COLUMBIA — It’s finally Big South Conference season for Charleston Southern, and the Buccaneers start with perhaps the toughest task the league has to offer.
Charleston Southern heads to Stony Brook to face the Seawolves, who have won three Big South titles in a row, including going undefeated in the league last year. And this Stony Brook team might be even better after beating Football Bowl Subdivision Army 23-3 last weekend.
“I wish I could find a weakness,” Buccaneers coach Jay Mills said. “But they are as good of a football team as I have seen in my 10 years in the league.”
In other games involving South Carolina’s Football Championship Subdivision teams Saturday, Presbyterian travels to VMI; Furman is at Wofford; The Citadel goes to Samford; and South Carolina State plays North Carolina Central in Indianapolis (see story at TheBulldogzone.com).
In Division II action, Benedict (0-5 overall, 0-2 SIAC) hosts Stillman at 2 p.m. in Columbia, while Newberry (4-1, 2-1 SAC) travels to Tigerville to take on North Greenville (0-5) at 7 p.m. at Younts Stadium.
• IN STONY BROOK, N.Y., Charleston Southern (1-3) will try to break a seven-game Big South losing streak against Stony Brook (4-1) in the league opener for both teams.
The Buccaneers were off last Saturday, and Mills said he told his team to take the weekend off and rejuvenate. He watched the Seawolves against Army and was quite impressed.
“We’re only concerned when they are on the field on offense, defense and special teams,” Mills said.
Charleston Southern has won just one game between the teams since Stony Brook joined the Big South, but Seawolves coach Chuck Priore said the Buccaneers are much better than the team that lost all 11 games last season,
• IN LEXINGTON, VA., Presbyterian (2-3) finally gets to play a Big South game that really means something against VMI (1-3).
After five years of waiting, the NCAA made the Blue Hose full Division I members in August, making Presbyterian eligible for the league title and the FCS playoff bid that goes with it,
“Having an opportunity to play for postseason play, that’s something we haven’t been able to say around here for a while,” Blue Hose coach Harold Nichols said.
VMI coach Sparky Woods is excited to open conference play, too and his Keydets have been looking forward to the game against Presbyterian for a while.
“I remember the beating we took last year from them,” Woods said of the Blue Hose’s 38-6 win last season.
• IN SPARTANBURG, Wofford (4-0, 2-0 Southern Conference) renews South Carolina’s oldest football rivalry against Furman (2-3, 1-1).
The Terriers won that first game in 1889 under very different rules by the odd-looking 5-1 score. Wofford coach Mike Ayers wasn’t around for that one, but he remembers last season’s 26-21 loss to Furman well.
“We’re going to have to play better than we did last year, I guarantee you that,” Ayers said.
Wofford’s all-SoCon fullback, Eric Breitenstein, is coming off the best game of an illustrious career. The senior ran for a league record 321 yards in the Terriers 49-24 win over Elon.
“When you have something like that occur, a lot of things have go right. It starts with the offensive front. Then, he has an uncanny ability to see the hole,” Ayers said.
Furman coach Bruce Fowler said his team continues to improve after an 0-3 start. The Paladins have averaged better than 537 yards in their past two games and have not allowed a play over 44 yards in their two wins.
But Fowler said the improvement might be tougher to find Saturday against Wofford.
“We play against a team that is one of the top five teams in the county — just solid in every phase of the game and been that way for several years,” Fowler said.
• IN BIRMINGHAM, ALA., The Citadel (3-2, 2-1 SoCon) needs a quick turnaround against Samford (4-1, 2-1) to keep The Citadel’s hopes of a first league title and FCS playoff bid in two decades alive.
The Citadel lost its first FCS game of the season 28-10 against Chattanooga, and looked outmatched all game. Even with wins over SoCon powers Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, one more loss could knock The Citadel out of the title race.
But coach Kevin Higgins said he isn’t making this game too big of a deal for his player.
“When we talk to our team, we don’t talk about ’must wins’ or ’have to.’ When you do that it only ends up bring more pressure,” Higgins said. “We talk about getting excited for the opportunities to play in a game like this.”
Samford played Georgia Southern and its triple-option offense last week, and Higgins sees advantages for both teams this week.
“From our standpoint we see how Samford defends the triple option against Georgia Southern and can assess when they performed well. On the other hand, Samford has already had one week of practice preparing for the triple option,” Higgins said.