Florida vs. Furman Football: 10 Things to Know About the Paladins

Stephen WaldronContributor IINovember 18, 2011

Florida vs. Furman Football: 10 Things to Know About the Paladins

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    The Gators return home after a 17-12 loss to 13th-ranked South Carolina last week, their ninth straight to a ranked opponent. Their offense was slowed down once again and held to only 261 total yards (119 passing, 142 rushing). John Brantley was a non-factor, and South Carolina ran the ball all over the Gators, accruing 215 yards on the day. They now sit at 5-5 on the season and an ugly 3-5 record in the SEC. This is the first year the Gators will have a losing conference record since 1986. 

    This week, they welcome the FCS’ own Furman Paladins. It will be the ninth overall meeting between the schools and the first since 1990. The Gators have won the last six in the series and own the edge over Furman 6-2. 

    Furman, a member of the Southern Conference, owns a 6-4 record and has had an up-and-down season. They’ve defeated some of the FCS’ best teams and lost to the mediocre ones. They too have a head coach, Bruce Fowler, in his first season as the boss and a quarterback in the Forcier family tree.

    Those are only a few of the things you need to know about the Furman Paladins, and I’m here to tell you much more. 

Furman?

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    For the non Division I-AA football fan, there is much to learn about the Furman Paladins. We’ll start off with a few of the basics:

    Furman University is located in Greenville, S.C. and is home to almost 3,000 undergraduate students. 

    They play in the Southern Conference in the Football Championship Subdivision and have been a member of the SoCon since 1936. 

    They’ve captured 12 league championships throughout their history. 

    They received votes in the most recent FCS Top 25 poll. 

    They are in their 106th season of collegiate football. 

    They were the first school in South Carolina to play football. 

How Does the FCS Playoff System Work?

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    The FCS playoffs consist of the top 20 teams in the country, recently expanded last season from 16.

    A committee of 11 athletic directors will select the 20-team FCS field. 

    An AD isn't allowed to be in the room when the merits of his school's team are being discussed. 

    The top five teams are seeded and are guaranteed to host games through the semifinals unless they play a higher-seeded team. 

    Ten automatic bids go out to 10 conference champions. 

    Ten at-large bids are given out at the committee’s discretion. 

    Committee members have never given an at-large bid to a team with less than seven wins (Furman has six and is not currently projected to make it.). 

    Twelve teams earn first round byes 

    First round games begin next Saturday, the 26th. 

    FBS teams, take notice at this perfect format.

Furman Is Being Well Compensated

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    It’s common knowledge that whenever FCS opponents play FBS schools, it’s more or less the bigger, more powerful schools buying a win. In a few rare cases, it totally backfires, most notably with Appalachian State upsetting Michigan, Jacksonville State upsetting Ole Miss in double overtime last season and Sacramento State upsetting Oregon State week one of this season.

    In this particular game, Furman is receiving a stipend of approximately $450,000. As it turns out, Florida is pretty much buying their way into a bowl game. They currently sit at five wins, one shy of bowl eligibility, and the only other opponent on the Gators schedule is the 25th-ranked Florida State Seminoles, who’ve been hitting on all strides recently.

    If the Gators stumble and fall against Furman this weekend, they will have wasted a lot of money and may miss their first bowl game since 2005.

Furman vs. the FBS

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    Since being delegated into the then Division I-AA classification in 1982, the Furman Paladins have played 27 FBS schools and have a 5-21-1 record to show for it. Their first five seasons in the new division saw them seeking revenge for the downgrade and went 4-1-1 against FBS teams with wins over big schools such as South Carolina, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.

    Since then, they haven’t boded quite as well. They’ve gone 1-19 since 1987, and their lone win came against North Carolina in 1999. 

    In defense of the Paladins, many opportunities they have gotten have come against nationally ranked teams. Last season, Furman fell to then 13th-ranked South Carolina, the eventual SEC East Champions, and in 2006, they had a 35-31 fourth-quarter lead over UNC, but could not hold on and fell 41-38. 

