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The Citadel's Joseph Randolph II celebrates after a sack against Furman last season. Lauren Petracca/Staff

The Citadel and Furman have been playing each other in football since 1913, but something new will happen in Saturday's 99th edition of one of the game's oldest rivalries.

There will be beer sold at Paladin Stadium in Greenville.

The "Champions Grove Beer Garden" will make its debut for Saturday's 1 p.m. homecoming game against the Bulldogs, Furman announced this week.

For Citadel fans to be able to toast a victory in the Champions Grove, the Bulldogs will need their best effort of the season against FCS No. 8 Furman. The Paladins have been the best team in the Southern Conference this season, and may be the best on The Citadel's schedule.

"The best team we've played so far? Probably, in some regards, I think they are," said Citadel coach Brent Thompson, whose team's 3-4 record includes a 27-24 overtime upset of ACC member Georgia Tech.

"They put you in a lot of different binds. They know what they are doing, they play pretty tough and formation you pretty good on offense. So yeah, they're probably the toughest team we'll face all year long."

Furman (4-2, 3-0 SoCon) doesn't own an FBS upset along the lines of The Citadel's win at Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs' first over a current ACC member. The Paladins lost 48-42 to the Sun Belt's Georgia State and 24-17 against the ACC's Virginia Tech.

But the Paladins have steamrolled FCS competition by an average score of 42-12, including wins over Charleston Southern (46-13), Mercer (45-10), ETSU (17-10) and Samford (58-14).

Quarterback Darren Grainger has been a difference-maker in his redshirt freshman season, hitting 59.6 percent of his throws for 162.3 yards per game, with 11 touchdowns against just two interceptions.

But Furman's offense has done its best work on the ground, averaging 298 rushing yards per game. Running back Devin Wynn goes for 8.4 yards per carry and 106.5 yards per game behind an offensive line that averages 6-5 and 292 pounds, led by All-SoCon tackle Bo Layton (6-7, 287).

On defense, Citadel nemesis Chad Staggs is no longer the Paladins' defensive coordinator, having moved on to Coastal Carolina. But Furman has been outstanding under new coordinator Duane Vaughn, a Vanderbilt grad who was promoted from outside linebackers coach to replace Staggs.

Furman is allowing just 19.8 points (first in the SoCon) and 368 yards per game (third in the SoCon). Linebacker Jordan Willis is the Paladins' top tackler, and defensive end Dru Seabrook has four sacks.

The Bulldogs are coming off a much-needed 35-17 win over Western Carolina, snapping a two-game skid. Quarterback Brandon Rainey looked the best he has since a Sept. 14 knee injury suffered at Georgia Tech, running for 87 yards and two touchdowns, and throwing for three more scores.

Fullback Clay Harris (154 yards) and slotback Remus Bulmer (two TD catches) had breakout games, and The Citadel's defense posted six sacks against WCU QB Tyrie Adams, forcing three turnovers.

Against Furman, which has won two straight over The Citadel, including a 56-20 debacle in Greenville in 2017, the Bulldogs will have to be even better.

"We were good last week," Thompson said. "We'll have to be outstanding this week."

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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