College football on a Saturday, as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

This week, The Citadel’s football team travels to Macon, Georgia, for a matchup with Mercer.

For a brief period of time, I lived in Georgia. With all due respect to the great Ray Charles, my memories of the state invariably involve an overflowing Flint River… 

The Citadel plays another ranked team on Saturday, this time on the road

Colby Kintner is the SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week

– The Citadel’s game notes

– The Citadel’s Monday press conference

Brent Thompson’s radio show (with video breakdown)

Mercer’s game notes

Mercer’s press conference

– Mercer head football coach Drew Cronic’s radio show

– SoCon weekly release

– SoCon statistics

– Streaming: ESPN3, with Pete Yanity on play-by-play and Jared Singleton handling analysis

[ Edit: an alert reader has pointed out that the game is listed by Mercer, the SoCon, and ESPN’s own website as streaming on ESPN3, as opposed to ESPN+. 

If you’re confused (and you should be), this explainer might be of assistance:  Link ]

– Radio: Luke Mauro and Lee Glaze call the game online and also on three radio stations statewide: WQNT (102.1-FM/1450-AM) in Charleston, WQXL (100.7-FM/1470-AM) in Columbia, and WDXY (105.9-FM/1240-AM) in Sumter.

Live stats

Weather forecast: per the National Weather Service, it should be sunny on Saturday afternoon in Macon, with the high temperature approaching 87°. 

The Citadel is 3-5 all-time in games played on September 17; four of those eight matchups were shutouts (two for the Bulldogs, two for the opposition).

The most recent game played by the program on that date was a 31-24 victory at Gardner-Webb in 2016, a contest in which the Bulldogs only completed one pass. There will have to be a few more receptions by The Citadel’s pass-catchers this week if the Bulldogs are to come home from Macon with a win.

Computer ratings:

SP+ ranks Mercer 37th in FCS, while The Citadel is 82nd. Projected score: Mercer 33.3, The Citadel 16.1.

Massey ranks Mercer 31st in FCS, with The Citadel 52nd. Projected score: Mercer 31, The Citadel 21, with the Bulldogs given a 27% chance of pulling the upset.

Congrove ranks Mercer 22nd, and The Citadel 79th. Congrove doesn’t project a score, but favors Mercer by 14.78 points (with a 3-point bump for home field).

Laz Index ranks Mercer 17th in the subdivision, with The Citadel 59th. There is no score projection here either, but the Bears have a 10.07-point edge in Laz’s power rating.

DCI ranks Mercer 27th, and The Citadel 74th. Projected score: Mercer 37.14, The Citadel 19.88.

FCS Rankings:

FCS Coaches’ Poll: Mercer 20th, The Citadel unranked [no votes]

Stats Perform FCS Top 25: Mercer 20th, The Citadel unranked but receiving votes [would be 32nd]

FCS Nation Top 25: Mercer 14th, The Citadel 24th

I’m including the FCS Nation Top 25 on the roundup this week, not as much because The Citadel is ranked in that particular poll, but by virtue of Mercer using it as part of its ticket sales push:

As kickoff approaches on Saturday night at Five Star Stadium, #20/#23 Mercer will be coming off a bye week while the Bears’ opponent, The Citadel, got the attention of everyone in the Southern Conference upsetting the defending SoCon champion and #8 ETSU, 20-17, on a walk-off field goal. As a result, the Bulldogs moved into the Top 25 in the FCS Nation Radio rankings…

In addition to the Bears playing their first SoCon game of the 2022 season on Saturday at 6 p.m., an outstanding lineup of performers is set to hit the stage in Toby Town for the Ford Concert Series. For those who have not nabbed their ticket for the game, here is one more opportunity.

…A 24-hour flash sale will be held from 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13 until 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14. One ticket purchased for $10.01 will grant admission into the Mitchell Tenpenny pregame concert as well as the Mercer vs. The Citadel football game.

(I believe that release by Mercer came out just before this week’s FCS Coaches’ Poll was released. The Bears are 20th in that poll, not 23rd as stated in the quoted section.)

Other games involving SoCon teams:

– Wofford at Virginia Tech (11 am ET kickoff; Terriers have yet to score this season)
– Cornell at VMI (an important game for the SoCon; we’re all fans of the Keydets this week)
– Presbyterian at Western Carolina (Catamounts should win handily; PC only beat VUL by eight points last week)
– North Alabama at Chattanooga (another non-conference contest of note; the league could use a Mocs victory)
– Samford at Tennessee Tech (road games can be tricky, but SU is the better team)
– Furman at East Tennessee State (the week’s other league matchup)

A few other FCS games worth mentioning:

– Holy Cross at Yale (Ivy League starts play this week)
– Colgate at Penn
– Gardner-Webb at Elon (Runnin’ Bulldogs gave Coastal Carolina all it wanted last week)
– Incarnate Word at Prairie View A&M
– North Dakota at Northern Arizona
– Sacramento State at Northern Iowa 
– Delaware at Rhode Island
– North Dakota State at Arizona (yes, NDSU is favored)
– Montana State at Oregon State (Beavers are good but still only 13½-point favorites)
– Tennessee State at Middle Tennessee State (Hmm…)
– Missouri State at Arkansas (Bobby Petrino Bowl)
– Stony Brook at Massachusetts (Stony Brook is favored in a couple of places)

Stats of note through The Citadel’s first two games of the season:

Average (2 gms) Opponents The Citadel
Field Position 38.50 24.26
Success Rate 47.7% 39.8%
Big plays (20+ yards) 3.5/gm 2.5/gm
Finishing drives (average points) 3.25 4.29
Turnovers 1.0/gm 1.5/gm
Expected turnovers 0.47/gm 1.08/gm
Possessions 9.0/gm 9.5/gm
Points per possession 2.56 1.58
Offensive Plays 55.5/gm 61.5/gm
Yards/rush (sacks taken out) 6.31 4.08
Yards/pass attempt (including sacks) 6.81 6.33
Yards/play 6.52 4.41
3rd down conversions 38.1% 33.3%
4th down conversions 75.0% 75.0%
Red Zone TD% 40.0% 60.0%
Net punting 27.33 32.13
Starting FP after KO 27.43 23.60
Time of possession 24:05/gm 35:55/gm
TOP/offensive play 26.04 35.04
Penalties/P-yds 9.0/82.5 yds 10.5/77.0 yds
1st down passing 64.7%, 8.72 yds/pa 60.0%, 7.20 yds/pa
3rd and long passing 40.0%, 5.10 yds/pa 33.3%, 1.25 yds/pa
4th down passing 100.0%, 11.00 yds/pa 66.7%, 12.67 yds/pa
Passing on “passing downs” 50.0%, 7.41 yds/pa 50.0%, 5.56 yds/pa
1st down yards/play 6.73 5.23
3rd down average yards to go 8.71 7.22
Defensive 3-and-outs+ 3.0/gm 1.0/gm

– ‘Finishing drives’ is a category for all drives that feature a first down inside the opponent’s 40-yard line. It is a natural (and sometimes more illuminating) extension of the ‘Red Zone’ concept. The Citadel’s defense has done a good job in its own territory so far, with more “bending” than “breaking”.

– This week, I am adding the numbers for “passing downs”, which are defined as follows: 2nd-and-8+ yards, 3rd-and-5+ yards, and 4th-and-5+ yards.

– The Citadel has a negative field position differential of over 14 yards, which is a problem. The Bulldogs are at almost -4 yards on kickoff differential, but the net punting has (somehow) been in the military college’s favor, at +4.8. That is due mainly to no opposing punt return yards for Bulldog opponents, combined with Dominick Poole’s 50-yard scamper versus ETSU.

The real culprit when it comes to The Citadel’s field position woes? Arguably, that would be the six 3-and-out+ drives the Bulldogs’ offense has had through two games (31.5% of all possessions). Conversely, opposing offenses have only had two such drives (11.1%).

It is crucial that The Citadel’s offense begins converting 3rd down attempts at a higher rate. A few more big plays wouldn’t hurt, either.

– The Bulldogs also need to fix their early-season penalty problems (although opponents have been flagged at a high rate as well).

Participation report:

The Citadel had 43 players compete on the field against East Tennessee State last Saturday. Two of them were “true” freshmen — offensive lineman Sawyer Whitman, who made his first career start, and holder Jack McCall (somewhat curiously listed as a long snapper on the online roster). Whitman and McCall also saw action versus Campbell.

Both are South Carolina natives. Whitman went to Gaffney High School, while McCall is a product of Hammond School (located in Columbia).

As we all know, there are certain college football media members who frequently advocate for the elimination of FBS vs. FCS games. This same group tends to also cheerlead for anything that gets the sport closer to the Superleague.

In the past, however, there haven’t really been many high-profile FBS coaches or administrators who have gone on record emphatically defending those contests, with the notable exception of Jimbo Fisher.

That has changed recently. First, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had this to say prior to his team’s game against Samford last week:

“High schools are our feeder programs, just like we are for the NFL. And if you’re going to have good high school programs, you got to have kids getting opportunities to play at all levels. Because there’s a lot more kids playing at a non-Power 5 level than at the Power 5 level. So if you’re a supplier of talent and the growth of the game comes from your youth sports and your high school sports, you’re going to diminish that as these programs fade away.”

There was a similar article in The Athletic on Smart’s comments that also mentioned some of the other benefits of the cross-subdivision games, including the frequently-overlooked fact that an FCS matchup is often a chance to attend a game at a lower cost, which can be very important to families (and is an outcome that many college administrators want, as it broadens the fan base).

This week, the Lexington Herald-Leader posted a story on Kentucky’s upcoming game against Youngstown State, with quotes from Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart and head football coach Mark Stoops.

Barnhart:

“It’s important to support FCS football because I want people participating in college football. I think sometimes we forget about thinking about the end game, making sure everybody is still playing. If there’s opportunities that go away and there’s not kids that want to play the game of football, the game of football suffers. We’ve got to make sure we do things that ensure the game of football and people want to play the game. Keeping FCS football alive is very, very important to that end. We like playing one of those games. That’s important to us.”

Stoops was also supportive, stating that FCS teams “compete and depend on these games as well. I like supporting them in that area.”

It appears the SEC schools will continue playing FCS opponents (with the exception of South Carolina playing The Citadel, of course). That will remain the case even after that conference inevitably moves to a 9-game league slate, which I anticipate happening once Texas and Oklahoma start playing an SEC schedule. This is good news.

Mercer’s online roster includes 80 players from Georgia. Other states represented: Florida (6 players), North Carolina (6), South Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Tennessee (3), Pennsylvania (2), and one each from California, Nebraska, New York, and Ohio. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Emil Hovde is a native of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Fourteen of the Bears began their college careers at other four-year institutions (eight of them enrolled at Mercer this summer). The schools represented on that list: Alabama A&M, Coastal Carolina (3 players), East Carolina, Gardner-Webb, Georgia, Georgia State, Jacksonville State, James Madison, Lenoir-Rhyne, Morehouse, South Alabama, and South Carolina. 

Mercer is 1-1 so far this season; this game will mark its SoCon opener. The Bears previously defeated Morehead State, 63-13, and lost at Auburn, 42-16

MU was off last week, so the Bears have had two weeks to prepare for Saturday’s contest.

Mercer will go on the road next week to face Gardner-Webb, its final non-conference regular-season game in 2022. Future non-conference opponents for the Bears include Mississippi, Morehead State, and Yale (all in 2023, the latter two matchups at home) and a 2024 contest at Alabama.

