2018 Football, Game 11: The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern

The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 7:00 pm ET on November 29, 2018.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Kendall Lewis will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen supplies the analysis. Danielle Hensley is the sideline reporter. 

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. 

Luke Mauro (the new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Cal McCombs. The sideline reporter will be Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/100.7FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Links of interest:

Preview from The Post and Courier

Bulldogs still getting attention from the Alabama game

– Game notes from The Citadel and Charleston Southern

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Charleston Southern’s website

– Brent Thompson’s 11/27 press conference

– The Bulldog Breakdown

You will notice this is a slightly shorter preview than usual. Apologies for that, but I’ve been rather busy of late.

Also, to be honest, this game sneaked up on me. I have a feeling it may have sneaked up on a lot of people, which probably doesn’t bode well for attendance.

I’ll still be at Johnson Hagood Stadium on Thursday night, though. I’ll be the fan shivering in the sub-50 degree weather. Brrrrrrrrrrr.

Attempt to entice fans, Part 1:

Attempt to entice fans, Part 2:

Since The Citadel is playing Charleston Southern this week, I fully anticipated an obnoxiously loud social media drumbeat of “this is a rivalry”, or “this should be a rivalry”, or “The Citadel should play at CSU every other year; playing all the games at Johnson Hagood Stadium is a crime against humanity”, or “Jamey Chadwell should be the next head coach at Ohio State when Urban Meyer retires”.

That largely hasn’t happened. Heck, nobody even asked Brent Thompson at his press conference about coaching “the bigger school” in the game, and no media member attempted to fish for a bulletin board comment from a player (though there were no players at the presser, which was perhaps just as well).

As to why things have been relatively muted, there are several reasons:

  • Chadwell, a huge media favorite (there was practically a cult of personality surrounding him when he was at CSU) is no longer in the area; thus, the Lowcountry press corps is not as engaged
  • Charleston Southern is on probation for playing ineligible athletes, possibly including a lot of football players during the time period Chadwell coached the team (that information will likely become public soon)
  • There just aren’t many CSU fans, even though almost all of the ones who exist seem to be on Twitter

That last point is worth a further look.

Charleston Southern’s home attendance from 2012 through 2018 (this season):

  • 2012:  2,295 (117th out of 122 FCS teams)
  • 2013:  4,509 (91st out of 124 FCS teams)
  • 2014:  4,329 (94th out of 123 FCS teams)
  • 2015:  4,487 (96th out of 125 FCS teams)
  • 2016:  2,712 (112th out of 124 FCS teams)
  • 2017:  2,345 (110th out of 123 FCS teams)
  • 2018:  1,764 (120th out of 125 FCS teams)

Obviously, the 2018 season isn’t over yet, but CSU’s position in the attendance table is essentially set.

Jamey Chadwell was the coach of the Buccaneers from 2013 through 2016, and in three of those seasons, Charleston Southern had markedly better home attendance. However, there was a catch.

Season attendance averages at Buccaneer Field were massively affected by games against Coastal Carolina and The Citadel, contests in which the visiting fans made up the overwhelming majority of those spectators at the games (and in the case of the 2014 contest versus the Bulldogs, the official attendance figures were wildly inflated as well).

If you take out those games, here is the average home attendance for CSU in 2013, 2014, and 2015:

  • 2013:  4,102
  • 2014:  3,422
  • 2015:  3,290

To be fair, Charleston Southern got a significant bump in attendance by (presumably) its own fans in Chadwell’s first season, 2013. After that, though, attendance among the Buc faithful began to decline, and has done so for five consecutive years (Chadwell’s last three seasons at the school, and Mark Tucker’s two campaigns in charge of the program).

The Citadel has had its own attendance issues in recent years (a subject I have written about on more than one occasion, including this past April), but the Bulldogs are still in another galaxy from the Buccaneers when it comes to fan and alumni interest.

An argument could be made that the difference is due to longstanding tradition, etc., and that is a legitimate point — but it still doesn’t fully explain the enormous gap in support. There is only so much to be said about averaging 1,764 fans per home game, as CSU did this year.

I also remember the program getting an incredible amount of local media attention in the buildup to its season-opening game at North Dakota State in 2016, which included at least one Charleston-area TV affiliate sending a sports anchor and a cameraman to Fargo. The Post and Courier sent its sports columnist, Gene Sapakoff, to watch the game as well.

All that publicity led to this a week later: a home opener at Buccaneer Field with an announced attendance of 1,780.

It makes for an interesting discussion of Jamey Chadwell’s legacy at Charleston Southern, especially given that one (if not both) of his Big South titles at CSU will probably be stripped from the program. What did he provide the school in terms of long-term success and stability?

In five years, will his on-field results matter? Do they matter now?

At least he didn’t cheat CSU out of millions of dollars in order to buy a bunch of Red Skelton paintings…

Oh, there was one Twitter kerfuffle this week. The Citadel’s athletic media relations department initially released game notes listing the Bulldogs’ opponent as “Ladson Southern”. This was changed a day later, perhaps after someone in authority politely opined that it was a touch sophomoric.

I had two takeaways from the affair; A) certain people seemed okay with Jamey Chadwell’s infantile “broom” incident but were nonetheless outraged by the “Ladson Southern” description; B) hey, people actually read the game notes!

[Whispers] One of the “Ladson Southern” references was accidentally left in the game notes after they were reworked.[/shhhh]

Charleston Southern is 5-5 this season under head coach Mark Tucker, a former assistant coach at The Citadel for six seasons in the 1990s. Tucker piloted the Bucs to a 6-5 record last year in his first season at the helm. He has a reputation as a good offensive coach, particularly with regards to quarterback play.

In general, this year the Buccaneers have beaten the teams they should beat (Presbyterian, Campbell, Gardner-Webb, Virginia-Lynchburg) and lost to the better teams on their schedule (Florida, Kennesaw State, Elon, Monmouth).

The one outlier was a bizarre 23-3 loss at Savannah State on October 6, a result so odd I’m inclined to discount it. Two items of interest from that contest: Savannah State controlled the ball for over 21 minutes in the second half, and limited the Bucs to one first down over the game’s final two quarters; and CSU was held to 33 yards rushing, well under its season average (185.4 yards/game).

Normally I would highlight multiple players from The Citadel’s opponent in this space. As for why I am not providing an extensive breakdown of CSU’s two-deep for this matchup, the reader has the choice of one of three reasons:

A) Pure, unadulterated laziness on my part

B) The fact that I am hurriedly writing this section less than 24 hours before the game kicks off while fielding telephone calls and trying to eat a turkey sandwich at the same time

C) The gnawing suspicion that with two weeks to prepare, and the new redshirt rule in effect, Charleston Southern is going to field a lot of players on Thursday night who have not seen a lot of action this season, making the typical review of key players almost pointless

However, here are six CSU players to watch:

  • Solomon Brown (6’1″, 235 lbs.): The defensive lineman has played for Charleston Southern since 2003, and has been a standout in all 16 of those seasons
  • Johnny Robinson (6’4″, 230 lbs.): Another senior DL who is tough to move, Robinson is a native of Apopka, Florida
  • J.D. Sosebee (6’1″, 215 lbs.): A redshirt junior linebacker, Sosebee was a first-team All-Big South performer this season (as were Brown and Robinson)
  • Joe Gold (6’3″, 270 lbs.): The center was a second-team all-conference selection; he began his college career at Florida Atlantic
  • Kyle Reighard (6’2″, 197 lbs.): CSU’s punter was a first-team all-league pick last year, and a second-team choice this season
  • Terrence Wilson (5’8″, 200 lbs.): A sophomore from Leesville, Wilson leads the Bucs in rushing, averaging 6.2 yards per carry

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Thursday night in Charleston, per the National Weather Service:  mostly clear, with a low of 44 degrees. That is about 25 to 30 degrees colder than I would prefer, but so be it.

– The source I normally use for odds and lines does not have Thursday night’s contest listed, which is probably because it is a postponed regular-season FCS game.

In case you were wondering, Kennesaw State is a 7 1/2 point favorite over Wofford in the FCS playoff matchup between those two teams.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 50th in FCS. Charleston Southern is 81st.

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 87% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 28, Charleston Southern 13.

– Among Charleston Southern’s notable alumni:  U.S. senator Tim Scott, medical researcher Sam Gandy, and major league pitcher Tyler Thornburg.

– Charleston Southern’s roster includes 48 players from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (23 players), Florida (16), North Carolina (11), and Virginia (1). There are three players on the squad who have no listed hometown. A quick search on the internet did not shed any light on their geographical backgrounds. Perhaps, like Otis Sistrunk, they are transfers from the University of Mars.

