The Citadel at South Carolina, to be played in Columbia, South Carolina, at Williams-Brice Stadium, with kickoff at 12:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 21. The game will be televised on the SEC Network [alternate feed], with play-by-play from Taylor Zarzour, analysis by Charles Arbuckle, and reporting from Paul Finebaum.
The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game.
Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.
It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.
Links of interest:
– The Citadel confident in its playoff résumé
– 25 years later, The Citadel’s upset of South Carolina still resonates
– Game notes from The Citadel and South Carolina
– SoCon weekly release
– SEC weekly release
– Mike Houston on the SoCon teleconference
– Shawn Elliott discusses The Citadel (video)
– Gamecocks have reason to be wary of The Citadel
– South Carolina defensive coordinator Jon Hoke discusses The Citadel’s triple option (video)
– Mike Houston’s 11/17 press conference (with comments from Mitchell Jeter and Tyler Renew)
– The Mike Houston Show (video from his radio show)
– Preview of The Citadel-Chattanooga from The State (video)
– Everette Sands coaches against his alma mater on Saturday (with video)
– Triple option challenges South Carolina’s defense
– Quinlan Washington and Eric Goins added to “watch lists”
– FCS Coaches’ Poll
Besides being televised on an alternate feed of SEC Network (611-1 on DirecTV, and available on most cable/satellite systems), the game between The Citadel and South Carolina will also be the site of the “SEC Nation” pregame show. The on-air crew will include Joe Tessitore, Marcus Spears, Tim Tebow, and Paul Finebaum.
In addition to his duties on the pregame show, Finebaum will also be the SEC Network’s sideline reporter for the football game that follows. It will be the first time Finebaum has assumed that role:
“I thought it’d be fun, a non-traditional approach. I imagine it’ll mostly be chatter about next week [when the Gamecocks host No. 1-ranked Clemson].”
Essentially, then, he won’t be paying attention to the game on the field. I find that extremely disappointing, both from Finebaum and ESPN.
The last time The Citadel played South Carolina, in 2011, I wrote about a great gridiron victory by the Bulldogs over the Gamecocks. I didn’t write about the 1990 game, though. Instead, I focused on the 1950 clash, which was played at Johnson Hagood Stadium and may have been an even bigger upset.
Instead of doing a copy/paste job, I’ll just link that year’s preview post. The first half of the post is a story on that 1950 contest, won by The Citadel 19-7: Link
Okay, let’s talk about the FCS playoffs…
First, the basics. Twenty-four teams will make the playoffs; ten will get automatic bids, fourteen will be at-large selections.
Sixteen of those teams play in the first round. The eight teams that advance from that group play eight “seeded” teams in the second round (in other words, those seeded teams get byes; they also will be the automatic host teams for the second round unless something strange happens).
From there, teams advance to the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. The title game will be played January 9, 2016, in Frisco, Texas.
Three conferences do not get automatic bids. The Ivy League doesn’t participate in postseason football action, while the SWAC and MEAC champs will play in the new Celebration Bowl instead.
However, one caveat: SWAC and MEAC teams can receive at-large bids. A team could finish 2nd in the MEAC, for example, and go to the FCS playoffs, while the champion of that league plays in the Celebration Bowl.
This year, that could be an issue, at least in the MEAC. I’ll get to that later.
Here are the leagues that get automatic bids, and the teams that have clinched bids so far:
Patriot League – Colgate
Ohio Valley – Jacksonville State
Pioneer League – Dayton
Southern – Chattanooga
Southland – McNeese State
Big South – Charleston Southern
The Northeast Conference title will be decided in a winner-take-all game between St. Francis (PA) and Duquesne. No other school in that league will get a bid.
The other three leagues that haven’t had auto-bids decided yet will have multiple teams in the field.
Here are the teams that are “locks”. No matter what happens Saturday, these teams will have their names called on Selection Sunday:
Colgate, Fordham, Jacksonville State, Dayton, Chattanooga, McNeese State, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, William & Mary, James Madison, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Illinois State, Portland State
The winner of St. Francis-Duquesne also gets in, obviously, so that’s fifteen teams in the field. There will be nine more that make it. Here, in roughly the order I think they would be in if the season ended today, are the contenders for those nine spots. I believe there are sixteen teams that still have a shot:
Sam Houston State
Four of these teams (Southern Utah, Montana, Northern Arizona, and Richmond) could grab auto-bids. The latter three have to win and hope other results go their way; Southern Utah just has to win its game to be the outright Big Sky champion.