A few Mercer players to watch:

– Senior quarterback Fred Payton (6’2″, 220 lbs.) is in his second year as MU’s starting signal-caller after beginning his college career at Coastal Carolina. In 12 games at Mercer, Payton has completed 58.1% of his passes, averaging 8.49 yards per attempt (not counting sacks against), with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

– Right tackle John Thomas (6’3″, 300 lbs.) was a preseason first-team All-SoCon pick. The junior is one of three returning starters for the Bears on the o-line; the new faces up front are the left guard and right guard (a sophomore and redshirt freshman, respectively).

Mercer’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’2″, 276 lbs.

– MU had ten different players run the football against Morehead State, which was not particularly unusual; the Bears had eight players carry the pigskin versus The Citadel last fall.

Austin Douglas (6’0″, 208 lbs.), a transfer from James Madison, has led Mercer in rushing in both of its games this season. Against Morehead State, he rushed for 140 yards.

– Wide receiver Ty James (6’2″, 200 lbs.) was named the FCS national offensive player of the week (for the games of Week 0) after a scintillating performance versus Morehead State. James, who spent one year at UGA before moving south to Macon, had five receptions for 192 yards and 3 TDs in that contest. 

Another wideout, Devron Harper (5’9″, 168 lbs.), had two TD catches against Auburn.

Tight end Drake Starks (6’3″, 240 lbs.) had a 75-yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage in the spring 2021 game between Mercer and The Citadel.

– Seven MU players who started last November’s game against The Citadel return this year, including first-team all-SoCon safety Lance Wise (5’9″, 195 lbs.). Wise led Mercer in tackles in both games versus the Bulldogs in 2021, and also returned a fumble for a TD in the 2019 contest (a game eventually won by The Citadel).

– Linebacker Isaac Dowling (5’10, 225 lbs.) was a preseason second-team all-conference selection. He had nine tackles against the Bulldogs last fall.

– Another preseason second-team all-league choice on the Bears’ defense is Solomon Zubairu (6’1″, 255 lbs.). The weird thing about that is Zubairu was actually a first-team All-SoCon pick by both the coaches and media after the fall 2021 campaign, during which he had five sacks. I’m not sure what he did wrong during the offseason.

– Punter Trey Turk (6’2″, 195 lbs.) was also a preseason second-team all-SoCon selection, based mostly on making the league’s all-freshman team last year, but possibly in part because “Trey Turk” is a cool name for a punter. 

It is hard to get a sense of how good Mercer is this season based on its first two games, which were against a non-scholarship D1 squad and an SEC team. However, the Bears have a lot of returning production from last season, a campaign in which MU won 7 games (6 in the SoCon) and probably merited an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs.

One of those wins came against The Citadel, a 34-7 result in Johnson Hagood Stadium. In that contest, Mercer ran on 71.9% of its offensive plays from scrimmage, averaging 6.3 yards per carry (one of which was a 72-TD run by Tayshaun Shipp, one of only five rushing attempts he had all season). 

Defensively, Mercer forced three turnovers and held the Bulldogs to 4.0 yards per play. The Citadel did not score after the first quarter.

It also doesn’t hurt the Bears that they have had an extra week to prepare for the triple option.

Another week, another ranked opponent. That is life in the SoCon, where there are no gimmies.

The challenge for the Bulldogs is to maintain their excellent play last week in Charleston (particularly on defense), but to do it in a road setting. 

While a difficult task, it isn’t an impossible one. Many of the players on this year’s squad know the feeling of beating a good team on the road, because that’s just what The Citadel did in the final game of 2021 when the Bulldogs won at Chattanooga. 

It might come as a little bit of a surprise to some that The Citadel has actually won three consecutive league games, dating back to last season. Two of them have been against programs in the upper echelon of the conference.

This isn’t a “little engine that could” situation. The Bulldogs should play with confidence and a fair amount of aggression. It would also help to get off to a good start.

I’m looking forward to Saturday.

A pleasant surprise on a Saturday afternoon

What a nice day in Charleston (even if it was hot).

Game story in The Post and Courier

AP game story

WCSC-TV report (video)

Colby Kintner’s immediate postgame reaction (from a tweet by WCIV-TV’s Scott Eisberg)

Box score

I won’t be able to immediately review too many contests this season, but I figured this game was worth a post…

East Tennessee State The Citadel
Field Position 37.8 23.3
Success Rate 50.98% 44.93%
Big plays (20+ yards) 4 3
Finishing drives (average points) 2.0 5.0
Turnovers 1 0
Expected turnovers 0.22 0.22
Possessions 9 10
Points per possession 1.89 2.00
Offensive Plays 51 70
Yards/rush (sacks taken out) 7.46 4.10
Yards/pass attempt (including sacks) 6.28 6.83
Yards/play 6.88 4.57
3rd down conversions 2 of 8 5 of 14
4th down conversions 0 of 1 1 of 1
Red Zone TD% 25.00% 66.67%
Net punting 21.8 32.6
Time of possession 20:44 39:16
TOP/offensive play 24.88 sec/play 33.18 sec/play
Penalties 8 for 80 yards 12 for 71 yards
1st down passing 7-9, 121 yards 2-4, 17 yards
3rd and long passing 1-5, 9 yards 0-1
4th down passing 0-1 0-0
1st down yards/play 8.21 5.32
3rd down average yards to go 9.33 7.15
Defensive 3-and-outs+ 2 1

Random thoughts on the action:

  • Sometimes, someone will offer the opinion that The Citadel runs the B-back up the middle too often. Then, Logan Billings breaks two 30+ yard runs on the game’s final drive, and someone has an epiphany.
  • B-backs carried the ball on 55% of the Bulldogs’ rushes against ETSU, while QB Peyton Derrick rushed on 29% of the ground attempts. That left just eight carries for the A-backs; Nkem Njoku’s sole rush was his 5-yard touchdown.
  • One of the issues with getting the A-backs more involved is clearly the new perimeter blocking rules. That was noticeable on a couple of plays during the game, particularly one where Cooper Wallace looked to have an potential open field with a blocker and just one defender in front of him, but the blocker couldn’t cut the ETSU player’s legs, and the end result was a tackle for loss. I think in past years that play normally would have gone for about 20 yards.
  • The Citadel generally did a good job of getting into manageable third-down situations; in the table above, you can see the average yards-to-go on third down was 7.15 yards, but if you take out a 3rd-and-30 early in the fourth quarter, the average was 5.25 yards (including three 3rd-and-1 plays).
  • Billings’ two late runs were two of the only three offensive plays for the Bulldogs that gained 20+ yards. (The other was a 31-yard run by Jay Graves-Billips on the game’s opening drive.)
  • Another potential play of 20+ yards, Ben Brockington’s would-be reception, was wiped away by a holding penalty. I’m guessing Brockington will have another opportunity or two this season to make an impact in the passing game; I look forward to seeing #97 rumble down the field.
  • ETSU’s offense had four plays of 20+ yards, three of them runs/receptions by the impressive Jacob Saylors. He more than justified his preseason SoCon offensive player of the year selection.
  • That said, the Bulldogs had a very good day on defense. The early goal line stand, the key interception by Destin Mack, holding ETSU to a field goal in the 4th quarter when the Bucs had a first down on The Citadel’s 13-yard line…lots of excellent work all the way around.
  • ETSU had five possessions (out of nine) in which the Bucs had a first down inside the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line. Points on those drives: 0, 7, 0, 0, 3.
  • Conversely, The Citadel’s offense had the ball four times inside ETSU’s 40. Points on those drives: 3, 7, 7, 3. That was arguably the difference in the game.
  • Thanks to Dominick Poole’s 50-yard punt return (which set up the first TD), The Citadel actually had the edge in net punting. However, that is clearly an area in which the Bulldogs need to improve (and don’t forget about the multiple formation penalties).
  • Melvin Ravenel took out two ETSU players on that punt return.
  • The Citadel held the ball for almost two-thirds of game time (39:16), including five possessions of more than four minutes in duration. That limited the number of total possessions for each team (East Tennessee State had nine drives in the game, with just three in the first half).
  • I mentioned this on Twitter, but I’ll state it here as well. There is no good reason that a game not on national television, one in which the two teams involved combined for just 36 pass attempts (and only 121 total plays, a fairly low total), should take 3 hours and 16 minutes to complete. That was partly due to game administration by the officials, but the ridiculous number of TV breaks were also a factor.

Off the field (mostly):

  • I enjoyed the contest in which a cadet had to play “Deal or No Deal”. He correctly chose to deal, but made the classic mistake of choosing the ‘B’ bag — for Band Company, he said — and wound up with an ear of corn. (He should have chosen the ‘A’ bag for Alpha Company.)
  • I’m not going to write a angry 1500-word screed about the uniforms, because we won, etc., but The Citadel should wear light blue jerseys with white pants at home. Always. (Also, the dark blue pants/light blue tops combination is aesthetically displeasing.)
  • The scoreboard operator(s) appeared to have an issue with the statistical totals for much of the third quarter, but it eventually got fixed.
  • I didn’t see any problems with the cadets’ move to the other side of the West stands.
  • Suggestion: someone in the department of athletics should make a courtesy call to the City of Charleston, requesting that the numerous and large potholes in the B and C parking lots be filled in before Parents’ Weekend.
  • The crowd was reasonably lively. It helped that the team got off to a good start.

Next week: at Mercer. That will not be easy.

I might have another post later in the week. Or I might not. It’s going to be one of those weeks.

Football’s 2022 debut in Charleston — a/k/a The Citadel’s home opener

That’s right, sports fans. The Citadel will begin its home campaign on Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium, as East Tennessee State comes to town. Will the Bulldogs improve after a less-than-stellar showing in Buies Creek last week?

The offense needs to generate big plays and lots of points. The defense must force turnovers and get off the field on third down. The corps has to be loud and enthusiastic. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I don’t really have much to say about this game, as you can probably tell. ETSU is the defending SoCon champion, is projected to be quite good again this season (currently ranked 8th and 9th in two of the major FCS polls), defeated The Citadel 48-21 last year in Johnson City, and pulverized Mars Hill 44-7 last week.

I’ll just riff on a variety of topics, some not directly related to pigskin activity but of potential interest.

Did you know The Citadel will soon have a presence on Times Square in New York City? At least, that appears to be the plan, based on a sole source justification recently posted on the school’s procurement website:

The school intends to allocate $39,950.00 to provide “impression-based marketing for The Citadel with the ability to adjust the messaging weekly. This [digital] billboard will provide 4,495,055 impressions per day to over 1,500,000 daily visitors to Times Square.”

The campaign will last for three months and feature a “fifteen second airtime package looping a minimum of four times per hour, airing 20 hours per day, from 6am to 2am…The 1500 Broadway Spectacular [the name of the billboard] is located in Times Square, New York City and has a 56′ wide x 29′ high, two-sided HD LED screen for a total 1,624 square feet of viewing space.”

You can see a photo of the billboard at this link, or you could make the trip to NYC and see it in person. Consider it an added bonus tourist attraction, to go along with the Statue of Liberty and Hamilton.

One thing you probably won’t see in the foreseeable future is The Citadel Independent Sports Network. The longtime message board that focused on Bulldog athletics went offline earlier this week after a two-decade run on the internet.

Per a highly placed source, the operator of the site finally decided to pull the plug earlier this summer (because of prepaid maintenance fees, the board remained online for a couple more months).

That bane of message boards past and present, relentless negativity, was the reason for its demise.

