Citadel among six teams with playoff hopes as chaos reigns in SoCon football
It’s all The Citadel’s fault, of course.
The Bulldogs’ early upset victories over Georgia Southern and Appalachian State — then ranked No. 3 and No. 7 in FCS, respectively — set the tone for a wild and woolly Southern Conference football season.
With only two weeks left before the 20-team FCS playoff field is announced on Nov. 18, four SoCon teams still have a chance for at least a share of the league championship, and six still have playoff aspirations.
The only thing that’s been decided is that Georgia Southern (7-2, 6-2) will win at least a share of the league title. Everything else, including the SoCon’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, is still up for grabs.
“It really is incredible the way things have worked out in the Southern Conference,” said Citadel coach Kevin Higgins, whose team is at 5-4 overall and 4-3 in the league and still hoping to make a case for a playoff bid. “Everybody’s beating everybody else.”
In the training room Sunday after a 38-24 win over Elon, Citadel players wondered what it would take for the Bulldogs to earn a bid. But Higgins would prefer his players focus on Saturday’s game at military school rival VMI (2-7), with the coveted Silver Shako at stake.
“Our mantra this week is, ‘Don’t do the math,’ ” he said. “Don’t worry about numbers, don’t worry about who is going to beat who. We can worry about that later.”
The Bulldogs’ hopes for their first playoff bid since 1992 are a long shot at best, even assuming they win out against VMI and Furman to finish at 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the SoCon.
According to Jeff Sagarin’s ratings at USA Today, The Citadel ranks at No. 42 among FCS teams, with Georgia Southern No. 6, Wofford No. 17, App State No. 20, Chattanooga No. 22 and Samford at No. 30. The SoCon is No. 3 among FCS leagues, behind the Missouri Valley and Big Sky.
But the odds might not be as grim as they appeared on Saturday, when word filtered into Johnson Hagood Stadium that App State had upset Georgia Southern and Samford had knocked off Wofford in double overtime.
Here’s a brief look at what Citadel fans should hope for over the final two weeks:
For Wofford (7-2, 5-2 SoCon) to lose to Chattanooga on Saturday and to USC on Nov. 17. That would leave the Terriers at 7-4 overall and without the minimum six Division I wins the selection committee likes to see (Wofford beat D-II Lincoln, 82-0).
For App State (7-3, 5-2) to lose at home to Furman on Saturday. A long shot.
For Chattanooga (5-4, 4-2) to beat Wofford and then lose to Elon. Even if the Mocs win out, they’ll only have six D-I wins (they beat Glenville State, 35-0).
For Samford (6-3, 4-3) to lose at Elon on Saturday and/or at Kentucky on Nov. 17. Like Chattanooga and Wofford, Samford has a win over a non-Division I team (34-6 over D-II West Alabama).
For all of that to mean anything, of course, the Bulldogs need to win at VMI to clinch their second winning record in eight years under Higgins.
“If and when we beat VMI, then we’ll have an opportunity to talk about the numbers after that,” Higgins said. “But let’s go beat VMI.”
The Bulldogs escaped Saturday’s game with Elon without any major injuries.
The Citadel has not played at VMI since 2007, when the Bulldogs won, 70-28, to finish off a 7-4 season.
VMI has beaten only Chowan (24-17) and Presbyterian (17-7) this season. The Citadel beat the Keydets, 41-14, last season.