Now, I’m going to list the games Bulldog fans should be following on Saturday, including times (ET), lines, and TV/streaming options, with teams to pull for (if you root for The Citadel) mentioned in bold.
The matchups are (very) roughly in order of importance, but don’t make too much of that. There aren’t any absolute must-wins (or losses) on the board as far as The Citadel is concerned, and you could also make an argument in two of these matchups that it would be better if the other team won the game.
- Villanova-James Madison, noon, MadiZONE streaming video (on JMU’s website); James Madison favored by 6 points
- William & Mary-Richmond, noon, CSN-MidAtlantic/SNY; William & Mary favored by 4 points
- North Dakota-Cal Poly, 9:05pm, Big Sky Digital Network; Cal Poly favored by 7 points
- Florida A&M vs. Bethune-Cookman (in Orlando), 2:30pm, ESPN Classic; Bethune-Cookman favored by 19 points
- Montana-Montana State, 2:10pm, Root-Southwest/Rocky Mountain/Northwest; Montana favored by 7 points
- Southern Illinois-Northern Iowa, 5:00 pm, ESPN3; Northern Iowa favored by 11 points
- Northern Arizona-Southern Utah, 5:00pm, Big Sky Digital Network; Southern Utah favored by 10 points
- Portland State-Eastern Washington, 5:05pm, Big Sky Digital Network; Portland State favored by 5 points
- Rhode Island-Towson, 2:00pm, Towson All-Access (on TU’s website); Towson favored by 20 points
- Maine-New Hampshire, 1:00pm, pay-per-streaming (on UNH’s website); New Hampshire favored by 10 points
- Eastern Kentucky-Eastern Illinois, 2:00pm, ESPN3; Eastern Illinois favored by 4 points
- Sam Houston State-Central Arkansas, 7:00pm, ESPN3; Sam Houston State favored by 4 points
Quick notes on some of these games:
– A loss almost certainly knocks out every non-bolded team on this list, with the possible exception of Richmond. The Spiders would be 7-4 with a loss, against a respectable schedule, and also have a road win over James Madison.
Richmond’s issue is that it would have finished the season on a three-game losing streak, and would be competing with New Hampshire and/or Towson to be the 3rd CAA team in the field (having lost to New Hampshire, and having not played Towson).
– I believe the winner of Sam Houston State-Central Arkansas gets in, and the loser is left out. Part of me would root for Central Arkansas in this game, because UCA has a lopsided loss to Samford on its résumé, so The Citadel would compare favorably if that is taken into consideration.
However, my fear is that both SHSU and Central Arkansas could get in if UCA wins this game, despite Sam Houston State only having 6 D1 wins in that scenario. The problem is that the Bobcats are a “name” in FCS, and are currently ranked 12th.
I think it might be better for The Citadel if Sam Houston State won this game, essentially punching its ticket, and the Southland gets its standard two teams in the playoffs — rather than risking three Southland postseason entrants.
You could argue it either way.
– The loser of Eastern Kentucky-Eastern Illinois is out. The winner may get in, but it wouldn’t be a lock. The Citadel has a better case than either of them anyway, in my opinion.
– North Dakota has a victory over an FBS team. Admittedly, that FBS team is Wyoming, which probably wouldn’t finish in the top 3 of the Big Sky this season, but any FBS win will look good to the selection committee. I could see UND making a late move up and grabbing a bid, especially if it can win on the road at Cal Poly.
– Right now, I think The Citadel would be in with a couple of spots to spare. However, the Bulldogs could be “jumped” by a few teams. I am worried about the logjam in the Big Sky (a league that has historically fared well when bids are handed out) and the CAA (with a couple of last-gasp pushes by Towson and New Hampshire).
– Bethune-Cookman is the wild card in all of this, and may be the team that concerns me the most. The Wildcats are playing 1-9 Florida A&M on Saturday, and a win would move B-C to 9-2 on the season, with 8 Division I victories.
Bethune-Cookman is unlikely to get the MEAC’s bid to the Celebration Bowl even if North Carolina A&T loses this week, because of the tiebreaker setup in that conference. However, if B-C ties for the league title (or even if it finishes second), it would not be completely surprising to see B-C’s name on the bracket on Sunday.
I don’t think it would be deserving, as the Wildcats’ schedule strength is not good at all, but I’m not on the committee.
There is also the issue with the MEAC electing not to send its champion to the playoffs any longer, and instead having it represent the conference in a bowl game. Some members of the selection committee might consider that decision an abdication of participation by the MEAC in the FCS playoffs, regardless of its non-champion teams being eligible.