No player on CSU’s team is as well-educated as offensive lineman D’Andra Thompson; the sophomore is an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. It is somewhat surprising that Thompson is not on the Buccaneers’ two-deep, given the traditional athletic superiority of those who have worn the famed maroon and orange.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47), Georgia (28), Florida (9), North Carolina (5), Texas (5), Tennessee (4), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

– This week’s two-deep changes:  Jay Howard and Joshua Bowers are listed as the starting cornerbacks for the Bulldogs against Charleston Southern.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 2-2 in games played on November 29, 1-1 at home. The Bulldogs have not played on that date since 1958. A quick look at a couple of the games, courtesy of the TSA Wayback Machine:

  • 1930:  The Citadel edged Wofford, 7-6, in a game played in Spartanburg. The big play was an 80-yard touchdown pass from Julius “Runt” Gray to Larkin Jennings, after Gray faked a punt — on first down. Gray added the PAT that proved the winning margin. The Terriers scored in the fourth quarter but missed the extra point that would have tied the game.
  • 1941:  The Citadel walloped Sewanee, 28-0, in a game played at Johnson Hagood Stadium before 5,000 spectators (this game is incorrectly listed in the record book as having been played in Tennessee). The stars for the Bulldogs that day were running backs Andy Victor and Martin Gold, who combined to rush for 253 yards. Victor also threw a TD pass to Zeke Campbell. The Bulldogs’ defense held the Golden Tigers to just two first downs.

Not played on November 29: the Bulldogs’ 1924 game versus Presbyterian, which is listed in the record book as taking place on that date, but was actually played on November 27, which was also Thanksgiving Day that year. The Citadel won the contest 13-0.

I was at the last game at Johnson Hagood Stadium played on a Thursday night. The year was 2004, the date was October 7, and the opponent was Benedict College.

It was the first home contest held after the razing of the West stands. Public address announcer Sam Evans opened the festivities by intoning, “Welcome to what’s left of historic Johnson Hagood Stadium.”

The Citadel won, 29-0. The attendance was 5,127, the lowest for any game played at Johnson Hagood Stadium since at least 1964.

That year also featured a season-ending contest at home, but without the Corps of Cadets in attendance because the game was played during the Thanksgiving furlough. The Bulldogs defeated Western Carolina 17-0 before a crowd of 3,874.

The atmosphere at the latter matchup did not sit well with many people at The Citadel, including one Harvey M. Dick. That same day there was a meeting of the Board of Visitors:

Colonel Dick expressed concern that the Corps of Cadets will be absent from today’s football game with Western Carolina, due to the Thanksgiving break.  He made the following motion, which was seconded by Colonel Saleeby.

“THAT the Corps of Cadets be in uniform and be present at all scheduled home football games.”

Discussion on the motion included whether the matter is one that the Board should set policy or one that the Board should provide guidance.  The President stated that he sensed the feeling of the Board and he favored a motion to ensure the Board’s direction is in the record.  The motion was unanimously carried.

Yes, General Grinalds “sensed the feeling of the Board”. I can hear Col. Dick’s raised voice now.

That is why The Citadel will no longer play a home game during the Thanksgiving furlough (the break was extended by several days in the mid-1990s). This policy has had various repercussions, including the Bulldogs almost always playing their regular season finale on the road. It also means The Citadel can’t play yearly rivalry games to conclude the season (i.e. playing Furman every year in the final game, or VMI every year in the last contest).

Nevertheless, the policy is an excellent one. Harvey Dick was absolutely right. The Citadel should never play at Johnson Hagood Stadium without the Corps of Cadets in attendance.

The corps will be at the stadium in force on Thursday night, as will a hardy bunch of Bulldog fans, and maybe a few Buccaneer supporters too. I am not sure how many people will make it to the game, oyster roast or no oyster roast. I’m guessing that attendance will be higher than 3,874, but that 5,127 number may be tough to reach.

That said, I expect the Bulldogs to come out with a point to prove, namely that they are the team everyone saw in their last three games. If that kind of performance is repeated on Thursday night, The Citadel will have a positive end to its 2018 campaign, with a lot to look forward to next year.

I’m hopeful. Go Dogs!

A glance at the 2018 SoCon non-conference football slate

Some other links related to The Citadel’s upcoming gridiron campaign:

– Preseason rankings and ratings

– Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium: the annual review

Which teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

Also of interest from around the internet:

How will new NCAA rules on redshirting and transfers affect The Citadel?

New turf (and stands) to come at Johnson Hagood Stadium

Dates that FCS leagues will release their respective preseason polls (and often, preseason all-conference teams as well)

Cadets (not cats) and bulldogs living together

This year, the SoCon as a whole will have its usual share of games against teams from the FBS ranks, along with quite a few matchups with FCS outfits in other conferences. As was the case last season, there are four games against non-D1 schools, all from Division II.

Playing non-D1 teams out of conference does not help individual schools (or the league, for that matter) when it comes to making the FCS playoffs. It means the SoCon team in question will have one fewer opportunity to post a win against a D-1 team.

Of course, you could make the same argument when it comes to playing teams from the FBS, particularly the P5 conferences. Those matchups also tend to reduce the number of chances a team has to win a game versus a D-1 opponent — unless, that is, the underdog actually beats the team from the FBS.

Every SoCon team will play three non-league games as part of an 11-game regular-season schedule. Each squad has at least one matchup versus an FBS opponent. VMI has two such contests, which seems less than ideal for the Keydets.

However, neither of the FBS teams playing VMI are from P5 leagues. Two other SoCon teams, Mercer and Wofford, also avoid the five major conferences this season. The other six schools each go on the road to play either an ACC or SEC team.

Which SoCon outfit has the toughest non-conference schedule? That’s not as easy to answer this season as it was last year (when Mercer played Auburn and Alabama). After taking the opposition, location, and schedule placement into consideration, I tend to give the nod to Furman. You could also make a case for The Citadel.

Around the league…

Chattanooga:

Last year, UTC’s first three games were against non-conference foes. Chattanooga lost all of them, and never really recovered. This season, the Mocs play two of their three non-league contests in the first three weeks of the campaign.

Chattanooga opens at home (on a Thursday night) versus OVC cellar-dweller Tennessee Tech. That is a matchup UTC needs to win.

After a game at The Citadel, Chattanooga goes on the road again to face UT Martin. The Skyhawks beat UTC 21-7 last season at Finley Stadium and are projected to be a middle-of-the-pack squad in the OVC this year, so that could be a tough game for the Mocs. It may also prove to be a pivotal contest in Chattanooga’s season, particularly with a matchup against Samford on tap for the following week.

Chattanooga finishes its regular season slate by travelling to bucolic Columbia, SC, to play the South Carolina Gamecocks (and pick up a check for $450,000.00). This is the fourth consecutive season South Carolina has played a SoCon school the week before playing Clemson; it has won two of the prior three contests in the “SoCon-SEC challenge”, having outlasted Wofford and Western Carolina the past two years.

East Tennessee State:

ETSU opens with a home game versus Mars Hill, a D-2 school that went 3-7 last season. Mars Hill played one FCS team in 2017, North Carolina A&T, and lost 56-0.

The following week, the opponent is a little tougher, as ETSU travels to Knoxville to play Tennessee, the first FBS team the Buccaneers will have played since re-starting football. It will also be the first time ETSU has ever faced the Vols on the gridiron.

Midway through the year, East Tennessee State hosts Gardner-Webb for its Homecoming game. The Runnin’ Bulldogs were 1-10 last year. This is a contest ETSU could (and probably should) win.

Both in terms of opponent quality and placement, ETSU’s administration did a solid job in putting together its 2018 slate for a still-young program. The only negative is having a bye week just before the final game of the season, but that was probably dictated by the league, and finding a home non-conference game on that date was likely close to impossible.

Furman:

The Paladins get their non-conference slate out of the way early, starting the season with three consecutive out-of-league opponents. Furman opens at Clemson, as difficult a first game as any team has in the country.

Furman then faces Elon for the third time in less than a year. The two teams split their two meetings in 2017, with the Paladins winning at Elon in a playoff matchup.

This season, Elon is expected to be an upper-echelon CAA team again, with 18 returning starters. Lindy’s has the Phoenix ranked #21 in FCS in its preseason poll, while Street & Smith’s and Athlon rank Elon 9th and 10th, respectively.

FU hosts Colgate to round out the OOC schedule. Last year, the Paladins made the trip to upstate New York and came away with a 45-14 victory. That game jump-started a seven-game winning streak for Furman.

While the Raiders are the early favorite to win the Patriot League in 2018, it would be a surprise if Furman were to lose to Colgate, especially on what could be a hot mid-September day in Greenville (with a 1:00 pm ET kickoff). That being said, last year the Raiders did win their season opener on the road, against a then-ranked Cal Poly.

Mercer:

Mercer opens with a game at Memphis, one of the better programs in the Group of 5. The Tigers won 10 games last season, and both Athlon and Street & Smith’s picked Memphis to win the AAC West this year.

One potential advantage for Mercer: the Tigers’ game the following week is at Navy. It would not be a surprise if the primary focus of the Memphis coaching staff leading up to the season was on the Midshipmen’s triple option attack, and not so much on the Bears.

