John Hooper is one of HERO Sports' FCS Campus Correspondents, and he resides in the Greenville-Spartanburg area of South Carolina. He's a longtime Southern Conference "expert" and tracks the league for HERO Sports. You can follow John on Twitter @SoConJohn. Read John's SoCon picks every week.
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SOCON WEEK SEVEN PICKS
Week seven is a light week in Southern Conference football, but it is an important one. Last week was my worst yet in terms of predicting games in the Southern Conference race, as my apologies go out to Gardner-Webb, VMI, Chattanooga and Wofford. All told, I went 1-4 on the week–awful for someone that calls himself SoCon John, right? The only game I got correct was Furman’s win over fashion, although again it came in a much different fashion than I thought.
REPORT CARD: SoCon's Midseason Look
Here’s a look at how week seven might pan out.
Western Carolina (1-4, 0-3 SoCon) at The Citadel (2-4, 0-2 SoCon), 2 p.m. EST
Suddenly The Citadel’s season looks like it is on life-support after being ranked in the Top 25 just a couple of weeks ago. Back-to-back losses to Samford (61-55) in quadruple overtime and a surprising, 34-21, loss to VMI in the Battle for the Silver Shako has the Bulldogs sitting out 2-4 overall and 0-2 in league play.
Part of the issue for the Bulldogs has been a less-than-100% Brandon Rainey (33-of-57 passing, 552 yds, 5 TDs, 3 INTs/113 rush att, 346 rush yds, 11 TDs, 3.1 YPC) under center, who hasn’t looked completely healthy since the Bulldogs 27-24 win over Georgia Tech three weeks ago, which captured the attention of the college football nationwide. Now, the Bulldogs seem to be paying a heavy price for that big win.
Rainey did look like himself last week running the option to the perimeter against the Keydets, and the normally high-octane Bulldog ground game could muster only 78 yards against the VMI defense. The good news for Citadel fans is the Bulldog running game could get healthy quickly Saturday, facing off against one of the worst rush defenses in the nation. The Catamounts enter the matchup ranking 115th of 124 teams (261.8 YPG) against the run. The meeting between the Bulldogs and Catamounts will mark the 43rd all-time clash, with The Citadel holding a 25-17 edge, including a 38-24 win in Cullowhee last season. In fact, the Bulldogs have won six of the past eight meetings between the two dating back to 2011.
The Catamounts reached a low point last week, with a 24-21 loss to Gardner-Webb. Despite having preseason SoCon Offensive Player of the Year Tyrie Adams (50-of-75 passing, 510 yds, 4 TDs, 3 INTs/46 rush att, 193 yds, 3 TDs, 4.2 YPC) back under center, the Catamounts still struggled to move the football, with the Catamount offense accounting for just 362 yards of total offense against a bad Gardner-Webb defense. That doesn’t bode well for this week. Adams did account for 236 yards of total offense (138 pass yds, 98 rush yds) and two touchdown responsibilities (1 passing, 1 rushing) last Saturday. The Citadel gets back on track in a big way with a big win Saturday afternoon in front of the home fans at Johnson-Hagood Stadium.
Final Score Prediction: The Citadel 48, Western Carolina 21
Samford (3-3, 2-1 SoCon) at VMI (3-3, 2-1 SoCon), 1:30 p.m. EST
It might be a light week in Southern Conference football as far as games go, but the one between Samford and VMI certainly is one that catches the eye and one that might prove pivotal as we get into the meat of the Southern Conference slate in October. Talking about important games for the Keydets hasn’t been a thing quite some time, and the reason the Keydets have been so efficient is because they have one of, if not the best quarterback in the Southern Conference, in Reece Udinski (155-of-252 passing, 1,661 yds, 13 TDS, 0 INTs). Udinski has already set the SoCon record for most passes thrown without an interception.
Samford has had some issues with injuries at quarterback the past couple of weeks, and the Bulldogs played both Liam Welch (35-of-61 passing, 382 yds, 4 TDs, 4 INTs/18 rush att, 12 yds, 1 TD, 0.7 YPC) and Chris Oladokun (81-of-129 passing, 1,291 yds, 12 TDs, 5 INTs/56 rush att, 266 yds, 6 TDs, 4.8 YPC) split time under center last week in the Bulldogs’ 58-14 home loss to Furman. The Bulldogs were unable to establish any offensive continuity against the stout Paladin defense.
VMI running back Alex Ramsey (121 rush att, 647 rush yds, 9 TDs, 5.3 YPC) has also been outstanding this season and currently ranks tops in the SoCon in yards gained. A young Bulldog defense has had trouble stopping the run this season, surrendering 264.0 YPG on the ground to rank 116th nationally. I think that will be the difference Saturday, as the Keydets move to 3-1 in SoCon play and above .500 overall in mid-October.
Final Score Prediction: VMI 41, Samford 35
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