Big South running back candidate, and he will run behind a solid offensive line, which is anchored by a pair of junior tackles, in Sterling Jenkins and Tim Fowler. 

Final Score Prediction: Furman 42, Presbyterian 21

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