MU plays Jacksonville in the second week of the season, the second year in a row Mercer has played the Dolphins. Last year, the Bears beat JU 48-7.

The Bears’ final non-conference matchup is an interesting one, an October 13 game at Yale. The Elis won the Ivy League in 2017 and are favored to win the title again this year. Yale has a big game at Penn on the Friday after playing MU, which might be yet another potential scheduling boost for Mercer.

The real question, though, is this: just how good are Ivy League teams? Last year, the Ivy League was 17-6 versus FCS opponents, but more than two-thirds of those games came against Patriot League and Pioneer League teams. The Ivies rarely venture out of the northeast, with Yale’s non-conference schedule last year (at Lehigh, at Fordham, Holy Cross) fairly typical.

Samford:

The Birmingham Bulldogs begin their 2018 campaign on a Thursday night. They will presumably enjoy a victory over Shorter University, a D-2 school that has gone 0-11 each of the last two seasons.

Shorter lost its one game versus a D-1 opponent last year, to Gardner-Webb, by a 42-14 score. That was G-W’s only win of the season. In 2016, Chattanooga beat Shorter 66-0.

After that, though, Samford’s non-league slate is very tough. SU’s game the following week is at Florida State. Samford gets a little bit of a break in that FSU opens with a Monday night game against Virginia Tech.

On September 29, Kennesaw State hosts Samford. The two teams played twice last season, with SU winning the opener at home and then losing in the playoffs at KSU.

Kennesaw State is the consensus pick to win the Big South again this season, and is rated very highly by several national outlets (including a preseason FCS ranking of #3 by Hero Sports). The Owls may be the most difficult FCS non-league opponent faced by any SoCon team in 2018.

I think Samford’s non-conference schedule is problematic for a playoff contender. If SU loses at Kennesaw State, it is likely Chris Hatcher’s crew will finish with no D-1 wins outside of league play. It might not be easy for Samford to get a postseason berth if it doesn’t garner the SoCon’s automatic bid.

The Citadel:

The Citadel opens its season with two conference games, unlike 2017, when the Bulldogs began play on the gridiron with Newberry and Presbyterian. In 2016, though, The Citadel also started its campaign with two league contests. That was a very good year for the program, so fans of the Bulldogs will be hoping a similar beginning will lead to similar results.

After games against Wofford (on the road) and Chattanooga (at home), The Citadel will host Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers should be a top-3 team in the Big South this season, albeit not on the same level with prohibitive conference favorite Kennesaw State.

On September 29, the Bulldogs will journey north to Johnny Unitas Stadium to play Towson, the first football game between the two schools. Towson struggled last season after its starting quarterback and running back both suffered injuries in the season opener, finishing 5-6.

This year, opinions on the Tigers appear to be mixed. Towson returns 20 starters (including the aforementioned running back, Shane Simpson).

There are three candidates to start at QB, including incoming transfer Tommy Flacco, younger brother of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. There is no early word on whether or not the younger Flacco is elite.

The Citadel’s final non-conference game of the season is a November 17 matchup against Alabama. As has been well documented, Alabama has never beaten The Citadel in football.

VMI:

The Keydets travel to Toledo to begin the 2018 season. Last year, the Rockets won 11 games and the MAC crown. This season, Toledo should be one of the three best teams in its league, though VMI may benefit from the fact the Rockets have to replace last year’s starting quarterback and running back. VMI could use a little beneficence.

While a fair number of teams play two or three non-conference games in September, the Keydets actually play two of their three OOC games in November.

On November 3, VMI plays Tusculum, a D-2 team. Tusculum was 5-5 last season, 3-4 in the South Atlantic Conference.

The Pioneers haven’t played a D-1 squad since losing 62-21 to Georgia Southern in 2011. The game versus Tusculum will probably be the only 2018 matchup in which VMI is favored. It should be noted, however, that last season Catawba, like Tusculum a member of the South Atlantic Conference, beat the Keydets 27-20.

VMI’s final regular-season game will be at Old Dominion, now in its fifth season as an FBS school. The Monarchs finished 5-7 last season but return 18 starters from that team, including sophomore quarterback Steven Williams. The left-hander started the final seven games of 2017 despite not turning 18 years old until November.

Western Carolina:

WCU opens with a home game versus D-2 Newberry, which finished 5-6 last season, just one year removed from making the Division II playoffs. Last year, the Wolves also played their first game of the season versus a SoCon opponent, losing 31-14 to The Citadel.

After the Newberry game, Western Carolina has a poorly-timed bye week, and then goes on the road to play Gardner-Webb (which faces three SoCon teams in 2018, with two of those contests in Boiling Springs). Western Carolina also played at G-W in 2017, winning 42-27, the third consecutive victory for the Catamounts over the Runnin’ Bulldogs.

WCU then plays all eight of its SoCon opponents over an eight-week stretch. After the last of those matchups (a home contest versus Wofford), the Catamounts conclude regular season play with a game at North Carolina. It will be only the second time WCU has ever faced the Tar Heels (but the second straight year they will have met).

Western Carolina has playoff aspirations, and thus is another team that might have been better served by scheduling a second FCS opponent out of conference instead of playing a D-2 team. The main difference between WCU and Samford in this respect is that the Catamounts’ non-league FCS game is (at least on paper) an easier matchup than Samford’s.

A better idea for WCU’s schedule would have been to replace Newberry with, say, Davidson (one of the Catamounts’ opponents last season). Davidson’s football team is almost certainly not as good as Newberry’s, but the Wildcats are a Division I school. Every D-1 win helps, even those against non-scholarship programs.

Wofford:

The Terriers start their 2018 season with two league battles, playing The Citadel and VMI, both at home. Last season, Wofford also opened with two conference games, playing Furman in Spartanburg and then travelling to Mercer.

After the two contests against the military colleges, Wofford travels to Wyoming. At first glance, it seems to be one of the more unlikely FBS vs. FCS matchups of the season. The two schools can’t have much in common, other than both having names beginning with the letter “W”.

However, Wyoming does have a brief history of playing SoCon schools, dating back to the 1951 Gator Bowl, when the Cowboys played Washington and Lee. Other Wyoming-SoCon matchups include games against Furman (2001), The Citadel (2002), and Appalachian State (2004).

Wyoming could go bowling (or maybe that’s “Bohling”) for a third straight season, despite losing star quarterback Josh Allen. However, Wofford does have an 11% win probability in this matchup, according to projected S&P+, which isn’t bad for an FCS team playing at an FBS squad, and a couple of time zones away from home to boot.

Wofford has another non-conference road game the week after making the trip to Laramie. This matchup is much closer to home, however, as the Terriers play at Gardner-Webb.

G-W played Wofford last year, too, and the Terriers had to hang on to win 27-24 in Gibbs Stadium. The Runnin’ Bulldogs missed a long field goal try late in the game that would have tied the contest.

Incidentally, Gardner-Webb (which at this rate is closing in on honorary SoCon member status) played none other than Wyoming in 2017, losing 27-0.

Wofford’s final non-league game of the year is also the final regular season game on its slate. The Terriers host Presbyterian on November 17, the 85th meeting on the gridiron between the two schools.

PC was 4-7 last season. In November, Presbyterian announced that its football program would move to non-scholarship status by 2020. Some of the Blue Hose’s players left the team following that announcement, including running back Torrance Marable, arguably PC’s best player (he wound up transferring to Coastal Carolina).

A brief overview of the FCS as a whole…

This season, 21 FCS schools have scheduled two games against FBS opposition. Only one, Southern Utah, will face two P5 teams (the Thunderbirds play Oregon State and Arizona).

In all, FCS teams will play FBS schools 111 times, with 48 of those being P5 opponents.

The Big Sky and MVFC probably have the most aggressive slate of non-conference matchups. Eight of the Big Sky’s FBS games are versus P5 teams. The MVFC also has eight P5 games being played by its ten member schools.

The Big Sky has 14 FBS games in all, a number matched by the SWAC and MEAC. In addition, the Big Sky (with 13 schools this season) will be featured in several prominent non-league FCS vs. FCS matchups, including Northern Iowa-Montana and South Dakota-Weber State, not to mention Eastern Washington-Northern Arizona (which is a non-conference game despite both being Big Sky schools).

The Southland has 13 FBS games (six* versus P5 schools), the CAA has 12 (six P5 matchups), and the OVC and SoCon each have 10 (five against P5 teams for the OVC, six for the SoCon).

*counting BYU as a Power 5 opponent, which is open to debate

No team from the Ivy League or the Pioneer League will play an FBS squad in 2018.

Also not facing an FBS opponent: traditional FCS powers North Dakota State and Jacksonville State. NDSU will instead enjoy seven regular-season home games this season (including a Homecoming game against Delaware). It isn’t easy these days for the Bison to hook up with an FBS team.

JSU has quality non-conference FCS bookends to its schedule, facing North Carolina A&T in its opener (which is also the FCS Kickoff) and concluding the regular season with a game versus Kennesaw State at SunTrust Park.