There are many Bulldog fans out there, more than one might expect for a small school with sports programs that traditionally have enjoyed relatively modest success. It can be a pleasure to discuss sports in a message board format with supporters like those — intelligent, committed, and deeply loyal fans who avidly follow varsity athletics.

However, in recent years the site operator grew frustrated with the fact that sports discussion had often given way to almost nonstop complaining about coaches. That particular brand of antagonism had also driven away many of the longtime posters.

I have never run a message board, and I never will. Doing so requires time, money, a great deal of patience, some technical ability, and the responsibility of maintaining what is essentially a public-facing entity, one for which you do not completely control the content.

I would have shut it down too.

East Tennessee State has three non-conference games this season — Mars Hill last week, Robert Morris on September 24, and at Mississippi State on November 19 (the traditional SEC-SoCon Showdown Saturday).

Future non-conference opponents for ETSU include at Liberty (in 2023 and 2025), at Appalachian State (2024), North Dakota State (at home in 2024 and on the road in 2026), UVA Wise (2024 and 2027), and at North Carolina (2026).

The Citadel’s volleyball team defeated Clemson last Saturday (September 4). That was part of a 2-1 weekend which led to the Bulldogs garnering SoCon honors for both Defensive Player of the Week (Jaelynn Elgert) and Setter of the Week (Belle Hogan).

This was the Bulldogs’ first win in volleyball over Clemson (the two teams had met once before, in 2004). Furthermore, it was the program’s first victory over an ACC school — or any Power 5 conference opponent, for that matter.

It was also, from what I can tell, the first win for the Bulldogs over the Tigers in a team sport since 1999, when the baseball team defeated Clemson 18-15. That game was also The Citadel’s biggest comeback on the diamond in school history, as the Bulldogs had trailed 15-4 before scoring 14 unanswered runs.

  • Last win over Clemson in basketball: 1979 (58-56, at McAlister Field House)
  • Last win over Clemson in tennis: 1961
  • Last win over Clemson in football: 1931 (6-0 in Florence, a result that led directly to the formation of IPTAY, and thus probably the most influential college football game in Palmetto State history)

It should be noted that Clemson and The Citadel haven’t met all that regularly in any sport, at least not in the last few decades.

Last week, I wrote about The Citadel’s retention (and attrition) for its signing classes. As a follow-up, here is a breakdown of the last seven signing classes for the Bulldogs by state (136 players; there was also one signee from outside the country):

  • South Carolina – 51
  • Georgia – 33
  • Florida – 15
  • North Carolina – 11
  • Texas – 6
  • Virginia – 5
  • Alabama – 3
  • Ohio – 3
  • Tennessee – 3
  • New York – 2
  • Pennsylvania – 2
  • Louisiana – 1
  • Oregon – 1

In the Massey Ratings, East Tennessee State is ranked 30th in FCS, while The Citadel is 77th. ETSU is projected to win 28-21, with the Bulldogs given a 34% chance of pulling the upset.

When the line for the game is released later this week, I would anticipate the spread being more than 7 points, despite The Citadel playing at home. I’m basing that in part on the quick movement for the Campbell game soon after its opening line was set, a 6½-point jump in less than three hours.

[Edit: ETSU is favored by 16 points, with the over/under at 51½.]

Those that attend Saturday’s contest will notice one significant change in the stands:

One of the most noticeable changes will be the relocation of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets (SCCC) to the North end of the stadium in Sections K,L,M.

For anyone unfamiliar with the setup at Johnson Hagood Stadium, in past years the corps usually was ensconced in the West stands (the home side), on the end near the Altman Center. This season, the student section will be on the home side next to the scoreboard.

This was done in order to make room for a VIP seating area. I don’t have a problem with the move, but it will be different.

Weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston: showers and possibly a thunderstorm (uh-oh), with a high of 84°. Chance of precipitation: 80%.

Let’s hope the actual weather is a little better than that, and let’s also hope the concessions for the home opener are better organized than was the case at East Carolina last Saturday:

…there were several issues with concession lines, product availability, and other fan experience items when a record crowd of 51,711 showed up for [East Carolina’s] 21-20 loss to NC State in the season opener this past Saturday.

Despite temperatures in the mid-80s, fans online said there were multiple sections that ran out of bottled water well before the end of the game. Lines to get food or beverage items took 45 minutes or more in some cases, and the options were limited when fans finally got to the front.

Combined with the way that game ended, Saturday was a tough day to be a Pirate, whether you were Mike Houston or the executive associate athletics director for internal operations.

ECU wasn’t the only school that had some off-field gameday snafus; for example, Arkansas had fans waiting in the turnstiles to enter the stadium well past kickoff.

On Wednesday, The Citadel posted an advertisement for the position of Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance.

The potential importance of this position was arguably highlighted in the past couple of weeks by the travails of Florida A&M. Partly because of significant compliance problems, FAMU had more than two dozen players with unresolved eligibility issues; at one point, its opening game against North Carolina was in doubt.

The Citadel’s game notes

The Citadel’s Monday press conference

Brent Thompson’s radio show (with video breakdown!)

– East Tennessee State’s game notes [when available]

ETSU’s press conference

SoCon weekly release

– Streaming: ESPN+, with Pete Yanity on play-by-play and Jared Singleton handling analysis

– Radio: Luke Mauro and Lee Glaze call the game online and also on three radio stations statewide: WQNT (102.1-FM/1450-AM) in Charleston, WQXL (100.7-FM/1470-AM) in Columbia, and WDXY (105.9-FM/1240-AM) in Sumter.

Live Stats

ETSU should bring an excellent squad to town. Quarterback Tyler Riddell and running back Jacob Saylors are two of the seven Buccaneers named to the preseason first-team All-SoCon squad, with Saylors the conference’s preseason Player of the Year.

The unknowns for East Tennessee State mainly revolve around a new head coach (George Quarles, recently the offensive coordinator at Furman), as Randy Sanders retired after last season. However, ETSU has already had one game to help get over any transition-related hiccups.

Of note, Quarles was asked about the new blocking rules that were seemingly enacted by the NCAA in an effort to eradicate the triple option:

There weren’t many times [against Campbell] where I saw [The Citadel] trying to cut out on the perimeter. I think it has a pretty big effect on that style of offense. I watched a little bit of Navy [on] Saturday – they run the same thing. I watched a little bit of Army. Those guys, it’s just different for them when you can’t throw at people’s legs on the perimeter, I think it changes that style of offense just a little bit. Now, it still comes down to how well you block them inside and those sorts of things, but your perimeter runs are a little bit different now since you can’t cut…[defenders on the outside] are probably a little bit more comfortable that, hey, nobody’s coming to take out my legs out from under me…

Brent Thompson also referenced the rule changes during his coach’s show on Wednesday night while discussing Peyton Derrick’s QB play, observing that “…we’ve had a lot of new formations [put] in. The new blocking rules, the new blocking-below-the-waist rule, or the lack of cut blocking rules, has forced us to change our offense just a little bit. It’s forced us to do some things a little bit differently, and it’s going to create a little bit more motions and shifts and probably a little more misdirection in the offense than has been in it before…”

Later, Thompson said that he had watched the Army-Coastal Carolina game, and that Army had done “very little perimeter running. That’s where it really hurts you, the perimeter running. [The new rules] put such tight constraints on that…all these teams that have ‘traditional’ offenses, very few of them have as much extensive cut blocking as we have had, so it has definitely hurt us. We have had to rethink and reimagine our offense. I spent a lot of the spring and the summertime watching a lot of different teams and trying to figure out where it was going to impact us the most…that’s where we spent a lot of our time, trying to reformulate our offense…”

Thompson also stated that The Citadel needed to “do a little bit more in the play-action pass game” in response to the new rules.

I linked to it above, but I wanted to reference Brent Thompson’s radio show again. Starting around the 42-minute mark, he does a “coach’s clips”-style video breakdown for the game that lasts more than 15 minutes, including plays from 2021’s contest (The Citadel’s offense vs. ETSU’s defense) and last week’s ETSU game vs. Mars Hill (the Bucs’ offense vs. Mars Hill’s D).

It is very interesting, especially for all the football geeks out there (and you know who you are). I highly recommend it. This is one of the better segments I’ve seen on a coach’s show — any coach’s show.

The coach’s show takes place on Wednesday nights, something to remember going forward, especially if you’re like me and you thought it was held on Thursdays…

I hope there is a decent crowd for this game, especially given that it is The Citadel’s sole home matchup until October 8. In addition, the Bulldogs only play once at Johnson Hagood Stadium between Saturday’s contest and October 29, another aspect of one of the odder home schedules for The Citadel that I can remember.

It is also desirable that the team makes a marked improvement from Week 1. If it doesn’t, Saturday will be a long day for the Bulldogs (even if there are no lightning delays).

We shall see. I’ll be there, regardless.

Quick thoughts on The Citadel’s first football game of 2022

Well, my first quick thought is that I was glad when the game ended…

Stats of interest:

The Citadel Campbell
Field Position 25.33 39.22
Success Rate 32.08% 45.00%
Big plays (20+ yards) 2 3*
Finishing drives (average points) 3.33 4.14
Turnovers 3 1
Expected turnovers 1.94 0.72
Possessions 9 9
Points per possession 1.1 3.2
Offensive Plays 53 60
Yards/rush (sacks taken out) 4.04 5.53
Yards/pass attempt (including sacks) 5.33 7.41
Yards/play 4.19 6.22
3rd down conversions 4 of 13 6 of 13
4th down conversions 2 of 3 3 of 3
Red Zone TD% 50.00% 50.00%
Net punting 31.3 28.5
Time of possession 32:34 27:26
TOP/offensive play 36.87 sec 27.43 sec
Penalties 9 for 83 yards 9 for 85 yards
1st down passing 1-1, 19 yards, TD** 4-8, 36 yards, 1 sack against
3rd and long passing 1-2, 5 yards, 1 INT, 1 sack against 3-5, 42 yards, TD
4th down passing 1-1, 11 yards 2-2, 38 yards
1st down yards/play 5.11 5.32
3rd down average yards to go 7.31 8.31
Defensive 3-and-outs+ 1 4

*Not included: a 21-yard run for a would-be TD partly negated by a downfield holding penalty; the net gain on the play for the Camels was 11 yards
** An additional first down completion for 10 yards in the 2nd quarter for The Citadel was wiped out by a holding penalty

I believe the time of possession listed in the above table is correct. An error in the official scorebook originally credited The Citadel with over 14 minutes of possession time in the 2nd quarter.

[Edit: this has now been officially corrected.]