Let’s assume The Citadel makes the playoffs. Where would the Bulldogs play? Could they host?
Generally, the NCAA prefers to break things down regionally when it comes to placing teams in the FCS playoffs. It’s not unlike the college baseball tournament in that respect.
The Citadel would not get a seed, even with a victory over South Carolina on Saturday. Possible first-round opponents include Coastal Carolina, William & Mary, James Madison, and Richmond. I don’t think the Bulldogs would play Charleston Southern in the first round (if CSU didn’t get a bye), but I could see the bracketing leading to a potential second-round matchup with the Buccaneers (in fact, that might be likely).
Incidentally, Coastal Carolina’s hopes at getting a bye were all but dashed with its loss on Thursday night to Liberty. That could increase the possibility of a Coastal Carolina-The Citadel first-round game, with the winner playing Charleston Southern.
The home/road situation for the first round is usually determined by which school made the highest bid to host. From the first link in the “Links of Interest” section:
Meanwhile, The Citadel has put in its bid to host a first-round game on Nov. 28, submitting a bid higher than the $30,000 minimum, according to a school source. And Citadel athletic director Jim Senter is working the phones.
Also excellent: this effort by the Media Relations staff. Very well done.
I think The Citadel has a very reasonable chance of getting an at-large bid. The numbers largely break in the Bulldogs’ favor.
As long as there aren’t a lot of weird results on Saturday (or some political maneuvering in the committee room), The Citadel should be a part of the selection show (which airs on Sunday at 11:00 am ET on ESPNU).
Of course, The Citadel could make all of this analysis moot by winning on Saturday. That would be fine with me.
Normally, in this part of the preview I would compare the opposing team’s season statistics to those of The Citadel. However, since South Carolina is an FBS squad that plays in the SEC, that comparison struck me as largely irrelevant.
I’ll just note a few things that caught my attention while going over South Carolina’s numbers. The Gamecocks’ advanced statistical profile looks very much like a team with a 3-7 record.
– South Carolina does have some talented players on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Skai Moore (6’2″, 218 lbs.) leads the team in tackles (and tackles for loss). Moore is arguably the main reason North Carolina is not undefeated (well, maybe he shares that honor with Marquise Williams).
– On his radio show, Mike Houston mentioned that 12 different Gamecocks would rotate along the defensive line, including Gerald Dixon Jr. (6’3″, 327 lbs.), a massive nosetackle. Houston also noted the fine play of free safety Isaiah Johnson (6’0″, 209 lbs.), who is second on the team in tackles. Johnson will probably be an important player for the Gamecocks when defending the triple option.
– The defense has not been very good against the run, ranking 105th in rushing defense, allowing 5.04 yards per carry (110th nationally). The Gamecocks have been better at home in that category, however, allowing 3.86 yards per rush in Williams-Brice Stadium.
– On 3rd down and between 7 and 9 yards to go, South Carolina ranks next-to-last in rushing yards allowed. Opponents have run the ball nine times against the Gamecocks in that situation, gaining 81 yards. Obviously, that’s not much of a sample size.
– If The Citadel can keep the game close, perhaps this chart will come into play. It includes some situational statistics regarding South Carolina’s defense against the run:
|SC winning By 15+ Pts
|SC winning By 8-14 Pts
|SC winning By 1-7 Pts
|SC losing By 1-7 Pts
|SC losing By 8-14 Pts
|SC losing By 15+ Pts
– South Carolina has not been good at finishing drives, averaging 4.1 points per possession inside the opponents’ 40-yard line. That ranks 110th out of 127 FBS teams.
– Starting quarterback Perry Orth (6’1″, 203 lbs.) has an older brother, Calvin, who played baseball at The Citadel from 2011-14.
– Average size of the projected starting offensive line for the Gamecocks: 6’5″, 296 lbs.
That projected group of starters includes 6’8″, 295 lb. Blake Camper, a freshman expected to start at right tackle in place of Mason Zandil, who suffered a high ankle sprain last week.
Left tackle Brandon Shell (6’6″, 328 lbs.) is an NFL prospect. He has made 46 starts along the line during his college career.
– I would imagine South Carolina’s offensive strategy in this game will be fairly simple. The Gamecocks will undoubtedly run Brandon Wilds (6’2″, 220 lbs.) and David Williams (6’1″, 222 lbs.) behind that huge offensive line, grinding out first downs and trying to control the clock. When not doing that, South Carolina will probably get the ball in the very talented Pharoh Cooper’s hands at every opportunity.