There are just a couple of months left before the season kicks off. Be patient, everyone…

During the 2018 season, which teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

Other links related to The Citadel’s upcoming gridiron campaign:

Preseason rankings and ratings

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium: the annual review

For the sixth consecutive season, it’s time to examine this momentous topic. Below, I’ll list which teams The Citadel’s opponents face before and after playing the Bulldogs, along with various other items of interest (other schedule-related information, a little history, some trivia, etc.).

Naturally, the review begins with the opener. This year, the Bulldogs will begin their gridiron campaign in the upstate of South Carolina.

September 1: The Citadel opens on the road, and in conference play. The Bulldogs (and their fans) will be in Spartanburg, where they will face Wofford.

Two years ago, The Citadel also opened its season on September 1 with a conference road game (against Mercer). The Bulldogs emerged victorious, and kept winning until they had captured the league title.

Wofford begins its 2018 season under new coach Josh Conklin with consecutive home matchups with military colleges, as VMI comes to Gibbs Stadium on September 8. The following week, Wofford travels to Wyoming.

In fact, after playing the Keydets, the Terriers don’t have another home game until October 20, when ETSU is the opponent (for Wofford’s Homecoming).

This will be the earliest meeting of the season on the gridiron between The Citadel and Wofford. Previously, the earliest battle came on September 3, 1977, at Johnson Hagood Stadium, a game won by the Bulldogs 7-0. Lonnie Ford scored the contest’s only touchdown. Tyrone Roper helped preserve the shutout with a big stop on a late fourth-and-goal play; he also had an interception and a fumble recovery.

Incidentally, there were 35 policemen on hand for crowd control that night. This was a reaction to violence the week before at the Sertoma Classic (also held at JHS), which had led to 18 injuries among attendees.

However, there were no reported incidents for the matchup between the Terriers and Bulldogs. Indeed, police Major W.J. Tindal stated that “you could hold a church service out here”, perhaps not a scintillating advertisement for the game atmosphere. I suppose that was better than having another bloody skirmish in the stands, though.

September 8: The Citadel’s opener at Johnson Hagood Stadium is a matchup with Chattanooga. The Mocs begin their 2018 campaign with a Thursday night home game against Tennessee Tech, so Chattanooga will have a couple of extra days to prepare for the Bulldogs.

After playing The Citadel, the Mocs travel to UT Martin (which defeated UTC in Chattanooga last season). After that, UTC plays host to Samford.

The last time Chattanooga faced The Citadel in Charleston, in 2016, the Bulldogs held off the Mocs 22-14. In the game, Dominique Allen gained 15 yards on The Citadel’s first offensive play.

That would prove to be the most yardage gained on any single play from scrimmage all afternoon for The Citadel, but the Bulldogs won anyway.

The Citadel has triumphed in its last three games played on September 8, including a 76-0 rout of Webber International in 2007 and a 23-21 victory over Georgia Southern in 2012. While scoring 76 points in a football game is always pleasant, it was actually the latter contest that was more memorable (including Jeff Monken’s fire-breathing “they whipped our fannies” postgame comments).

September 15: The Bulldogs host Charleston Southern on Military Appreciation Day. It will also be Hall of Fame weekend.

The Buccaneers open their season at Florida on September 1, then have a bye the next week. Thus, CSU will have two weeks to get ready for its game versus The Citadel.

If you were asking yourself “does CSU usually have extra days to prepare before playing the Bulldogs?”, the answer to the question is, well, yes (at least in recent years). In the previous two regular-season meetings, Charleston Southern played Thursday night games the week before facing The Citadel.

Most of the other regular-season games between the two programs were season openers, with the 2002 meeting (delayed by a hurricane) the exception.

After the game against the Bulldogs, Charleston Southern hosts Elon in North Charleston.

September 22: The Citadel’s second road game of the season is against Mercer. The Bears play at Memphis to start the year, then host Jacksonville.

The first conference game for Mercer is at Samford on September 15, the week before MU hosts the Bulldogs. Mercer has a bye the week after playing The Citadel, then travels to VMI.

In fact, Mercer’s next home contest after facing the Bulldogs won’t be until October 20 (against Western Carolina).

The Citadel is only 3-5-1 alltime on September 22, but one of the wins was particularly noteworthy — a 27-14 victory at Vanderbilt in 1979. Stump Mitchell and Danny Miller combined for 229 yards rushing that day, with three touchdowns. The other TD came on a pass from Tim Russell to Byron Walker.

September 29: The Citadel travels north to play Towson at Johnny Unitas Stadium. It will be the Tigers’ home opener after three road games (which are against, in order, Morgan State, Wake Forest, and Villanova). Towson has a bye the week prior to its matchup with the Bulldogs.

It will also be the designated celebration game for Towson’s “50 Years of Football”, a season-long commemoration of the school’s gridiron history. Part of the hoopla: a $50 season ticket promotion.

I bet Sean Landeta is excited about that.

Following its game versus The Citadel, Towson next plays host to Stony Brook, followed by another home contest in CAA play, against William and Mary.

October 6: The Citadel is off this week. In related news, I will be on vacation.

October 13: On Parents’ Day, The Citadel will host East Tennessee State. The Bucs have a three-game homestand prior to making the trip to Charleston, with games against Furman, Chattanooga, and (for ETSU’s Homecoming) Gardner-Webb.

After playing The Citadel, the Bucs travel to Spartanburg to face Wofford, completing a three-game stretch of games versus teams with canine mascots.

Where were you on October 13, 2007? Well, if you were at Johnson Hagood Stadium, you saw one of the crazier games ever played there.

The Citadel trailed Furman by 20 points in the second quarter, 17 points in the third quarter, and 10 points in the fourth quarter…but wound up winning in overtime, 54-51. Duran Lawson! Andre Roberts! Tory Cooper! Ta’Mar Jernigan! Joshua Haney! Mike Adams!

Also worth mentioning: on October 13, 1962, The Citadel upset Vanderbilt, 21-6. It was the first time the program had defeated an SEC team (but not the last). Vandy was a 28-point favorite at home, but the Bulldogs came to play. Mike Lane! Sid Mitchell! Charlie Brendle! Gene “Buzzy” Dice! Nick DiLoreto! Eddie Taylor!

October 20: The coveted Silver Shako will be on the line, as The Citadel journeys to Lexington, VA, to play VMI. It will be Parents’ Weekend for the Keydets.

The week before facing the Bulldogs, VMI is at Samford, the longest trip in the SoCon. That game is preceded (for the Keydets) by a week off.

After the Military Classic of the South, VMI travels to Chattanooga.

As for previous contests played on this day — well, there was a game played on October 20, 1990, that is fondly remembered by fans of the Bulldogs. All the opponent had to do to win, according to a local newspaper, was just show up. It didn’t quite work out that way.

The afternoon also included a pregame speech of note:

“He never said anything, but in the locker room he silenced all of us and said, ‘Don’t tell me if we took off our gear and met them at the 50-yard line, we wouldn’t win.’ The place just went crazy.”

I wonder whatever happened to the guy who made that speech…

October 27: The Citadel hosts Furman, the 98th meeting in the series. It will be the 53rd time the two schools have played in October; they have met 40 times in November, and five times in September.

After a September 22 contest versus East Tennessee State in Johnson City, the Paladins won’t play another road game until they meet the Bulldogs.

Following the ETSU matchup, Furman hosts Western Carolina, has a week off, then plays Wofford and Samford in back-to-back games in Greenville (with the second of those two contests on FU’s Homecoming). That is a key stretch for Furman as it attempts to return to the FCS playoffs.

After facing The Citadel the week after the Samford game, the Paladins return home and play Chattanooga before finishing the regular season with road games at VMI and Mercer.

November 3: The Citadel will be Western Carolina’s opponent for Homecoming in Cullowhee, the fifth time the Bulldogs will have filled that role for WCU since 2007.

The Catamounts, a “sleeper” pick to to win the SoCon this year in some quarters, have two road games before facing The Citadel. WCU travels to Mercer on October 20, and then plays at East Tennessee State on October 27.

Western Carolina has an early bye week in 2018 (September 8), so the meeting with The Citadel will be the Catamounts’ eighth consecutive football Saturday. WCU will stay at home the following week to play Wofford before completing its regular season schedule at North Carolina.

The Citadel’s last road win on November 3 came in 2001, a 20-17 double overtime victory at Chattanooga — on UTC’s Homecoming.

November 10: There will be a battle of Bulldogs at Johnson Hagood Stadium on November 10, as The Citadel hosts Samford.

As mentioned earlier, Samford will be at Furman on October 20. SU has a bye before hosting Wofford on November 3. It will be Homecoming for Samford, which will then face The Citadel on the military college’s Homecoming.

SU finishes its regular season slate with a contest at East Tennessee State. Johnson City proved to be a tricky spot for the Birmingham Bulldogs two seasons ago, as they were upset by the Bucs in a game which was also the season-ender that year.