A few observations:

  • The Citadel gained 2 or fewer yards on 42.1% of its first down plays.
  • In the 3rd quarter, The Citadel ran 14 offensive plays. Only one of them would statistically be considered “successful”. The shuffling of the o-line after starting center Mike Bartilucci was injured might have been a factor.
  • Sawyer Whitman, a freshman OL from Gaffney, made his first career appearance for the Bulldogs.
  • Almost half (26) of The Citadel’s 53 offensive plays came on the Bulldogs’ first two drives. The Citadel only scored 3 points on those possessions.
  • The Citadel’s nine possessions ended as follows: TD (1), FG (1), punt (3), interception (2), lost fumble (1), and turnover on downs (1).
  • On seven of its nine possessions, Campbell had a first down inside the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line. Considering that two of those drives began inside the 40, and a third one started right at The Citadel’s 40, the Bulldogs’ defense did a good job mostly keeping the Camels out of the end zone after Campbell’s first two possessions.
  • Campbell’s nine possessions ended as follows: TD (3), FG (3), punt (2), end of half (1). (The Camels’ one turnover came on special teams.)
  • The scorebook participation list (which is not official) lists 48 Bulldogs as having played in Thursday night’s game. I tend to think the actual number was 46, but I can’t be sure.
  • Campbell’s participation list included 62 players.
  • The Bulldogs have to do better than average 31 net punting yards, although if one-third of all punts are muffed by the opponents, that would be an acceptable trade-off.
  • James Platte is the first Bulldog to appear in a game this season who doesn’t have a biographical writeup on the school website.
  • It appears that Ben Brockington (now #97) and John Hewlett (#73) have traded jersey numbers.
  • As of September 5, Alex Ramsey, the graduate transfer from VMI, is no longer listed on The Citadel’s online roster.
  • The Citadel committed far too many penalties (9 for 83 yards). The false starts and holds can be (and were) drive-killers, but the personal foul/unnecessary roughness/unsportsmanlike conduct infractions simply made me shake my head. Those are completely unacceptable.
  • During his Monday afternoon press conference, Brent Thompson confirmed that starting strong safety Wilson Hendricks III is out for the season. That will be a tough blow for the defense. Hendricks, a sophomore from Travelers Rest, led the team in tackles last season (and had seven stops against Campbell).

The Citadel must be a lot better on Saturday in its home opener against East Tennessee State. In their first game, the Buccaneers did exactly what a good team would be expected to do against an overmatched opponent, blasting Mars Hill 44-7.

I might have more to say later in the week.

The Citadel begins its 2022 football campaign

After a long, long offseason, it’s time for pigskin activity!

This is a joyful time of year for college football fans. I’m very mindful of that essential happiness, and I would never want to detract from it in any way.

A few years ago, I was sitting in front of my TV, preparing to enjoy the first night of college basketball for that season. On ESPN, the studio host (I forget who it was) turned to Jay Bilas and asked him a perfunctory question about what Bilas would like to see on the court.

Bilas, one of the most earnest killjoys in the entire media landscape, immediately stated that he wished two-thirds of the teams in Division I would be eliminated. If you were watching and a fan of one of the 240 or so schools Bilas wanted to evict from D-1, his commentary really wasn’t what you wanted to hear on opening night. 

I don’t want to be that kind of wet blanket.

With that in mind, while I don’t want to bury college football just as the season is starting, I’m not inclined to praise it right now, either. The off-season machinations have taken a toll. The constant realignment (and realignment discussion, which might be worse), the incessant focus on NIL, the sense that college athletics are no longer about schools and teams but rather “brands” and “products”…it’s all been a bit much.

The light at the end of the tunnel for the college sports industrial complex might be an oncoming train. It is likely in the not-too-distant future that there will be 30-odd schools which license their school logos for the benefit of minor league football teams, keeping all of the seductive TV money (as opposed to just taking most of the cash, as is the case now), and relegating the other schools to an alternative reality, one that ultimately might not include scholarships — basically what D-3 is now. 

(The basketball tournament will eventually suffer the same fate, though that situation is slightly more complicated. I am convinced separation there is inevitable as well, however. Jay Bilas would probably approve.)

What all that will mean for college sports in general, including the varsity teams at The Citadel, is TBD. I don’t think the odds are good that it will be positive, though.

Okay, I’ve got that out of the way.

Another issue, in terms of how I’ve operated this blog in past years, is that I no longer have the time or (frankly) enthusiasm to produce weekly preview posts during the gridiron season. That would be true even if I were more hopeful about the current state of college sports. It would also be the case regardless of The Citadel’s season outlook.

I’ll still have things to say, but perhaps not weekly, and not about specific games. I had basically run my game preview format into the ground, anyway.

For this post, I am just going to hit a few topics surrounding the program, some more important than others.

This week, I’ll also throw in some of the usual stuff about the upcoming opponent for the Bulldogs, the Campbell University Fighting Camels. 

I’m going to start with something positive.

I have written extensively about The Citadel’s uniforms over the years (usually, I have been greatly annoyed).

I’m pleased with these uniforms, though. This is much more in line with what I have always wanted to see.

Is it exactly what I would want? Maybe not, but that doesn’t matter. All in all, these togs are more than satisfactory.

A brief comment on the status of the East Stands at Johnson Hagood Stadium:

Simply put, I am ready to hear an announcement and see work being done. I have been ready for a couple of years now.

The delay on the rebuild has been too long, even taking the pandemic into consideration. I don’t think that is a controversial opinion; at this point, actually, I’m not sure it’s an opinion as much as objective fact.

The Citadel’s FBS opponent this season is Appalachian State. Future FBS opponents for the Bulldogs currently include Georgia Southern (2023), Clemson (2024), Mississippi (2025), and Charlotte (2026). 

Counting last season and this one, that means The Citadel will only face two P5 teams over a six-year period. I think a fair amount of supporters are somewhat disappointed in this, even if the net revenue from those matchups isn’t much different than that gained from playing G5 programs.

There is something to be said for playing “big-time” schools with instant name recognition. Also, given the more-than-decent chance that in less than a decade, schools like The Citadel might not have the chance to play P5 squads, loading up on them in the 2027-2032 time period might not be a bad idea. Those games should be scheduled while they are still an option.

I should note that The Citadel does not always immediately release future scheduling information, particularly for games to be played several years down the road. Perhaps it is time for another FOIA request…

With the perspective of time, there is a good chance that maintaining the corps of cadets over the course of the entire 2020-21 school year will be considered one of the great achievements in The Citadel’s history. The administration should receive a lot of credit for that accomplishment.

That isn’t to say the pandemic didn’t have a long-lasting effect on the status of the corps. It certainly did. The Citadel had higher-than-normal attrition rates (as did many other schools), and that is reflected in the very large freshman class which reported earlier this month.  

That effect can also be observed by perusing The Citadel’s football roster (and, for that matter, the rosters of almost every other college football program).

With COVID-19, the “free year” granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19, the change in transfer rules — well, these are unusual times in college football (and everywhere else). The only period in NCAA history that can even compare is the era following World War II, when there were significantly relaxed eligibility standards.

Because of all this tumult, I am more tolerant than I ordinarily would be for the influx of graduate transfers on The Citadel’s roster. 

The Citadel currently has 13 grad transfers on the football team — not 11 or 12, as you might have seen reported elsewhere. Overall, there are 114 players on the squad as of August 28.

That number of grad transfers wouldn’t be seen as enormous in a lot of places, but it is a true eye-opener at the military college. From going over past rosters, it appears that over the 12 years prior to this season The Citadel had a total of 13 graduate transfers.

With the outsized attrition caused by COVID-19 (among other things), I can understand this season being something of a one-off. 

I do not want it to become a trend, however. On this issue, I know that I am regarded by some as an out-of-touch fuddy-duddy who doesn’t understand “what we need to do to win”, and that I need to “get with the times!”

I don’t mind an occasional grad transfer; after all, The Citadel has excellent graduate programs and there is nothing wrong with publicizing them. I’m not on board with bringing in a dozen or so every year, though. I believe it is ultimately counter-productive on the field, and it isn’t in keeping with the school’s primary mission.

The Citadel’s core strength in recruiting varsity athletes should be its ability to find and develop high school talent. As far as grad transfers are concerned, the college is unlikely to be consistently successful by doing what every other school is doing. I think recruiting (almost) exclusively at the high school level is a perfect way to zig when the competition is zagging.

Having said all that, I will naturally be rooting hard for anyone wearing the light blue and white, regardless of where they played last year. 

I mentioned above that there are 114 Bulldogs on the current roster. As best as I can determine by looking over previous seasons, 89 of them have three or four years of college eligibility remaining (including the upcoming campaign).

From what I can tell, eight of the graduate transfers have multiple years of eligibility remaining; one of them actually has three.

More on retention/attrition:

I went through the lists of signing classes from 2017 through 2022 for The Citadel. That is six years’ worth of signees. It is possible for a player from a 2015 (or even 2014) signing class to still be an active college player, but that would obviously be somewhat unusual, even in the COVID-19 “free year” era.

I believe the only 2017 signee for The Citadel still playing college football is Sean-Thomas Faulkner, who played three years for the Bulldogs, graduated, and is currently in his second season with North Texas. 

Faulkner, the pride of Easley, SC, was an excellent player for The Citadel who now starts at safety for the Mean Green. (Irrelevant but personal note: I think he is also the only gridder to play for the alma maters of both my father and my mother.)

Another player who began his football career at The Citadel in the fall of 2017 is Brian Horn, who while not a listed signee at the time has nevertheless enjoyed a fine career for the Bulldogs, including a stint as last season’s military captain. Horn will start at linebacker for The Citadel on Thursday.

There are six players on the Bulldogs’ roster who were part of the 18-member signing class from 2018 — Chris Beverly, Marquise Blount, Caleb Deveaux, Kyler Estes, Destin Mack, and Nkem Njoku. Ideally, there would be a few more players from this class still on the team. 

Two other players who started their respective careers at The Citadel in 2018 also remain on the roster — defensive lineman Jay Smith and running back Sam Llewellyn. Both have made an impact on the field.

Of the 26 signees from 2019, only ten are still on The Citadel’s squad, a painfully obvious problem when it comes to program continuity and roster construction. This group would now mostly consist of fourth-year players with either two or three years of eligibility remaining (depending on if they redshirted).

From 2020, 14 of 16 signees are still Bulldogs, as are 15 of the 21 signees from 2021 (the latter being a bit concerning). The most recent signing class, from 2022, featured 17 signees, 16 of whom are currently on the roster.

For the last five signing classes, there were 98 signees. Of those, 61 are still in the program.

Stats interlude

For anyone interested (and I’m not sure anybody should be), here is a spreadsheet that includes various offensive statistics for the 2021 SoCon season and the 2021 FCS season as a whole. Categories include my infamous “go rate” statistic, points per possession, points per play, etc.

I was going to post about them (and include defensive stats too), but never got around to doing so, and it’s too late now. 

2021 offensive stats, SoCon-only and FCS

How excited is Campbell to leave the Big South and join the CAA for the 2022-23 school year? Well, listen to the perspective from the school’s sports announcers, including these comments:

I consider it a trade-up in many factors, right? College of Charleston, ten times better than Charleston Southern. You add Elon over High Point, [Elon] is a much more stable campus. You add William and Mary over a school like Longwood — nothing against them, just an upgrade there…UNCW is a huge upgrade over ‘insert any team’ in the Big South…there are so many ways to build tradition here in the Carolinas [with the move to the CAA].

You’re not going to be up there every weekend, but you’re in Boston, you’re in Philadelphia, you’re in Long Island, you’re in the DC metro area. It’s going to do something, not only for the athletic department and in expanding recruiting, but it’s going to do something for this university too, and that was a big reason [for joining the CAA]. It’s academics and athletics that really facilitated this move.

Campbell’s motto is “the private university of choice in North Carolina”, and the way to expand on that is become the private university of choice in the Carolinas, into Virginia, into DC…let’s face it, there is pride in this state in being a Campbell alum. That’s not necessarily the case all over the country, so I think [joining the CAA] will help tremendously.

I will say that the northern reach of the CAA would not appear at first glance to be of great appeal to Campbell, which traditionally has been a stay-closer-to-home type of school. More than 80% of its on-campus undergraduate students are from North Carolina, in contrast to Elon (only 17%) and High Point (21%).