They Have a Very Tough Schedule

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    Don’t let the 6-4 record fool you; these guys can play. Their schedule this season has pitted them against the best of the best in the FCS. Take a look at their notable games this season:

    10/15: lost to then No. 1 Georgia Southern, 50-20. 

    10/22: defeated then No. 5 Wofford, a team that gave Clemson a run for their money. 

    11/5: defeated then No. 3 Appalachian State, 20-10 

    Barring let downs against Coastal Carolina, Samford and most recently Elon, Furman could’ve been a one-loss team on the brink of an excellent season. 

Playing the Numbers Game

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    When you look at the numbers blindly, Furman’s offense outgains and outscores the Gators in the four major categories, but is this a fair comparison? The caliber of opponents is certainly not equivalent, but at the end of the day, the numbers still do tell a story:

    Furman outscores Florida 28.3 to 24.6 

    Furman outgains Florida 383.7 to 337.3 

    Furman outrushes Florida 187.0 to 155.0 

    Furman out passes Florida 223.5 to 182.3 

    Turn the tables, and Florida’s defense tops Furman in those four same categories. Factor in the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd of over 88,000 screaming fans, and I’d give the edge to the Gators, but crazier things have happened (Appalachian State). IF the unthinkable does occur, the numbers were a tell tale that it’s possible.

Let’s Meet the Paladins

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    Florida may have their hands full with Furman quarterback Chris Forcier, the nation’s most efficient passer and brother of former Michigan quarterback Tate. He owns a 180.93 rating through their first 10 games and currently holds a 2.74-point lead over Brian Bell of Sam Houston State going into the final weekend of the season.

    Sam Houston State is going up against Texas State on Saturday, and should Forcier hold his lead, he’ll become the first Paladin to lead the nation in passing efficiency since 1985.

    He’s a three-time 2011 Southern Conference Player of the Week, threw for seven touchdowns in a game against Presbyterian, broken the school-record for total offense in a single game and is on the brink of breaking several other records. Any chance Furman has lies on the shoulders of their star player, Chris Forcier. 

Colin Anderson

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    Colin Anderson, a walk-on, is the team’s leading receiver this season, and with a quarterback like Forcier under center, he’ll see plenty of targets against Florida, as they’ll likely be playing catch up. 

    He’s caught 38 passes this season for 668 yards and seven touchdowns. He averages 66.8 receiving yards per game, good for fourth in the Southern Conference. He’s surpassed 1,000 yards on his career, and his 11-career touchdown receptions rank as the most by a tight end in school history.  

Ryan Steed

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    He’s a Buck Buchanon Award watch list selection for the most outstanding defensive player in the FCS, a preseason All-American and an All-Conference cornerback. He’s the defensive leader and is undoubtedly playing like it. He’s had an interception in the last four games and has notched 14 on his career, three of which were returned for six points, ranking him third in school-history in that category, two behind the all-time leader, Vince Perone, Jr.

    This season, he has 43 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, four interceptions, four pass break-ups, a blocked kick and a fumble recovery for 48 yards. He is their shutdown corner, and Coach Fowler relies on him as a playmaker.

    He’s more than capable of causing problems for Florida’s offense, and I’m sure Will Muschamp is well aware of his presence. 

Mitch McGrath

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    Junior linebacker Mitch McGrath is putting forth a season for the Furman record books. In their win over Chattanooga three weeks ago, McGrath recorded nine tackles, four sacks (most in a game by a Paladin since 2001), an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. FBS or FCS, that is quite a game. For that effort, he earned National Player of the Week honors, rightfully so. 

    One week later against Appalachian State, he had 13 tackles and an interception to prove he was not a one-week wonder.  He’s recorded 79 total tackles so far this season, four interceptions, four sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Look out, John Brantley. 

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