The Citadel beat Mercer 10-0 on November 10, 1906. However, that would be the last time the Bulldogs were victorious on that date until 1973 (a win over Furman). In between, The Citadel went 0-6-2 on November 10.

The good news, though, is the Bulldogs have won their last five gridiron contests on the tenth day of November.

November 11: The Bulldogs finishes their regular season schedule with a trip to Tuscaloosa. The opponent is Alabama, a school that has never beaten The Citadel in football.

The Crimson Tide closes out the regular season with three straight home games. The Citadel is the second of the three opponents, and the second straight group of Bulldogs, as Mississippi State plays Alabama on November 4.

Nick Saban’s squad faces Auburn on November 18. Last year, the Crimson Tide lost at Auburn, which means The Citadel currently has a longer road winning streak against SEC opponents than does Alabama.

A quick summary:

  • Teams that will have “extra prep time” before playing The Citadel: Chattanooga, Charleston Southern, Towson
  • Teams that have road games the week before playing the Bulldogs: Mercer, VMI, Western Carolina
  • Teams that play Wofford during the season before playing The Citadel (“option preview”): VMI, Furman, Samford
  • Teams that play Furman during the season before playing the Bulldogs (another type of “option preview”): East Tennessee State, Western Carolina, Samford

I can see something in the distance that looks like it might be a pigskin. We’re getting closer…

The 2016 FCS Playoffs — a review of the bracket

The Bracket

Links of interest:

The Citadel’s playoff path: a bye, then a familiar foe

– Lehigh football snubbed of home playoff game

New Hampshire makes field for 13th straight year

Albany left out of playoffs; coach calls exclusion “a sham”

Wofford earns playoff bid

Charleston Southern disappointed not to host playoff game

After being disappointed in the seeding, Sam Houston State coach: “It is what it is”

South Dakota State gets seed

Youngstown State in playoffs after a ten-year absence

“Samford shouldn’t even be in the tournament, let’s just get it straight”

North Carolina A&T makes playoff, but coach says “we’re still pretty down around here”

Chattanooga makes playoff field

Cal Poly gets bid, will host San Diego

Preview article on NCAA.com

First, let’s correct an error in that last article I linked above, the one posted on the NCAA’s own website:

Some other teams that will miss out on postseason action as a whole include Montana, Western Illinois and North Carolina Central, who all lost steam down the stretch and were defeated in Week 12.

North Carolina Central won on Week 12, defeating North Carolina A&T 42-21. The Eagles aren’t missing out on postseason action, either — North Carolina Central is going to the Celebration Bowl instead of the FCS playoffs, while the team that lost to the Eagles (North Carolina A&T) got a bid as an at-large team.

I also linked a “handicapping the field” article from the Bison Media Zone. Media members in North Dakota do not think Samford should have made the field.

Of course, being a resident of the Flickertail State isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to FCS expertise. In this particular preview, the writer referred to Charleston Southern as the “Mocs”.

I also think he has his guns pointed in the wrong direction when it comes to the exclusion of Albany. I tend to agree that Albany should have been in the tournament, but he failed to identify the most obvious beneficiary of the Great Danes’ absence — New Hampshire.

The two teams played in the same league (the CAA) and finished with the same overall record (7-4). Albany beat FBS Buffalo (admittedly, not the best FBS squad in world history). More to the point, the Great Danes won at New Hampshire.

The Wildcats also managed to lose to Ivy League cellar-dweller Dartmouth, and had no real standout victory. Albany’s worst loss was to Delaware, which strikes me as considerably more acceptable than losing to Dartmouth.

Albany head coach Greg Gattuso called the snub of his team “a sham” on Twitter. He had other comments:

I guess, if I had a question for the (selection) committee, it would be, what in (New Hampshire’s) body of work would be better than ours?

I just think the resume was better. Oh, by the way, we beat them head-to-head at their field. Remember us beating them at their field two weeks ago?

 

One criteria they might say is conference record. But to me, it’s a skewed point when (New Hampshire) didn’t play the second- and third-place teams. They didn’t play Richmond, they didn’t play Villanova. To me, conference schedule when you don’t play everybody should be thrown out (in picking the tournament).

I think Gattuso has a very legitimate argument.

New Hampshire had been in the playoffs in each of the previous 12 seasons; perhaps the committee just felt comfortable sticking them in the field. Maybe there is an unwritten rule that UNH has to be in the tournament.

Once New Hampshire was picked, the committee then got the chance to pair the Wildcats with Lehigh, and gave New Hampshire a home game in the first round. UNH’s average home attendance is 11,108, so it could be assumed its host bid (in terms of a cash guarantee) was quite good.

Albany’s average home attendance this season was 5,928. Could the committee have been thinking about the potential monetary difference if it came down to Lehigh-Albany or Lehigh-UNH? I’m sure the official answer is “No”, but cynics may have some doubts.

In related news, during an interview on a North Dakota radio show, selection committee chairman Brian Hutchinson referenced North Carolina A&T’s “bid offer” as a point in its favor.

I think he probably misspoke — after all, North Carolina A&T isn’t even hosting a first-round game — but what his comment really illustrates is that money is never far from the mind of the committee when selecting, bracketing, and seeding teams. That is unfortunate.

The committee apparently had no choice but to pair San Diego and Cal Poly against each other in the first round, despite the fact the two schools have already played this season. From the NCAA’s “Pre-Championship Manual“:

5. Regular season non-conference match-ups in the first round of the championship should be avoided, provided it does not create an additional flight(s).

6. Teams from the same conference will not be paired for first-round games (except for teams from the same conference that did not play against each other during the regular season; such teams may play each other in the first round);

7. Once the first-round pairings have been determined, there will be no adjustments to the bracket (e.g., a seeded team may play a conference opponent that advanced out of the first round).

If Cal Poly and USD had been in the same league, the rematch would have been avoided — but since they’re not, they had to be matched up, because not doing so would have created two extra flights.

That is because Poly and USD were less than 400 miles from each other, but more than 400 miles away from every other unseeded team. Here is the rule on busing/flights:

During the championship, institutions that are playing within 400 miles (one way) of their campus will be required to travel to that site via bus. Institutions traveling more than 400 miles (one way) to their game will be approved for air travel to that site.

I think it’s absurd that the “allow one more flight” stipulation only applies if teams are in the same conference, but that’s the rule, and the committee had no other option. The rule needs to be changed.

Of course, when it comes to bracketing, the committee tends to take the path of least resistance anyway. This is the second year in a row there has been a regular-season rematch in the first round.

Last year, the Patriot League champion (Colgate) played at New Hampshire, with the winner facing James Madison. Colgate and UNH had already met during the 2015 regular season.

Naturally, this year the Patriot League champion (Lehigh) will again play at New Hampshire, with the winner again facing James Madison…

The manual has this to say about awarding host sites:

3. If the minimum financial guarantees are met, the committee will award the playoff sites to the higher seeded teams.

4. When determining host institutions for playoff games when both teams are unseeded, criteria shall apply as follows: (1) quality of facility, (2) revenue potential plus estimated net receipts, (3) attendance history and potential, (4) team’s performance (i.e., conference place finish, head-to-head results and number of Division I opponents), and (5) student-athlete well-being (e.g., travel and missed class time).

This is not exactly breaking news, but it does explain one aspect of hosting that apparently bothered Charleston Southern coach Jamey Chadwell:

…Chadwell expressed disappointment about having to go on the road, but said getting a playoff opportunity was the ultimate goal.

“It’s disappointing. I don’t know all of the details, but you would think a conference champion would get more favor in the bidding process,” Chadwell said.

As it happens, conference champions don’t get more favor in the bidding process — unless they are matched up against teams in their own league in the first round (which would only occur if the two teams had not met during the regular season).

Charleston Southern hosted last year, but that was because it was a seed and met a minimum financial guarantee. This season, the Buccaneers were unseeded and paired with Wofford.

The decision to hold the game in Spartanburg probably came down to Wofford offering a better financial package, but Charleston Southern fans should be concerned about “quality of facility” being a more significant criterion for hosting than “revenue potential”.

Attendance history is also a factor. Below is the average home attendance for the 16 unseeded teams in the field:

  • North Carolina A&T: 14,472
  • Youngstown State: 14,353
  • New Hampshire: 11,108
  • Illinois State: 10,156
  • Chattanooga: 9,494
  • Central Arkansas: 8,767
  • Weber State: 8,734
  • Richmond: 8,700
  • Cal Poly: 8,413
  • Wofford: 7,625
  • Lehigh: 6,527
  • Villanova: 6,153
  • Samford: 5,897
  • Charleston Southern: 2,712
  • San Diego: 2,405
  • St. Francis (PA): 1,617

Attendance affects both a potential bid by a school, and the committee’s evaluation of its revenue potential.

Only two of the eight first-round matchups are hosted by teams that had lower average home attendance than their opponents. Richmond is hosting North Carolina A&T, and Central Arkansas is hosting Illinois State.