Thursday will be the first gridiron meeting between The Citadel and Campbell (the two schools will play again in 2023, at Johnson Hagood Stadium). In other sports, The Citadel’s record against Campbell is as follows:

  • Basketball: 2-7
  • Baseball: 14-2-1
  • Wrestling: 24-17
  • Tennis: 10-5
  • Volleyball: 0-3

Campbell has no fewer than six non-conference games this season (perhaps another reason CU is happy to join the CAA). Those matchups are: The Citadel, at William and Mary, at East Carolina, North Carolina Central, at Jackson State, and at Delaware State.

Future FBS opponents for the Fighting Camels include North Carolina in 2023, Liberty in 2024, North Carolina State in 2025 and 2028, and Florida in 2026.

As of August 28, Campbell had 124 players on its online football roster. Four of them do not have a hometown (or high school) listed. Of the remaining 120 players, 47 are from North Carolina. Other states represented: Florida (21 players), Virginia (13), Georgia (11), South Carolina (8), Texas (3), Alabama (2), Michigan (2), New York (2), Ohio (2), and one each from California, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

Freshman linebacker Marquis Roberts is from Washington, DC, while graduate student punter Corey Petersen is a native of Traralgon, Australia.

Petersen is one of several Camels who began their collegiate careers at other institutions. Petersen is in his second year as Campbell’s punter; his first D-1 school was Austin Peay.

Other four-year colleges and universities from which current Camels previously matriculated include Army, Bowling Green, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Eastern Michigan, Iowa State, McNeese State, Mercer, Minnesota, Monmouth, Old Dominion, Southern Illinois, UCF, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest (two players), and Western Carolina.

The Citadel’s roster includes 55 players from South Carolina. Other states represented by Bulldogs: Georgia (17 players), Florida (15), North Carolina (8), Virginia (7), Ohio (3), New York (2), and one each from Alabama, California, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

Campbell landed the #1 recruiting class in FCS this spring, according to both 247Sports [89th overall] and Rivals.

…the Camels are welcoming in 11 signees with three- or four-star designations, per the major services.

Another ranking has Campbell with three of the top 11 FCS signees, four of the top 26 and five of the division’s top 37.

I think the first thing was, the Transfer Portal,” says [Campbell head football coach Mike Minter]…“You look at that and say and this is going to really affect college football. When I saw Alabama getting into the Portal, getting guys, I said if Alabama is doing it, this is about to turn into free agency for real. I said high school kids aren’t going to have as many homes, and we’re going to be very aggressive going after three-, four-, five-stars.

“We went after kids two years ago where people would say you don’t have a shot at them. Those kids are looking to be recruited, and wanted opportunity, and had been told and promised a lotta things. My biggest deal is be honest and authentic.”

In an interview last week, Mike Minter sounded confident about this season. He was quick to praise quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams, saying that the redshirt junior from Atlanta is “magical with the football in his hand”. 

Williams, a dual-threat QB, only played in four games last season due to injury, but is the preseason first-team All-Big South quarterback (one of three first-team offensive selections for the Camels).

Minter also called his offensive line “the biggest in FCS football”. CU’s projected starters on the o-line average 6’5″, 331 lbs.

Campbell will have a largely new offensive coaching staff this season. Minter invoked the old Oakland Raiders (“Al Davis, man — go deep!”) when describing how he would like his offense to operate.

Campbell was a fairly aggressive team in 2021, with 32 fourth down conversion attempts, tied for 12th nationally (The Citadel, with 41 attempts, was 3rd). That is reflected in the Camels’ “go rate” of 36.36%, which ranked 12th nationally (the Bulldogs were 5th, at 44.09%).

CU passed (or attempted to pass) on 54.4% of its offensive plays last season.

Campbell has a star on defense in Brevin Allen, the reigning Big South Defensive Player of the Year. The redshirt senior from Greensboro had 17½ tackles for loss last season, including 9½ sacks. 

Last year, the Camels were good at creating takeaways (25) and converting them into big plays (4 defensive touchdowns). The Bulldogs will need to be “strong with the ball” on Thursday night.

Quick hitters:

  • The game against Campbell will be streamed on ESPN+; announcers are Chris Hemeyer (play-by-play) and Peter Montemuro (analyst).
  • Luke Mauro and Lee Glaze return in 2022 as The Citadel’s radio team. They can be heard online and also on three radio stations statewide: WQNT (102.1-FM/1450-AM) in Charleston, WQXL (100.7-FM/1470-AM) in Columbia, and WDXY (105.9-FM/1240-AM) in Sumter.
  • Brent Thompson lost some weight this off-season. 
  • The Philadelphia 76ers will be in Charleston in September, which wasn’t a huge surprise — but I think some folks in the media world were caught off guard by the news that Doc Rivers and company will be holding training camp at McAlister Field House.
  • The weather forecast for Thursday night in Buies Creek, per the National Weather Service: partly cloudy, with a low of 66°.
  • Campbell’s online preview has been posted, as have CU’s game notes.
  • According to one source that deals in such matters, Campbell is a 3-point favorite over The Citadel (over/under of 55½). That is not surprising, and is generally in line with various preseason computer ratings (which for the two teams are quite similar). The Camels are getting the standard “home field advantage” spread bump. [Edit: well, that line moved quickly; in three hours, it jumped to Campbell -9½.]
  • The Citadel’s game notes are out; initially, the depth chart featured a 278-lb. wide receiver and a punter not on the current roster. That was quickly corrected.
  • Hey, it’s the first week of the season for Athletic Communications, too. As we all know, there are no preseason games in college football. Next week’s press conference needs to be streamed, however.
  • Personally, I would prefer less gamesmanship when it comes to naming the starting quarterback, but then again I’m not a coach.
  • At least The Citadel has a depth chart, which is more than you can say for Texas.

I have no idea what to expect on Thursday night. I hope the Bulldogs are as upbeat and confident as Mike Minter, who clearly has high expectations for his squad this season. Of course, he’s not the only former Nebraska player coaching a team with big hopes for 2022 despite winning only 3 games last year.

(I’ll assume Minter wasn’t celebrating any vomiting by his offensive linemen in fall practice.)

I think it is important for The Citadel to get off to a good start. That is always true, but it is particularly the case for a team that in 2021 had a tendency to fall behind early (often via big plays by the opposing offense).

The Bulldogs did finish last season with consecutive victories, including an unexpected triumph at Chattanooga. That is something to build upon.

We shall see what the opening game (and the season to come) has in store. 

Go Dogs!

Big 10 and SEC conference realignment musings, Independence Day edition

One of the discussion points in this latest round of conference realignment is how many schools will eventually wind up in the Big 10 and/or SEC. With the addition of UCLA and Southern California to the Big 10, the current combined total of institutions in the two leagues is 32, counting UCLA/USC and Texas/Oklahoma.

No one really expects 32 to be the final number, but what will be? 40? 50? More?

One key to determining the number is that, at least for the time being, other varsity sports are being included as part of the conference changes, even though football is obviously the driving force behind all the movement.

If this were a football-only situation, then we would probably only be talking about one conference entity. It could be called the College Football Playoff Conference, or CFPC. Some of the current (and prospective) B1G/SEC members would be left out of the mix, either by choice or because of not bringing enough to the table in terms of brand identity.

The way I envision it, the CFPC would be made up of roughly 30 schools, all of them willing to designate players as employees and decouple their respective football programs from the rest of the NCAA (or whatever governing body inevitably succeeds the NCAA).

However, the college sports industrial complex seemingly isn’t at that stage yet. It might be by 2032, when the TV contract for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament expires, but right now in these very uncertain times schools and conferences are continuing to keep football as part of their existing sports portfolios.

That is why I suspect when the dust settles in this round of conference expansion, the Big 10 and SEC could have between 24 and 32 schools each. My guess is the number for both will be closer to 24 than 32, but it is not completely out of the question there will be over 60 schools in the two conferences.

I believe there is a strong possibility of a sizable increase in the total number of schools in the two conferences in the near future.

I anticipate travel logistics will be a major issue. As a practical matter, the Big 10 cannot have only two schools on the Pacific coast if they are all-sports participants. Two (and possibly four or five) more universities on the west coast need to be added.

Another consideration is Fox (and ESPN as well) undoubtedly would prefer a more national product – for promotion, advertising, and additional (and flexible) time slots, among other things. That is one reason some of the current ACC members would be attractive to the Big 10.

Of course, it is unlikely any of those schools would pass the “maintains/increases media rights payout average per institution” test right now, in the way the UCLA/USC addition did. Notre Dame is arguably the only school in the country outside the Big 10/SEC right now which would.

That notwithstanding, it might be worth it for Fox to decimate the ACC (with its ties to ESPN), much as the Big 10 adding UCLA/USC permanently wrecked the Pac-12 and its future contractual opportunities.

The ACC’s Grant of Rights currently stands in the way of the Big 10 and/or SEC poaching teams from that conference, but it isn’t impervious to attack.

I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me the simplest and quickest way to get around the GOR for the ACC would be for more than half the conference schools to bail on the league. At least eight schools would have to do so (this would not include Notre Dame).

The problem is the Big 10 probably would not have interest in more than six of the current ACC schools — North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State, and Duke (a serious candidate if men’s basketball is part of the equation).

It is hard to imagine the conference taking all of them, and it would still be two short of a GOR-busting majority. Would the Big 10/Fox be willing to add those schools, plus perhaps Pittsburgh and Clemson? I don’t see it.

If the Big 10 grabbed 8 ACC schools, though, and picked up five additional west coast institutions (like Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Colorado, and Utah), along with the dream addition of Notre Dame, it would result in a 30-team league covering the entire country, undoubtedly broken down into four geographically reasonable divisions for travel.

That scenario is almost certainly not going to happen. I do think something like it could happen, though, which is why I believe a 24- to 28-school conference is not an outrageous possibility.

The more realistic way to get an eight-member majority in the ACC, and thus force the ending of the Grant of Rights, would be for the SEC to take three or four of the schools. Would the SEC’s partner, ESPN, really want to short-circuit its own deal with the ACC? Maybe not. It is conceivable, though, that the network decides the conference (and is contract) is permanently damaged, and its priority should be to focus on savable assets within the league – namely, the schools in the ACC with brands which would translate to the new world order of the Big 10/SEC.

That list of schools could mirror the group of eight schools mentioned earlier. For the SEC, though, other institutions (notably North Carolina State and Virginia Tech) might be in the running.

One final thought: some of these schools could have issues with state legislatures trying to limit conference movement at the expense of other public universities within their state. There is a history of political interference in league realignment in Texas and Virginia, and in this cycle it has already appeared in Washington and Oregon. Such machinations likely would be a factor in North Carolina as well.

Most or all of what I have written may be complete nonsense. I freely admit I have no idea what will happen.

I don’t think anyone else really knows what will happen, either.

28-member Big 10 and SEC, 2025 (theoretical)

Baseball notes for The Citadel as the 2022 season begins

This is just a post in which I throw out a bunch of numbers, etc. Please excuse the scattershot nature of the information…

The Citadel is scheduled to play 34 non-conference games in 2022 — 26 at home, and 8 on the road. Three of the road games are against Creighton, while the other five are much shorter trips (Charleston Southern twice, College of Charleston, Winthrop, and North Florida).

Below is a list of The Citadel’s 2002 non-conference opponents, with last season’s record, RPI, and games versus the Bulldogs this year in parenthesis. For example, Fairleigh Dickinson was 8-29 last season and finished with an RPI of 284 (there are 293 teams in D-1); The Citadel is slated to face FDU at Riley Park in the first three games of the 2022 campaign.