At least, that’s what I would do. Cooper (5’11”, 207 lbs.) is really good. He has 51 catches for 700 yards this season, and is also averaging 6.1 yards per carry in limited rush opportunities.
South Carolina has an excellent placekicker/punter combo in Elliott Fry (6’0″, 164 lbs.) and Sean Kelly (5’10”, 189 lbs.).
Fry is 16-23 on field goal attempts this season, with a long of 52. He is a Type 1 diabetic who has managed to carve out a fine career at South Carolina.
Kelly (who is also the holder for placekicks) is averaging 43.3 yards per punt. Of his 47 boots, 21 have landed inside the 20-yard line, against only 3 touchbacks. He has had 12 punts of 50+ yards this season.
The Gamecocks have dangerous return men. Pharoh Cooper is the primary punt returner, while freshman Rashad Fenton (5’10”, 180 lbs.) ran a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown against LSU.
Odds and ends:
– South Carolina isn’t really excited about mentioning the 1990 game, if its game notes are anything to go by:
The teams met every year from 1907 until 1937, and 11 more times from 1940 to 1954, but got together just twice in the ‘60s and three times in the ‘80s. This is the second matchup between the two schools since the turn of the century. The Gamecocks posted a 41-20 win on Nov. 19, 2011 in the last encounter.
Let’s just gloss over the 1990s, shall we?
– Those South Carolina game notes also mention this factoid: in nine games against FCS opponents since 2006, the Gamecocks are 9-0, with an average score of 38-13.
– There are 40 players from South Carolina on the Gamecocks’ roster. Other states represented: Georgia (27), Florida (18), North Carolina (7), Alabama (5), Virginia (3), Maryland (2), California (2), and one each from Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
– Per one source that deals in such matters, South Carolina is a 20-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 57.
Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is an 8-point underdog at Wofford; Western Carolina is a 14-point favorite at VMI; Samford is a 3-point favorite at Mercer; and Chattanooga is a 30.5-point underdog at Florida State.
East Tennessee State is a 1.5-point home underdog against Kentucky Wesleyan on Saturday.
– Per the S&P+ ratings, South Carolina has a win probability of 93.1% on Saturday. Only five teams have a higher win probability this week: Middle Tennessee State (over North Texas), West Virginia (over Kansas), Florida State (over Chattanooga), Clemson (over Wake Forest), and Alabama (which has a 99.9% win probability over Charleston Southern).
– Among FCS teams, The Citadel is 19th in this week’s Massey Ratings. The ratings for other league teams: Chattanooga, 13th; Western Carolina, 23rd; Samford, 45th; Wofford, 49th; Furman, 54th; Mercer, 55th; VMI, 81st.
North Dakota State now sits atop the Massey FCS Ratings, followed by Illinois State, Jacksonville State, South Dakota State, and Dartmouth. East Tennessee State is 123rd, just ahead of Mississippi Valley State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
– The weather forecast for Saturday in Columbia, according to the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high around 58 degrees, a northeast wind around 7 mph, and a 20% chance of rain after 1 pm.
– Saturday is Military Appreciation Day at Williams-Brice Stadium.
– South Carolina is beefing up security for the game. Keep that in mind while deciding when to leave the tailgating areas and enter the stadium.
– The Citadel will wear white jerseys and hideous gray pants on Saturday.
The Citadel could win on Saturday. It wouldn’t blow anybody’s mind, at least not anybody who was paying attention.
That said, South Carolina, even with its struggles this season, is still an SEC team. It has huge resource advantages, and a lot of talented players.
In addition, the “look ahead” factor for this game is probably slight, despite Clemson coming to town next week. South Carolina wants to win a game — any game. It isn’t like the Gamecocks have 6 to 8 wins already and are cruising to a bowl game.
I think The Citadel will move the ball (at least occasionally) against South Carolina’s defense. I am concerned about the Bulldogs’ D, though.
Regardless, I’m looking forward to this one. For one thing, it’s a home game for me.
It is also a great opportunity for the team. Don’t be afraid to make a little history, guys.
Filed under: Football, The Citadel | Tagged: Eric Goins, FCS playoffs, Mike Houston, Mitchell Jeter, Paul Finebaum, Pharoh Cooper, Quinlan Washington, SEC Nation, SEC Network, SoCon, South Carolina, The Citadel, Tyler Renew | Leave a comment »