The second of those involves two schools with fairly close numbers in terms of attendance, but the other matchup has a much wider differential. Either North Carolina A&T wasn’t particularly interested in hosting, or Richmond put in a major league bid.

I’m disappointed that for the FCS playoffs, there is yet again a mini-South Carolina bracket in what is supposed to be a national tournament.

This is the second year in a row The Citadel and Charleston Southern have both been bracketed in this fashion, and it is a lame, lame move by Brian Hutchinson and his committee for the second year in a row.

Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen:

It’d be nice to face somebody else, somebody besides teams we play all the time.

Linebacker Tevin Floyd of The Citadel:

We have histories with both [Wofford and Charleston Southern], so I think we just wanted to experience something new.

Head coach Brent Thompson of The Citadel:

When it’s the playoffs, you look for some different opponents. You want to get some people to travel in and maybe work outside (the norm) a little bit. But it is what it is, and we have to win the state of South Carolina at this point.

Floyd also said he was happy to be playing at Johnson Hagood Stadium, and Allen referenced a “fun” matchup with either potential opponent, but the point is clear.

I also don’t understand why the committee couldn’t have swapped the Charleston Southern-Wofford pairing and the North Carolina A&T-Richmond pairing in order to avoid a potential second-round rematch.

In other words, the CSU-Wofford winner could have been matched up against North Dakota, while the survivor of N.C. A&T-Richmond played The Citadel (instead of the other way around, as the committee arranged things).

If the committee seeded all the teams, 1 through 24, it would be possible to have a balanced, fair tournament. Instead, bracketing decisions are made explicitly for geographic reasons, and they lead to inequities.

Weber State and Cal Poly both were 7-4 overall; Weber State was 6-2 in the Big Sky, while the Mustangs were 5-3. Now, due to unbalanced league schedules, Cal Poly played a slightly tougher slate than the Wildcats (and it also had a good non-conference win over South Dakota State). On the other hand, Weber State beat Cal Poly during the season.

You could argue that if every team in the tournament were seeded, Cal Poly might deserve a slightly higher seed than Weber State. If so, both teams would probably be seeded in the 17-20 range.

If that happened, each would play first-round road games against similarly-rated opponents. Instead, we have the current geographical setup and the “400 miles” bus/flight cutoff point.

Thus, Cal Poly plays a home game against San Diego of the non-scholarship Pioneer League, a team the Mustangs already defeated earlier this season 38-16. Meanwhile, Weber State travels almost 1,800 miles to play at Chattanooga, a solid SoCon squad that acquitted itself well last week against Alabama.

The decision to make Lehigh travel to New Hampshire also seems problematic to me; if anything, it should be the other way around. Again, however, cash is king in this tournament — though a few folks in Las Vegas are apparently putting their hard-earned money on Lehigh (which is a 4 1/2 point favorite despite having to go on the road).

Final “toughest schedule” numbers from the NCAA for Jacksonville State, James Madison, Sam Houston State, and The Citadel:

  • The Citadel: 19th
  • James Madison: 57th
  • Jacksonville State: 80th
  • Sam Houston State: 102nd

All four finished undefeated against non-FBS competition. SHSU, which was 11-0, did not play an FBS opponent, while the other three schools were all 10-1, with each losing to an FBS team from a power conference.

The committee decided to give Jacksonville State the highest seed out of this group. Did it help Jacksonville State that it made the finals last year? Probably. Did it help Jacksonville State that its director of athletics was on the committee? It couldn’t have hurt.

What it means is that if The Citadel is fortunate enough to advance to the quarterfinals, and its opponent is Jacksonville State, the Bulldogs will be the road team. It is not evident why that should be the case.

Another seeding oddity, in my opinion, was North Dakota being the #7 seed and South Dakota State being the #8. I’m not sure why the Jackrabbits would have been behind UND.

Because the committee seeded those teams in that way, SDSU has a potential rematch with North Dakota State in the quarterfinals. I don’t have a problem with regular-season rematches once teams advance to the quarterfinals, but it seems to me the committee had an easy opportunity to avoid that situation, and in a perfectly justifiable way.

Per at least one source that deals in such matters, here are the lines for the eight first-round games, as of Tuesday afternoon:

  • Wofford is a 1.5-point favorite over Charleston Southern, over/under of 51.5
  • Chattanooga is a 15-point favorite over Weber State, over/under of 51.5
  • Lehigh is a 4.5-point favorite at New Hampshire, over/under of 63.5
  • Richmond is a 13-point favorite over North Carolina A&T, over/under of 53.5
  • Illinois State is a 1.5-point favorite at Central Arkansas, over/under of 49.5
  • Youngstown State is an 8.5-point favorite over Samford, over/under of 50.5
  • Cal Poly is a 12.5-point favorite over San Diego, over/under of 65.5
  • Villanova is a 14.5-point favorite over St. Francis (PA), over/under of 37.5

As you can see, there are two road favorites (Lehigh and Illinois State).

Massey Ratings predicted scores for this Saturday:

  • Wofford 26, Charleston Southern 24
  • Chattanooga 31, Weber State 19
  • Lehigh 33, New Hampshire 28
  • Richmond 36, North Carolina A&T 24
  • Central Arkansas 23, Illinois State 21
  • Youngstown State 28, Samford 20
  • Cal Poly 35, San Diego 29
  • Villanova 21, St. Francis (PA) 7

I’m not pleased with how the tournament was constructed. However, there is nothing that can be done about it, at least not for this season. All eyes will now be following the action on the gridiron.

If you’re in the field, you have a chance. That’s the bottom line.

The FCS playoffs — a primer

The purpose of this post is to explain some of the ins and outs of the FCS playoffs, particularly for people who may not be familiar with the basics of postseason play. I’m also going to delve into a few other aspects of the playoffs (including the way the teams are selected, seeded, and bracketed), some of which I believe are problematic.

The tournament has expanded over the years, from a four-team setup in 1978 to today’s 24-team field. The current format has been in place since 2013.

Of the 24 teams that make the field, 10 will be conference champions that automatically qualify for the tournament. As of November 7, two teams have already qualified for the 2016 tourney — Lehigh (from the Patriot League) and The Citadel (from the Southern Conference).

While there are 10 automatic qualifiers, there are actually 13 FCS conferences. Three of those leagues do not have auto-bids to the FCS playoffs.

The Ivy League does not participate in the playoffs, so none of its schools will send a team to the tournament.

The other two conferences without automatic bids are the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). Those two leagues send their respective champions to the “Celebration Bowl”, a separate post-season event.

However, SWAC and MEAC schools are eligible to receive at-large bids. In other words, if a team that does not win one of those leagues is deemed by the selection committee to be one of the 14 best at-large candidates, it may compete in the FCS playoffs. While that scenario would normally be unlikely, this season might provide just such a situation, thanks to two teams in the MEAC that are each having fine seasons.

North Carolina A&T is currently ranked 9th in the FCS Coaches’ Poll, with a record of 8-1 that includes a victory over an FBS opponent (Kent State). The Aggies’ only loss so far this season was to Tulsa.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Central is 7-2, with both losses to FBS schools. The two schools will play in two weeks for the MEAC title. I don’t believe North Carolina Central would receive an at-large bid at 8-3, but if North Carolina A&T were to lose to the Eagles, a 9-2 Aggies squad could be a viable at-large candidate.

The leagues that send automatic qualifiers to the playoffs:

  • Big Sky Conference
  • Big South Conference
  • Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)
  • Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC)
  • Northeast Conference (NEC)
  • Ohio Valley Conference (OVC)
  • Patriot League
  • Pioneer Football League
  • Southern Conference (SoCon)
  • Southland Conference

Here is this year’s tournament schedule:

  • Bracket announcement: Sunday, November 20, 2016 at 11:00 am (televised on ESPNU)
  • First round: Saturday, November 26, 2016 — eight games at campus sites (this is the Saturday after Thanksgiving)
  • Second round: Saturday, December 3, 2016 — eight games at campus sites (seeded teams will host in this round after getting a bye in the first round)
  • Quarterfinals: Friday, December 9, 2016 or Saturday, December 10, 2016 — four games at campus sites (higher-seeded team hosts)
  • Semifinals: Friday, December 16, 2016 or Saturday, December 17, 2016 — two games at campus sites (higher-seeded team hosts)
  • National Championship: Saturday, January 7, 2017 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas (kickoff at noon EST)

The FCS selection committee selects the 14 best at-large teams to join the 10 automatic qualifiers, and then ranks the top 8 teams.

The teams ranked in the top 8 are seeded, and also receive first-round byes. The remaining 16 teams are then bracketed and play first-round games.

It is important to understand that, unlike the NCAA basketball tournament, not every team is seeded. In fact, two-thirds of the field is not seeded. That is done on purpose, in order to allow the committee to make pairings “according to geographical proximity“.