  • Fairleigh Dickinson: 9-28, 284 (3)
  • Villanova: 21-14, 98 (3)
  • Northern Kentucky: 17-31, 257 (3)
  • Charleston Southern: 18-26, 247 (4)
  • USC-Upstate: 37-16, 51 (1)
  • Siena: 15-24, 259 (3)
  • St. Peter’s: 4-24, 279 (3)
  • George Mason: 14-29, 267 (3)
  • North Florida: 22-23, 117 (2)
  • Creighton: 24-15, 115 (3)
  • College of Charleston: 27-25, 158 (2)
  • Winthrop: 19-27, 238 (2)
  • South Carolina: 34-23, 20 (1)
  • Texas: 50-17, 4 (1)

The Citadel finished 12-39 last season, with an RPI of 266.

SoCon preseason polls:

Preseason Coaches Poll
Team (First-Place Votes) Points
1. Wofford (6) 48
2. Mercer (1) 40
3. Western Carolina (1) 39
4. ETSU 28
5. UNCG 25
6. Samford 19
7. VMI 16
8. The Citadel 9

Preseason Media Poll
Team (First-Place Votes) Points
1. Wofford (8) 127
2. Mercer (3) 113
3. Samford (4) 100
4. Western Carolina (2) 87
5. ETSU 74
6. UNCG 54
7. VMI 37
8. The Citadel 20

This season, SoCon teams are scheduled to play 21 conference matchups, 3 against each team (last season’s COVID-affected slate featured divisional play). The Citadel has 3 home series in league action, and 4 series on the road.

I don’t have updated park factors for the 2021 season, though that year might be of somewhat limited forecasting utility anyway, given the COVID-related factors surrounding it. The 2019 numbers suggest that the SoCon has four teams which play home games in average to very slightly above average parks for offense (The Citadel, Samford, Wofford, and ETSU), one that plays in an above average park for offense (UNC Greensboro), and three that compete in parks well above average for offense (Mercer, VMI, and Western Carolina).

In the SoCon, the name of the game is putting runs on the board. In 2021, league teams averaged 6.57 runs per game (3rd-most among the 31 Division I conferences). That came as a result of compiling a collective .277 batting average (5th-best), maintaining an on base percentage of .375 (4th-highest), slugging .428 as a group (9th-highest), totaling an OPS of .803 (8th-best), and averaging 0.971 homers per game (10th-most).

The Citadel will avoid making the journey to Cullowhee and Western Carolina’s Hennon Stadium, which was in the top 15 of park factors (in terms of D1 offense) as of 2019, but the Bulldogs do travel to Mercer and VMI.

Pitching statistics of note for SoCon teams, 2021 (all games, not just conference action):

Team G K/9 BB/9 WHIP 2B-A 3B-A HR-A
Wofford 57 8.86 2.95 1.34 134 9 58
ETSU 49 9.13 3.57 1.40 86 12 34
Mercer 57 8.95 3.80 1.51 65 8 72
Samford 59 9.34 4.03 1.53 106 11 74
UNCG 52 7.80 4.15 1.49 84 9 39
WCU 49 8.57 4.28 1.58 99 14 44
The Citadel 51 7.86 5.42 1.76 106 16 49
VMI 47 6.66 5.50 1.87 106 4 59

Team BAA OBP ag SLG ag OPS ag WP HB Bk GB/FB
Wofford 0.259 0.334 0.426 0.760 55 64 0 0.768
ETSU 0.259 0.347 0.389 0.736 58 60 4 1.277
Mercer 0.279 0.363 0.434 0.797 44 55 5 0.910
Samford 0.275 0.363 0.449 0.812 68 60 5 0.941
UNCG 0.266 0.358 0.392 0.750 63 55 6 0.805
WCU 0.279 0.376 0.434 0.810 76 67 9 1.062
The Citadel 0.289 0.395 0.451 0.846 50 64 8 0.833
VMI 0.309 0.415 0.492 0.907 67 68 1 0.786


Offensive statistics of note for SoCon teams, 2021 (all games, not just conference action):

Team G BA OBP R R/Gm AB H 2B 3B TB TB/Gm HR HR/Gm
Mercer 57 0.287 0.390 428 7.51 1,927 553 119   7 962 16.88 92 1.61
WCU 49 0.306 0.413 408 8.33 1,725 528 103 10 816 16.65 55 1.12
Samford 59 0.284 0.383 431 7.31 2,011 571  97 11 900 15.25 70 1.19
Wofford 57 0.292 0.402 404 7.09 1,883 549 117 11 772 13.54 28 0.49
UNCG 52 0.263 0.366 346 6.65 1,739 458  84 14 705 13.56 45 0.87
ETSU 49 0.246 0.341 264 5.39 1,615 397 102   2 668 13.63 55 1.12
VMI 47 0.266 0.367 256 5.45 1,529 406  51 13 573 12.19 30 0.64
The Citadel 51 0.265 0.327 229 4.49 1,715 455  77   9 652 12.78 34 0.67

Team SLG OPS RBI BB BB/Gm HBP K/Gm SF SH
Mercer 0.499 0.889 386 256 4.49 80 8.02 19 42
WCU 0.473 0.886 366 241 4.92 87 8.41 19 13
Samford 0.448 0.831 393 266 4.51 71 8.32 21 25
Wofford 0.410 0.812 347 301 5.28 68 7.09 31 54
UNCG 0.405 0.771 315 236 4.54 63 8.23 31 16
ETSU 0.414 0.755 249 202 4.12 38 8.80 14 33
VMI 0.375 0.742 230 197 4.19 57 9.00 13 22
The Citadel 0.380 0.707 199 129 2.53 36 7.80 15 29

Team SB SB/Gm CS SB% Picked off CS-Pk /Gm IBB Opp DP
Mercer 50 0.88 15 71.4%    5 0.351 15 29
WCU 58 1.18 15 75.3%    4 0.388 5 39
Samford 48 0.81 16 65.8%    9 0.424 7 45
Wofford 132 2.32 34 73.7%   13 0.825 7 40
UNCG 65 1.25 23 68.4%    7 0.577 5 19
ETSU 39 0.80 12 66.1%    8 0.408 11 23
VMI 60 1.28 23 65.2%    9 0.681 7 38
The Citadel 45 0.88 15 64.3%   10 0.490 5 35

Defensive statistics of note for SoCon teams, 2021 (all games, not just conference action):

Team G PO A TC E Fld rate PB SBA CSB SBa% Infield DP Def Eff
ETSU 49 1,277 483 1,816 56 0.969  7 36 11 69.4% 34 67.74%
Mercer 57 1,476 511 2,028 41 0.980  8 74 24 67.6% 30 66.98%
Samford 59 1,521 505 2,103 77 0.963 12 67 26 61.2% 41 67.13%
The Citadel 51 1,316 437 1,833 80 0.956 15 68 16 76.5% 28 66.98%
UNCG 52 1,353 462 1,875 60 0.968 10 64 21 67.2% 30 68.77%
VMI 47 1,168 410 1,643 65 0.960 19 58 14 75.9% 23 66.64%
WCU 49 1,267 459 1,779 53 0.970 14 52 12 76.9% 47 66.45%
Wofford 57 1,499 478 2,044 67 0.967  8 41 19 53.7% 18 69.24%

If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you that The Citadel didn’t fare well statistically last season in just about any category, but those tables spell it out in stark terms. It was a tough year.

There are a lot of ways to play winning baseball. Historically, though, The Citadel’s success on the diamond has usually included strong starting pitching with an emphasis on strikeouts (the Bulldogs’ best pitching staffs have had very high K/9 rates), good but not necessarily great defense, and a tough, aggressive, OBP-focused lineup featuring at least three power hitters (often with two of them also good at getting on base).

Unfortunately, last year didn’t come close to producing anything resembling that time-tested formula.

At first glance, a 7.86 K/9 rate doesn’t look that bad. After all, it is almost a strikeout per inning. However, that was only 6th-best among SoCon teams, and it was combined with a terrible BB/9 rate (5.42, second-worst in the league). The opponents’ slugging rate was also too high, particularly when considering The Citadel’s home park.

The Bulldogs’ offense mirrored the pitching. The Citadel’s OBP was the worst in the league and must substantially improve in 2022. The batting average wasn’t really the problem; no, the real issue was the Bulldogs’ inability to draw bases on balls.

The Citadel averaged only 2.53 walks per game in 2021; every other league squad averaged at least 4 free passes per contest. That is an enormous difference, and goes a long way to explaining why the Bulldogs averaged just 4.49 runs per game, almost a full run lower than ETSU, which was next-to-last in the conference.

Defensively, The Citadel might have been a little better than its fielding rate suggested, though still slightly below average in the SoCon. However, the Bulldogs allowed too many stolen bases, with opponents swiping over a bag per game (1.33), and with a 76.5% success rate. There was also an excessive number of passed balls, and The Citadel’s infield DP numbers arguably aren’t as high as they should be, given the number of opposing baserunners over the course of the season.

All that said, there are positives as the 2022 season begins. For one thing, the team will look good. I also think that as society in general (and college sports in particular) moves closer to a (hopefully) mostly COVID-free existence, The Citadel’s varsity sports teams will be major beneficiaries.

It is hard enough to balance academics, athletics, and military training. The restrictions brought on by COVID-19 have surely made that lifestyle exponentially more difficult. However, it hasn’t been completely impossible; just look at what the volleyball team did.

(Still amazed by that, to be honest.)

I’m more than ready for this season to start. I’m also looking forward to making occasional appearances at Riley Park, something I haven’t been able to do in quite some time.

Play ball!

College Football Week 12, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

The Citadel’s game notes

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference

Chattanooga’s game notes

Chattanooga’s weekly press conference (featuring head coach Rusty Wright and two players)

SoCon weekly release

Broadcast information

The Citadel at Chattanooga, to be played at Finley Stadium – Davenport Field in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on November 20, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Play-by-play will be handled by Chris Goforth, while Scott McMahen supplies the analysis. Dave Keylon is the sideline reporter.

The contest can be heard on radio via The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

“Live Stats” for the game

Here is my weekly compilation spreadsheet of FCS stats:

FCS statistics through games of November 13, 2021

I did not have time this week to further summarize the stats (top 5/bottom 5, matchup comparisons, etc.). Apologies for anyone interested, but I’ve been rather busy this week, which is why there wasn’t an earlier post.

Statistically speaking, Chattanooga generally fares well across the board, particularly in defensive categories. The Mocs are 11th in points allowed per game in FCS, and fourth in estimated points per Red Zone possession. Chattanooga is also second nationally in interceptions per opponents’ passes, behind only St. Thomas; Chattanooga has picked off a pass every 17.87 opponent attempts this season.

UTC is 4th in FCS in time of possession (averaging 33:29 TOP per game). This is in keeping with the Mocs’ general pace on offense (Chattanooga is also 4th in seconds per offensive play). 

On the whole, I would describe Chattanooga as being rather conservative on offense. The “go rate” for the Mocs is 4th-lowest in FCS; only Eastern Kentucky and Montana State have fewer fourth down attempts.

Chattanooga is 15th in run percentage (60.2% of its offensive plays are rushes).

Roster review:

–  Of the 112 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 61 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (4), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– There are 94 players on Chattanooga’s roster. Of those, 32 are from Georgia, while another 30 are from Tennessee. The remaining players are from the following states: Alabama (13), Florida (4), South Carolina (4), North Carolina (2), Ohio (2), and one each from Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia.

