"Hunger" has been a preseason keyword for The Citadel's football team, and this time it has nothing to do with the military school's mess hall.
Nor does it mean the Bulldogs are planning a weekend stop at Spartanburg's famed Beacon Drive-In.
It does mean Citadel football players and coaches have an empty spot from last year's 5-6 record that Southern Conference championships filled nicely in 2015 and 2016.
"We've got a hungry team, and that's what we're excited about," says Citadel coach Brent Thompson, whose third Bulldogs team opens the 2018 season at defending SoCon champion Wofford. "I like the mindset of this football team; they've worked their butts off.
"They felt they underachieved last year, and they know they underachieved last year. That's something they had to find out and learn for themselves."
A victory over Wofford would go a long way toward satisfying that hunger; these two teams have won or shared the last three SoCon titles.
Here are four key factors for Saturday's 6 p.m. game at Gibbs Stadium:
New Wofford coach Josh Conklin has named junior Joe Newman as the new starting quarterback, replacing Brandon Goodson. But the Bulldogs are quite familiar with the 5-11, 181-pound Newman; he came off the bench to lead Wofford to a 17-3 win over The Citadel in the 2016 FCS playoffs. His 36-yard TD run put the Terriers ahead to stay.
Keeping the fleet-footed Newman under control will be key. If he's ineffective, Wofford could turn to sophomore Miller Mosley, a transfer from Air Force.
Andre and the Giants
Wofford returns battering ram fullback Andre Stoddard (5-10, 240) and its usual stockpile of beef on the line, going 290, 285, 290, 305 and 290 across the front, including center Blake Jeresaty (6-2, 290) of Bishop England.
The Citadel's defense actually did a great job against the Terriers' rushing attack in last year's 20-16 loss, holding Stoddard to 10 yards and Wofford to 89 rushing yards. A repeat of that performance would be huge.
Unable to run on the Bulldogs last year, Wofford won by throwing the ball, with Goodson hitting 11 of 17 passes for 219 yards and a 59-yard TD to returning receiver Jason Hill.
The Citadel's secondary is the most untested part of the team, with three new starters joining senior safety Aron Spann. The Bulldogs must keep Wofford's receivers in front of them.
Back with Black
After sharing time with Dominique Allen the last two seasons, junior Jordan Black takes over as The Citadel's starting quarterback. Barring injury, he should play most of the meaningful snaps and must help the Bulldogs' better last year's totals of 37.4-percent passing and 21.5 points per game.
Wofford 24, The Citadel 21