Historically, that has resulted in the committee putting together what might be called a bracket of convenience, routinely pairing teams in first- and second-round matchups that have already played each other during the regular season, and/or in recent tourneys. This has been a source of frustration for many fans over the years, because the event is supposed to be a national tournament; after all, it is referred to by the NCAA as the Division I “National Championship”. However, it is rarely treated like one by the powers that be.

A good example of the “regionalization” of the FCS playoffs came last year. For the 2015 tournament, the selection committee set up multiple potential second-round regular-season rematches. When the dust had cleared from the first-round games, five of the eight second-round matchups wound up being regular-season rematches (two of those were matchups between teams in the same league).

Most inexcusably, the committee set up a first-round regular-season rematch between Colgate and New Hampshire.

Five teams from the MVFC made the field last season (four at-large picks and the automatic qualifier, North Dakota State). All five were slotted on one side of the bracket. That did not sit well with the MVFC league commissioner:

Missouri Valley Football Conference commissioner Patty Viverito said she believes the Football Championship Subdivision playoff committee made “a conscious decision” to put five Valley teams in the same bracket…

Viverito said: “It seems to me the committee has enough latitude in how they break the quadrants up that they’d be able to put teams on opposite sides of the bracket fairly easily. I wasn’t in the room. I don’t know what challenges the committee faced when they came up with this. I can’t imagine it was just a horrible oversight and they didn’t realize they’d done it until the bracket was announced. I think it was a conscious decision. I just don’t know what went into the decision-making process.”

…Viverito called the committee’s pairings “the good, the bad and the ugly.” She said her league getting five teams in the playoff field “good.” She said the formulating of the bracket and the regionalization of it “bad.” And she [called] placing five Valley teams in the same bracket “ugly.”

The complaints from the MVFC led to a change for this year:

…the NCAA approved two FCS bracketing policies that should help spread out teams from the same conferences and also avoid rematches in the early rounds. The playoff committee will now be allowed to add a flight in the first or second rounds to avoid placing four or more teams from one conference in the same side of the bracket. The committee also has the license to avoid matchups in the first round for teams that played during the regular season in a non-conference game, providing that change doesn’t result in an additional charter flight.

That won’t change a lot, but it’s better than nothing. It primarily benefits larger leagues that regularly have three or more teams make the tournament (like the MVFC, CAA, and Big Sky).

For the SoCon and Big South, however, there is no mechanism to prevent the committee from doing what it seems to like doing most — namely, pairing two teams from each conference in a first-round matchup, with the winner playing a seeded team from one of the two leagues.

This year, the FCS selection committee decided to do something that I’m guessing a few of the committee members will wind up regretting.

The NCAA Division I Football Championship Committee will reveal the top-10 teams in rank order three times during the month of November.

The committee will be releasing the top-10 teams for the first time in history. The rankings will be announced as part of College Football Daily on ESPNU Nov. 3 and 10 at 4 p.m. (ET).

The final release will take place Nov. 15 at 10 p.m. (ET) on the ESPNU Championship Drive: Power Hour.

This move was officially made for reasons of transparency. However, if part of the idea for releasing a preliminary list was also to help promote the FCS playoffs, the first reveal (November 3) on “College Football Daily” was not a success.

Show anchor Brendan Fitzgerald and analyst Jason Sehorn knew next to nothing about the FCS (including how many teams actually make the playoffs). The entire segment lasted less than two minutes; the producer did not even bother to use recent video clips for a highlights package that accompanied the release of the rankings.

Clearly, the committee is taking a page from the College Football Playoff (CFP) and its weekly rankings. When it comes to the CFP, though, the weekly rankings release may not be the best thing to emulate.

Ten people make up the FCS selection committee. All are directors of athletics, representing schools from each of the ten leagues with automatic bids:

  • Brian Hutchinson, Morehead State — Pioneer League [chairman]
  • Chuck Burch, Gardner-Webb — Big South
  • Richard Johnson, Wofford — SoCon
  • Kyle Moats, Missouri State — MVFC
  • Nathan Pine, Holy Cross — Patriot League
  • Marty Scarano, New Hampshire — CAA
  • Paul Schlickmann, Central Connecticut State — NEC
  • Greg Seitz, Jacksonville State — OVC
  • Brad Teague, Central Arkansas — Southland
  • Jeff Tingey, Idaho State — Big Sky

One of the things I noticed about the committee is the dual-league nature of its chairman, Brian Hutchinson. Morehead State competes in football in the Pioneer League, which is the league he represents on this committee. However, in other sports Morehead State is a member of the OVC.

To me, that leads to a potential “optics” issue, namely the possible impression (almost certainly unfair, but still) that the OVC has two representatives on the committee — Hutchinson and Greg Seitz, the director of athletics at Jacksonville State.

When the first set of preliminary playoff rankings were released last week, the top-ranked team was, somewhat controversially…Jacksonville State.

Week 1 rankings:

Rank School
1 Jacksonville State
2 Sam Houston State
3 Eastern Washington
4 North Dakota State
5 James Madison
6 The Citadel
7 Richmond
8 Chattanooga
9 Charleston Southern
10 Central Arkansas

This will look a little different in Week 2. Charleston Southern will fall out of the top 10 after losing at home to Gardner-Webb, and so could Richmond (which lost at home to James Madison). However, how much change in the rankings is really possible? Is the committee already hamstringing itself on that front?

Brian Hutchinson gave two radio interviews after the rankings were released last week, both to stations in North Dakota. He should get some credit for agreeing to the interviews, because he is in the difficult position of having to speak for a committee. He may not even agree with all of the committee’s decisions, but he has to defend them anyway.

A few thoughts on his comments:

  • I got the distinct impression that the committee members weren’t prepared for a public rankings release
  • It’s conceivable that the rankings will wind up being close to valueless when it comes to the actual selection and seeding
  • Somewhat surprisingly, there is no established order of criteria when evaluating teams

Hutchinson was asked about the difference in seeding between two currently undefeated teams, Sam Houston State and The Citadel. One of the interviewers compared the two squads and noted that The Citadel had a better strength of schedule, including a win over another top-10 team (Chattanooga).

When asked about the “value of Sam Houston State to the committee”, Hutchinson said:

The value of Sam Houston State is that they are an 8-0 team right now [that] is averaging close to 60 points per game and close to 600 yards of [total] offense. That’s the value that people see.

I really hope that members of the selection committee aren’t using total offense as a criterion (particularly as a stand-alone benchmark) when comparing teams.

However, Hutchinson also added this:

The question about The Citadel as it relates [to Sam Houston State] is absolutely fair, though. They have a really good win over a conference opponent in Chattanooga. They’ve been undefeated. They have not yet played an FBS game, though I believe they have one the last week of the season.

So for all intents and purposes, the criteria the committee will get to evaluate them on will be done prior to the [game versus North Carolina]. Now should they win that game, obviously that would be a big feather in their cap. Should they lose it, I think most people if you look at it on paper would say they were supposed to [lose the game] — and so, that’s just how you evaluate those kinds of things.

The selection committee chairman was also asked if “there had been a lot of reaction around the country [to the preliminary rankings], or has it been isolated pockets like Cheney [Washington] or Fargo [North Dakota]?”

“It has been very isolated,” replied Hutchinson.

Those “isolated pockets” referenced in the interviewer’s query are the cities in which Eastern Washington and North Dakota State are located, of course. Fans of those schools are (justifiably, in my opinion) miffed that they were ranked 3-4 in the initial rankings, rather than 1-2. The committee seemed to ignore schedule strength and quality victories when ranking the teams.

The issue in question relates to potential seeding. The difference in being a 1 or 2 seed versus a 3 or 4 seed, for example, is this: if a seeded team keeps winning, it will host every game until it plays a higher-seeded team. Therefore, if a team is a 1 or 2 seed, it will host every game until the national title game (assuming that it continues to win). A 3 or 4 seed, however, might have to go on the road in the semifinals.

Obviously, that can be significant.

Each seeding “break” matters when it comes to hosting. For teams like James Madison and The Citadel, receiving a 1 or 2 seed may not be possible — but a 3 or 4 seed might be a realistic placement. The difference between being a 4 seed or a 5 seed could be the difference between playing a home game in the quarterfinals or going on the road. That matters.

There are two weeks left in the FCS regular season. A lot of things can (and will) change over the next two weeks.

One thing that won’t change, though, is the level of interest in the FCS playoffs from those who support teams still in the running for a spot in the field. That interest is intense, and will remain so until the bracket is revealed on November 20; it will then continue for fans of the 24 schools in the tournament.

It’s not often that people dream about making a trip to Frisco, Texas, but here we are…

2015 Football, Game 13: The Citadel vs. Charleston Southern

The Citadel at Charleston Southern, to be played in North Charleston, South Carolina, at Buccaneer Field, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on Saturday, December. The game will not be televised.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3.com, with Bob Picozzi providing play-by-play and Tom O’Brien supplying the analysis.

