SAPAKOFF COLUMN: South Carolina and Clemson are top 10 teams, but Citadel tops them both
Who’s afraid of the big, bad Wolfpack?
Not Citadel quarterback Ben Dupree, one of three Bulldogs to run for more than 100 yards in Saturday’s 52-28 victory at Appalachian State. He got a chance to scout this week’s foe, N.C. State, as the Wolfpack suffered a 35-21 loss to Tennessee on Aug. 31.
“The main thing I remember about that game is I was very impressed with Tennessee’s quarterback (Tyler Bray),” Dupree said Monday. “And (N.C. State’s) All-American cornerback (David Amerson), he did look pretty good. But we run the triple-option so he’s going to have to play very physical and make tackles. He’s not going to have many chances to make plays in the passing game. So we’re not really worried about that too much.”
For the first time, South Carolina (No. 7) and Clemson (No. 10) are ranked in the Associated Press top 10 at the same time. And yet the most impressive 3-0 team in the Palmetto State operates out of a modest practice field on the Ashley River.
The Bulldogs have improved each week, with home wins over Charleston Southern (claiming “Chucktown Throwdown” bragging rights) and Georgia Southern (picked to win the Southern Conference) before the somewhat scenic bus ride to Boone.
Of course, you never want your favorite football team to peak too early.
But if The Citadel gets by N.C. State, the Bulldogs deserve one of the ACC’s designated bowl spots. I’m thinking maybe the Music City Bowl against Washington or the Sun Bowl.
Should be No. 2
If you believe major college polls are foolishly weighted with preseason expectations, check out the latest Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll.
The Citadel is No. 14.
Behind No. 10 Georgia Southern.
And No. 11 Montana, which lost at No. 18 Appalachian State.
An evaluation of the rankings shows only No. 1 North Dakota State (with a win at FBS-member Colorado State) deserves a better ranking than The Citadel, and barely.
N.C. State is a soft 2-1.
“It’s always exciting as a coach and as players to go against an FBS program,” Citadel head coach Kevin Higgins said Monday. “As players, you have a chance to measure yourself against the best athletes in the country. If you’re playing at this level, you think that you are the best. This is an opportunity where you get up on Sunday morning and you look in the mirror and say, ‘You know what, I can play against the very best in the country.’ As we did last year against South Carolina and in previous games.”
That’s the standard Higgins stump speech. He said pretty much the same thing last November, a few days before The Citadel lost 41-20 at South Carolina to finish 4-7.
Except that a few things happened in that Bulldogs regular season finale that have carried over.
The Citadel rushed for 241 yards against a Gamecocks defense that gave up four rushing yards to Vanderbilt, 35 at Tennessee and 79 to Kentucky.
With 22 seconds remaining at Williams-Brice Stadium, Higgins called a timeout. After a simple fullback dive, he called another timeout with 16 seconds left.
“Two-fold,” the coach explained that afternoon. “No. 1, we wanted to give our guys a chance to run more plays; we have a lot of guys coming back. And we wanted to show we will never quit. We will keep battling right to the end, and that was a way of showing that to ourselves.”
There is no official line on the Citadel-N.C. State game. But the Jeff Sagarin computer ranking, part of the Bowl Championship Series formula, essentially favors the Wolfpack by 14 points.
The Sagarin point spread for Florida State over Clemson is the same.
Perhaps they should be frightened, but the guess here is that the Tigers see their Tallahassee upset task as something less than monumental.
At another ACC venue, The Citadel is every bit as capable.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at email@example.com or Twitter/ @sapakoff.