Long snapper Bryce Coulson is from Brisbane, Australia, while wide receiver Jahmar Quandt is a native of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

– The Mocs’ squad includes players who transferred from the following four-year institutions and junior colleges: Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Austin Peay, Bethel, Cincinnati (2), East Mississippi CC, Eastern Illinois, Georgia Military, Hutchinson CC, Jacksonville State, Lafayette, Louisville (2), Mercer, Middle Tennessee State, Minot State, Mississippi State, Naropa, North Dakota State, Northern Illinois, Old Dominion, Purdue, Rhode Island, South Carolina (2), Tennessee Tech (2), and Western Kentucky (4).

As has been the case over the latter part of the season, FCS spreads and totals are not readily available. There are some lines out there, and I’ll list those involving SoCon teams here:

  • Wofford is a 38½-point underdog at North Carolina
  • VMI is a 10½-point favorite over Western Carolina
  • Samford is a 2½-point favorite over Furman
  • East Tennessee State is a 4½-point favorite over Mercer
  • Chattanooga is a 23½-point favorite over The Citadel

Finally, here are this week’s numbers from my projection system, which as I’ve mentioned before is very much a work in progress. I’m not quite sure how much progress I’ve really made, to be honest.

At any rate, here is what the system has to say about this week’s FCS games (including four of the games listed above; I don’t run numbers for FCS contests against teams from outside the subdivision).

 

Road team Home team Road tm score Home tm score
Nicholls State SE Louisiana 29.9 36.6
Butler Marist 16.8 34.8
Dartmouth Brown 41.2 19.6
Harvard Yale 24.7 20.6
Lafayette Lehigh 20.7 17.7
Georgetown Morgan State 24.6 22.5
Campbell Robert Morris 29.9 24.8
Duquesne Wagner 34.6 15.5
St. Francis PA Central Conn. State 24.9 21.0
Western Carolina VMI 30.6 41.6
Sacred Heart Long Island 29 13.1
Fordham Colgate 32.9 23.9
San Diego Stetson 35.3 22.1
Columbia Cornell 26.1 22.4
Bryant Merrimack 27.1 23.9
Murray State Eastern Illinois 27.5 19.7
Holy Cross Bucknell 39.9 8.9
Indiana State Illinois State 17.7 26.4
Princeton Penn 27.7 16.7
Youngstown State Southern Illinois 22.7 40.8
Maine New Hampshire 27.0 21.6
Villanova Delaware 30.6 14.2
Albany Stony Brook 19.6 23.5
Furman Samford 34.2 36.0
Northwestern State McNeese State 15.9 35.2
Gardner-Webb North Carolina A&T 22.2 30.6
Monmouth Kennesaw State 25.3 26.2
North Alabama Hampton 30.2 29.1
Drake Davidson 17.0 30.3
Mercer ETSU 23.0 27.7
The Citadel Chattanooga 13.8 36.1
UT Martin SE Missouri State 32.3 23.1
Sam Houston State Abilene Christian 40.5 17.3
Presbyterian St. Thomas 27.3 46.8
Morehead State Valparaiso 27.6 30.9
South Carolina State Norfolk State 28.1 27.6
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Alabama A&M 27.0 40.0
Montana State Montana 21.0 22.5
Jacksonville State Eastern Kentucky 23.3 26.7
Rhode Island Elon 23.6 25.4
Alcorn State Jackson State 17.3 28.9
Delaware State NC Central 22.0 24.4
Western Illinois Northern Iowa 18.6 35.8
Towson James Madison 13.2 37
Texas Southern Alabama State 29.3 33.3
Tennessee Tech Austin Peay 15.9 36.5
Incarnate Word Houston Baptist 46.7 20.2
Northern Colorado Weber State 10.4 33.8
Idaho Idaho State 29.7 25.9
North Dakota South Dakota State 18.9 29.8
South Dakota North Dakota State 17.4 27.3
Florida A&M Bethune-Cookman 32.2 18.7
Richmond William and Mary 22.3 21.5
Eastern Washington Portland State 41.8 26.9
Stephen F. Austin Lamar 36.3 13.2
Central Arkansas Tarleton State 34.6 25.8
Northern Arizona Cal Poly 32.0 24.3
Sacramento State UC Davis 26.0 24.8
Missouri State Dixie State 41.5 16.7

Note: the game between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman is actually a neutral-site contest taking place in Orlando.

In terms of posts, this will probably be it from me for a couple of weeks or so. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

College Football Week 11, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Wofford prepares to tackle The Citadel’s option offense

The Citadel’s game notes

My blog post from Tuesday, primarily a preview/review of statistics for The Citadel, Wofford, and FCS in general

Broadcast information

Wofford at The Citadel, to be played on Sansom Field at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on November 13, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Play-by-play will be handled by Dave Weinstein, while Jason Kempf supplies the analysis.

The contest can be heard on radio via The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. 

“Live Stats” for the game

Roster review:

–  Of the 112 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 61 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (4), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– Of the 111 players on Wofford’s online roster, 48 are from South Carolina. The remaining Terriers are from the following states: Georgia (19 players), Florida (12), North Carolina (12), Tennessee (5), Ohio (4), Alabama (3), Texas (2), and one each from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia.

Wofford added several transfers to its roster after the spring campaign, including a few junior college players. Two of the transfers on the squad began their collegiate careers at Appalachian State; two more are from Presbyterian. The others are from ASA College (Miami, FL), Hutchinson CC, Iowa Central CC, Independence CC, Jacksonville State, and Navy.

FCS lines are now not readily available until Saturday morning, at least in terms of consensus spreads and totals. As such, I won’t be listing any lines and totals for the subdivision as a group. There are some spreads out there for the games involving SoCon teams this Saturday (though not totals), and I’ll list those here. 

  • Florida is a 31½-point favorite over Samford 
  • The Citadel is a 3-point favorite over Wofford
  • Furman is a 2½-point favorite over VMI
  • East Tennessee State is a 10-point favorite at Western Carolina
  • Chattanooga is a 6-point favorite at Mercer

I do have numbers again from my own projection system; as must be noted, it is highly experimental and very dubious. This is what my numbers say about Saturday’s FCS games (I include the tenths of a decimal point to show how precise these calculations are, even though there is nothing really precise about them):

Road team Home team Road tm score Home tm score
Wagner Sacred Heart 8.7 32.2
Merrimack St. Francis PA 20.0 27.0
Central Conn. State Duquesne 19.4 26.0
Valparaiso Butler 31 21.6
Robert Morris Monmouth 16.7 39.6
Davidson Dayton 31.1 26.9
Georgetown Lehigh 21.4 23.1
Bethune-Cookman Grambling State 26.8 28.4
Penn Harvard 13.1 29.6
North Dakota State Youngstown State 32.8 13.5
Colgate Lafayette 14.7 24.2
Holy Cross Fordham 33.0 30.0
Brown Columbia 30.3 41.5
Stony Brook Villanova 13.0 28.9
Morgan State Albany 9.8 30.3
Southern Illinois Indiana State 34.5 21.9
Yale Princeton 22.2 26.4
Eastern Kentucky Sam Houston State 18.2 37.2
Long Island Bryant 18.8 29.4
St. Thomas Drake 18.5 14.6
Stetson Morehead State 26.5 40.9
Marist Presbyterian 44.7 32.2
Hampton Campbell 25.0 32.7
Norfolk State Delaware State 26.4 23.7
New Hampshire Rhode Island 21.5 26.7
North Carolina Central Howard 24.3 23.7
Charleston Southern Gardner-Webb 34.2 30.6
North Carolina A&T South Carolina State 24.4 22.1
Cornell Dartmouth 11.1 31.6
Alabama State MS Valley State 23.9 18.4
East Tennessee State Western Carolina 38.6 27.0
VMI Furman 27.9 27.1
SE Missouri State Murray State 28.2 24.6
South Dakota State South Dakota 28.3 21.4
Tarleton State Abilene Christian 28.7 25.6
Elon Towson 21.2 25.2
Delaware Richmond 15.3 23.2
Wofford The Citadel 24.7 25.9
UT Martin Tennessee Tech 32.6 15.6
McNeese State Houston Baptist 38.2 21.2
Alabama A&M Texas Southern 39.7 33.2
Prairie View A&M Alcorn State 26.5 21.9
Austin Peay Tennessee State 31.4 23.8
Kennesaw State North Alabama 32.5 19.0
Chattanooga Mercer 26.3 21.3
Idaho Montana State 15.6 37.0
Florida A&M Arkansas-Pine Bluff 33.8 18.4
Northern Iowa Missouri State 22.6 25.6
Illinois State North Dakota 17.9 24.8
Montana Northern Arizona 34.3 21.2
James Madison William and Mary 30.1 16.2
Weber State Southern Utah 35.2 16.0
Incarnate Word Nicholls State 35.1 34.9
Jacksonville State Lamar 29.8 14.9
Stephen F. Austin Central Arkansas 29.3 33.2
Jackson State Southern 29.8 19.9
Northwestern State SE Louisiana 21.2 47.3
Eastern Washington UC Davis 39.5 36.1
Idaho State Cal Poly 30.8 25.6
Portland State Sacramento State 21.2 30.2

Happy Homecoming, everyone.

College Football Week 11, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

Brent Thompson’s Monday press conference

Wofford game notes

Willie Eubanks takes aim at the NFL

A quick summary of Wofford’s season to date:

The Terriers have a record of 1-8 with two games remaining, this Saturday’s contest against the Bulldogs and a trip to Chapel Hill to face North Carolina on November 20.

Wofford won its season opener at Elon, prevailing 24-22 after partially blocking a 46-yard field goal attempt by the Phoenix with eight seconds remaining. The next week was the Terriers’ bye week. Since then, Wofford has lost on eight consecutive Saturdays by an average score of 35-18.

Going back to the spring campaign, the Terriers have lost eleven straight SoCon games.

Here is my working spreadsheet for FCS statistics:

FCS statistics for games through November 6, 2021

It wasn’t the easiest week for compiling stats. Among other things, the NCAA’s website screwed up the total number of games played for several teams, leading to a lot of errors. I think I found all of them. 

This week features an NCAA attendance update, and the spreadsheet includes a tab for those numbers. The NCAA attendance totals are still missing two games, which I’ve noted at the bottom of the tab. It is not inconceivable there are a few more games missing (in terms of attendance; the other statistics should be okay).

I’ve also included a tab for the ever-popular onside kick numbers, a category dominated by Presbyterian. Incidentally, PC’s game at Valparaiso on Saturday resulted in one of the more entertaining box scores of the season; if you’re a true stats nerd, you might want to check it out: Link

In summary, the spreadsheet includes three offensive and three defensive tabs, including one each for Red Zone possessions; a separate tab for defensive interceptions; and tabs for punting, turnovers, penalties, time of possession, onside kicks, and attendance.

Neither The Citadel nor Wofford has had a good year on the field, and that is reflected in a lot of these numbers. I’ve listed some of the more relevant stats for each school below, along with the top five and bottom five in FCS for each category; I also occasionally note other SoCon schools that are high (or low) in those areas.

Also, for the uninitiated: I include sack numbers in passing statistics, rather than running stats. That is what the “adjusted” part of adjusted yards per rush and adjusted yards per pass is referencing.

Offense

– Yards per play (national average: 5.42; there are 128 teams in FCS)

  • Top 5 in FCS: Eastern Washington (7.30 yards per play), Southeastern Louisiana, South Dakota State, Incarnate Word, Nicholls State
  • Bottom 5 in FCS: Bucknell (3.38), Lehigh, Houston Baptist, Grambling State, Wagner
  • Wofford is 65th (5.37), The Citadel 89th (5.06). ETSU is 14th, Mercer 15th.

– Adjusted yards per rush (national average: 4.73)

  • Top 5: Sam Houston State (6.63), Nicholls State, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, ETSU
  • Bottom 5: Georgetown (3.02), Bucknell, Cal Poly, Robert Morris, Alabama State
  • Wofford is 30th (5.22), The Citadel 64th (4.65). Mercer is 11th, Chattanooga 17th.

– Adjusted yards per pass (national average: 6.12)

  • Top 5: Davidson (10.20), Kennesaw State, Eastern Washington, Southeastern Louisiana, South Dakota State
  • Bottom 5: Lehigh (3.51), Bucknell, Grambling State, Houston Baptist, Wagner
  • The Citadel is 37th (6.66), Wofford 85th (5.70). Mercer is 11th, ETSU 24th.

According to the NCAA’s “raw” stats, The Citadel is 8th nationally in yards per pass attempt (8.53). However, the Bulldogs also have the 5th-worst sack rate against in FCS (12.1%). Those sacks really have an impact on the actual yardage gained on pass plays.

The Citadel’s quarterbacks have been sacked 16 times this season, while attempting 116 passes. Southeastern Louisiana’s offense has also suffered 16 sacks — but the Lions have thrown 396 passes.

– The Citadel’s 116 pass attempts ranks as the third-fewest in the subdivision. Only Davidson (81 pass attempts) and Kennesaw State (108) have thrown fewer. Wofford has attempted 154 passes, fifth-fewest; Mercer has thrown the seventh-fewest.

– Not surprisingly, Davidson, Kennesaw State, and The Citadel rank 1-2-3 in percentage of run plays, with the Wildcats rushing on 84.6% of all plays from scrimmage. The Bulldogs run the football 79.5% of the time.

The SoCon as a whole prefers the ground attack. Wofford (68.6%) is 5th nationally in run rate, Mercer 8th, Chattanooga 13th, ETSU 20th, and Furman 22nd.

– Presbyterian has a pass play rate of 73.4%, tops in FCS. The rest of the top 5: Western Illinois, Morehead State, Incarnate Word, and Southeastern Louisiana. The Blue Hose are averaging 59.3 passes per game.

– Points per offensive play (national average: .383)

  • Top 5: South Dakota State (.627), Eastern Washington, Southeastern Louisiana, Sam Houston State, Central Arkansas
  • Bottom 5: Bucknell (.161), Lehigh, Dixie State, Cal Poly, Drake
  • Wofford is 91st (.320), The Citadel 96th (.313). Mercer is 12th, Samford 16th, ETSU 20th.

– Third down conversion rate (national average: 37.52%)

  • Top 5: Davidson (54.81%), Southeastern Louisiana, Eastern Washington, Incarnate Word, Missouri State
  • Bottom 5: New Hampshire (22.52%), Bucknell, Wagner, Eastern Illinois, Grambling State
  • The Citadel is 32nd (42.03%), Wofford 97th (33.33%). ETSU is 12th, Mercer 13th.

 – Fourth down conversion rate (national average: 48.99%)

  • Top 5: Kennesaw State (88.24%, 15 for 17), Furman and Delaware (tied for 2nd at 80.0%, 8 for 10), Norfolk State, Davidson
  • Bottom 2: Howard is 1 for 11 on 4th down, while Lehigh is 2 for 16
  • The Citadel is tied for 46th at exactly 50% (16 for 32), while Wofford is tied for 105th (36.36%, 4 for 11)
  • VMI is 7th, Mercer 9th (albeit on only 7 attempts), Samford 17th.

– Fourth down attempts

  • Presbyterian is 22 for 70 on fourth down attempts. Stetson has the 2nd-most attempts (38), followed by Eastern Illinois and (in a tie for fourth) The Citadel and Central Connecticut State.
  • Montana State has the fewest fourth down tries, with 5 (one successful). Eastern Kentucky and Central Arkansas have gone for it six times; Mercer and Chattanooga have each made seven attempts.

– Go rate

  • Presbyterian’s go rate of 87.5% leads the nation, as expected. Stetson, Davidson, Brown, and Southeastern Louisiana round out the top 5.
  • The Citadel is 8th (41.56%), Wofford 105th (15.15%).
  • Montana State has the lowest go rate, at 7.81%; Chattanooga is third-lowest.

– Red Zone offense (scoring)

  • Holy Cross has an estimated points per red zone possession rate of 6.15, best in FCS. The rest of the top 5: Youngstown State, Central Arkansas, Southeast Missouri State, and Southeastern Louisiana.
  • Bottom 5: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3.03), Cal Poly, Lehigh, Dixie State, Indiana State
  • The Citadel is 65th, Wofford 101st. 

– Red Zone offense (possessions)

  • Southeastern Louisiana leads the nation in red zone trips per game, at 6.11. The national average is 3.51.
  • Other teams with lots of trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line: Eastern Washington, Norfolk State, Samford, and VMI.
  • Lamar (1.00) has the fewest red zone trips per game.
  • The Citadel ranks 74th (3.33), Wofford 117th (2.44).

– Fastest/slowest offenses

  • Top 5, fastest: Samford (18.76 seconds per play), Presbyterian, Charleston Southern, Eastern Washington, Brown
  • Top 5, slowest: Delaware State (31.65 seconds per play), Lamar, Duquesne, Chattanooga, North Dakota State
  • The Citadel has the 67th-fastest offense (27.49 seconds per play), Wofford 120th-fastest (30.18). The national average is 26.96.

– Curious statistic that I thought was worth mentioning…

The Citadel’s offense has only picked up seven first downs via penalty this season. The Bulldogs have run 645 offensive plays, so the first down via penalty rate on a per-play basis is just 1.085%, which is the lowest rate in all of FCS. Wofford, by comparison, has a rate of 2.107%, slightly below the national average (2.571%).

No, I don’t know what it all means either…

Defense

– Yards per play (national average: 5.55)

  • Top 5: Jackson State (3.74), James Madison, Harvard, Prairie View A&M, Villanova
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (7.15), Western Illinois, Youngstown State, Brown, Butler
  • Wofford is 116th (6.45), The Citadel 122nd (6.74). Chattanooga is 14th, Mercer 21st.

– Adjusted yards per rush (national average: 4.81)

  • Top 5: James Madison (2.93), Harvard, Sam Houston State, Montana, Villanova
  • Bottom 5: Youngstown State (6.34), Lamar, Western Illinois, Butler, Alabama A&M
  • Wofford is 114th (5.63), The Citadel 118th (5.77). Chattanooga is 24th.

– Adjusted yards per pass (national average: 6.31)

  • Top 5: Jackson State (3.27), Sacred Heart, Prairie View A&M, Merrimack, Dartmouth
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (9.14), Brown, The Citadel (8.05), Idaho State, Robert Morris.
  • Wofford is 108th (7.49). Chattanooga is 15th, ETSU 23rd.

Jackson State’s prowess against the pass is best illustrated by its sack rate of 12.9%, tops in the nation.

– VMI’s opponents have run the football on 62.1% of their plays from scrimmage, the highest percentage in FCS. The rest of the top 5 in that category: Butler, Eastern Illinois, Western Carolina, and Samford. 

There are several other SoCon schools in the top 25, including Furman (11th), The Citadel (12th), Mercer (22nd), and Wofford (25th).

– Harvard’s opponents have passes (or attempted to pass) on 60.7% of their plays from scrimmage, the highest rate in the subdivision.

– Points allowed per play (national average: 4.04)

  • Top 5: North Dakota State (.172), Montana State, Harvard, Montana, Jackson State
  • Bottom 5: Presbyterian (.835), Brown, Lamar, Western Illinois, Wagner
  • Wofford is 99th (.484), The Citadel 118th (.544). ETSU is 16th, Chattanooga 19th.

– Third down conversion rate against

  • Top 5: North Dakota State (23.4%), Yale, Harvard, James Madison, Prairie View A&M
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (54.6%), Lamar, Idaho State, Jacksonville State, LIU
  • The Citadel is 112th (45.3%), Wofford 122nd (49.2%). Chattanooga is 8th.

– Fourth down conversion rate against

  • Top 5: St. Thomas (17.6%, 3 for 17), Holy Cross, Alcorn State, Harvard, Furman (2 for 8). 
  • The Citadel is 70th, Wofford 79th.
  • Bethune-Cookman has allowed 12 of 13 fourth down conversion attempts (92.3%). North Alabama and Mercer have each allowed 11 of 14 (78.6%).

– Fourth down attempts against

  • Four teams have faced only eight 4th-down attempts: Furman, Youngstown State, The Citadel, and Drake.
  • William and Mary has faced 28, the most of any team not named Presbyterian or that has not played Presbyterian.

– Havoc Rate

  • Jackson State (23.46%) leads the nation in Havoc Rate, followed by James Madison, Chattanooga, Prairie View A&M, and Stephen F. Austin.
  • Wofford is last in Havoc Rate (9.16%). The rest of the bottom five includes Southern Utah, Bucknell, The Citadel (10.78%, fourth-worst), and Marist.

Of the bottom 25 teams in Havoc Rate, only two have winning records — Fordham and VMI.

– Red Zone defense (scoring)

  • Top 5: Dartmouth (2.84 estimated points per red zone possession), Harvard, North Dakota State, Montana, Kennesaw State
  • Bottom 5: Western Carolina (6.28), Columbia, Lamar, Brown, Butler
  • The Citadel is 59th, Wofford 101st. Chattanooga is 6th.

– Red Zone defense (possessions)

  • Top 5: James Madison (allowing 1.44 red zone possessions per game), North Dakota State, Sacred Heart, Jackson State, Villanova
  • Bottom 5: Presbyterian, Southern, Houston Baptist, LIU, Western Carolina
  • Wofford is 55th, The Citadel 91st. Chattanooga is 15th.

Miscellaneous

– St. Thomas leads FCS in interceptions per pass attempt (one pick every 16.23 opponent throws). Chattanooga ranks second in this statistic, followed by Holy Cross, Villanova, and Stephen F. Austin. Mercer is 11th, Furman 13th, The Citadel 57th (33.57), and Wofford next-to-last (131.50). Howard has faced 253 pass attempts, but has only one interception.

– Montana continues to set the pace in net punting (44.20). The Citadel is 28th, Wofford 60th, and Presbyterian (predictably) last.

– Furman is averaging the fewest penalty yards per game in FCS (31.00). The rest of the top five includes Bucknell, Wofford (32.67), Princeton, and South Dakota. Mercer is 8th, The Citadel 27th (47.00).

Florida A&M averages the most penalty yards per contest (96.33).

The cumulative record of the ten teams with the worst penalty yardage numbers is 49-40. The cumulative record of the ten teams with the fewest penalty yardage stats is 40-47.

– James Madison has a turnover margin per game of +1.33, tops in FCS. Chattanooga and Montana State are tied for 2nd. The next group of tied teams includes East Tennessee State, McNeese State, South Carolina State, South Dakota State, and UC Davis.

The Citadel is tied for 95th (-0.33), Wofford tied for 77th (-0.11). Presbyterian (-2.56) is last.

– The Citadel is 14th in time of possession, while Wofford is 87th.

– The Citadel’s home attendance per game is 27th-highest nationally; Wofford’s is 88th.

I’ll probably have another relatively short writeup as Saturday’s contest draws closer.