The game can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. In a change, WWIK-98.9 FM [audio link] will serve as the flagship station this week (due to The Citadel’s basketball game against College of Charleston starting at 11 am), and will also have a two-hour pregame show. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

– Preview article in The Post and Courier

That week off for the Bulldogs back in October came in handy

– Game notes from The Citadel and Charleston Southern

SoCon weekly release

Big South weekly release

Mike Houston’s 12/1 press conference (with comments from Dominique Allen and Tevin Floyd)

– Phil Kornblut of SportsTalk interviews Mike Houston

– Jamey Chadwell’s 11/23 press conference

Lots of political correctness in an article about Charleston Southern’s football facility

– Charleston Southern feature on WCSC-TV

The Moultrie News on the matchup

– STATS preview of The Citadel-Charleston Southern

Earlier this season, I wrote this:

There are two entities that appear to desperately want The Citadel and Charleston Southern to be an annual “rivalry” game. One is Charleston Southern. The other is the Lowcountry media.

If you don’t believe that about the Lowcountry media, you need to watch the press conferences Mike Houston and Jamey Chadwell had this week. I’ve linked both of them in the “Links of Interest” section.

At The Citadel, Mike Houston did a good job of deflecting questions, notably about the “broom” incident from the game between the two teams earlier in the season. That subject also came up during Jamey Chadwell’s press conference (which was held the day before, on Monday).

Here is the second question that Chadwell was asked, by WCSC-TV’s Andy Pruitt:

The broom is for your players. Obviously, The Citadel fans took exception to it. It still rears its head that there’s a perceived superiority that their fans believe their program has over you guys. But do you…wish you didn’t do that because you [wouldn’t want to] rile up the players and coaches, or [do] you still like what you did as far as firing up your players and you feel like your players still have the drive to play The Citadel?

I was a little disappointed in certain aspects of this question, to be honest. The comment about Bulldog fans is a blanket statement without real foundation. Just because Jamey Chadwell constantly moans about a perceived lack of respect doesn’t mean it’s true.

Chadwell’s response, which went unchallenged, included this line:

…it was for our motivation, had nothing to do with their program.

Maybe he could have made that stick if he had played broom overlord in the locker room after the game, but that’s not what he did. Instead, Chadwell had someone bring the broom out of the locker room, then paraded it at midfield while his team did a little dance during The Citadel’s alma mater.

As I said at the time, they probably didn’t realize the alma mater was being played. I’ll give them a pass for that. However, the notion that scene was just for the benefit of the CSU players is absurd.

Of course it was aimed at The Citadel — at its players, its coaches, and its fans. There was no other reason to do it at midfield.

Well, actually there was another reason. It was a way to get more media attention. In that respect, it was an unqualified success, especially for a coach looking to make a name for himself and get in the mix for higher-profile jobs.

Did any members of the press call out Chadwell for those antics? Not really. He’s a good coach, but more importantly for the fourth estate, he’s a self-assured carnival barker, and most of the press corps is appreciative.

That part of Chadwell’s personality got weirder this week, as he went into third-person mode three separate times during a 13-minute press conference. It was a little bizarre, but still went over well with the local media, as this tweet from WCIV-TV’s Scott Eisberg suggests:

Best thing is that Coach Chadwell now speaks in 3rd person-explanation for the “Broom” vs. Citadel pretty good too

See? Go into third person, offer a half-baked explanation, get credit!

I generally don’t like to rip the press. They get unfairly criticized at times, and most of them work hard and do a good job (and that includes Pruitt and Eisberg, who are both solid). However, I’m really tired of the constant drumbeat on this CSU “we don’t get respect” non-issue, with The Citadel invariably portrayed as some sort of villainous entity.

Also, I want to know something. When is there going to be any discussion about the obvious lack of respect Charleston Southern has towards The Citadel?

All the pseudo-babble has been the other way around, but remember this: the coach who insulted the other team’s players (and coaches) after the game in September was Jamey Chadwell, the head coach at Charleston Southern. The social media account that approvingly tweeted out additional comments along those same lines? That was Charleston Southern’s official twitter account (not the sports account, but the one for the entire institution).

You didn’t hear Mike Houston say anything negative about Charleston Southern. You didn’t hear any negativity about CSU from The Citadel and its administration then or now, even concerning this week’s game site (more on that later).

Sure, there are Bulldog fans who don’t think much of CSU. There are also CSU fans who don’t like The Citadel. So what?

I couldn’t care less there are Buc fans who can’t stand my alma mater. Why on earth should they care what some alums of The Citadel think about them?

It’s the whole “rivalry” thing, of course. The media wants it, because it makes for easy storylines. CSU wants it, for validation (I guess).

It won’t happen, though, because it can’t. I’ve said this before (more than once, actually), but rivalries are organic and often develop over a long period of time.

The Citadel’s rivals in football are Furman and VMI. That has been the case for generations. Alumni of The Citadel don’t think of CSU as any kind of rival; there is no reason to do so, and it has nothing to do with anything that happens on the field of play.

The Citadel has very little in common with Charleston Southern.

One is public, the other private. One is a military school, one is affiliated with the Baptists.

One began operations in 1842, the other in 1964. One is located in downtown Charleston, the other in North Charleston.

One is significantly larger than the other in terms of student enrollment (and no, the “bigger school” isn’t the one on the peninsula).

Jamey Chadwell:

Everything that we’re trying to do is to make it a rivalry. I’ve tried my best to stoke the fire. And now, maybe it is a rivalry. I hope it is. But when I got here, there was no rivalry at all.

There still isn’t — and there won’t be if Charleston Southern wins on Saturday, or if The Citadel pulls off the upset. That’s just the way it is. That is the way it is going to be.

It is quite possible that Chadwell is a decent man. I have no idea.

However, his comments haven’t done anything to make this matchup a rivalry. All they’ve done is give many Bulldog fans a negative impression of Jamey Chadwell. That’s too bad.

He probably doesn’t care. That is his prerogative.

This game is being played at Buccaneer Field. I want to make three points about that.

– I can go along with the idea that Charleston Southern’s team earned the right to host a playoff game. However, I would specify that only the team be included in the “earned” category.

Charleston Southern’s administration certainly did nothing to earn that right with its longstanding failure to significantly improve the Bucs’ football stadium situation. The facilities issues at CSU (including the basketball gymnasium) are of the school’s own doing.

Fans of other schools (not just The Citadel) have every right to point out the problems associated with those facilities, and to complain when they are affected by them. The notion that “if it were the other way around” doesn’t apply.

When The Citadel hosts a football or basketball game, or when College of Charleston hosts a basketball game, Charleston Southern’s fans have every opportunity to attend those games and watch the action. The reverse is not true when CSU hosts the matchups.

– NCAA FCS playoff committee chairman Mark Wilson, the AD at Tennessee Tech, had this to say:

We do look at the quality of the stadium and the capacity. But if a seeded team has a venue capable of hosting regular-season games without issues and they meet the minimum guarantee, then they are the host.

We think it’s going to be a great atmosphere for an FCS playoff game.

I’m not sure it’s a great idea to assume a facility that is “capable of hosting regular-season games without issues” is also going to be able to handle a crowd like that expected on Saturday. The Citadel is going to bring a few more fans than Monmouth did.

Wilson’s remark struck me as a bit disingenuous. At any rate, it is of no concern to the NCAA. That organization is all about the Benjamins, baby, which leads directly to my third point…

– This was an eyebrow-raising article:

…the largest crowd to witness a CSU home football game came last September when The Citadel made its first-ever trek down I-26 to 4,000-seat Buccaneer Field. The listed attendance for that game was 7,934 [note: actual attendance was closer to 5,500]. That included about 3,000 fans who were left to stand or sit in lawn chairs around the end zone or along the fences in the corners.

Early projections are that Saturday’s game, which has much bigger implications and interest, will exceed that record crowd. CSU athletic director Hank Small realizes the logistics involved but feels comfortable in saying his stadium can handle the crowd…

…“Sure, it’s going to be a lot of people. We understand the numbers involved. We will have the full complement of security and safety personnel available and we are doing everything we can to make this hosting of a national playoff game go as smoothly as possible. There will be a lot of people standing. But we are doing all we can to accommodate anyone who wants to see this historic game. No one will be turned away.

…“They requested as many tickets as they could get and we gave them all that we had for those three sections on their side of the field,” Small said. “We then started selling standing room only (SRO) tickets to any other fans who wanted to have a ticket to get in to see the game. My advice would be to arrive early, whether you have your ticket already or if you ordered online and have to pick them up at will call.”

A CSU spokesman said Monday there are about 2,000 seats on the visitors’ side, and that an “unlimited” number of SRO tickets will be sold. Citadel fans who went on-line at 10 a.m. Monday when tickets went on sale found only SRO tickets available.

I have to wonder if the conversation between the CSU administration and the NCAA went something like this:

NCAA: So, uh, you guys only have 4,000 seats. You could probably sell 12,000+ for this game. We want as big a profit as possible. Why do you think we regionalize the playoffs in the first place? Why not move it somewhere that can accommodate all those fans?

CSU: Hey, we’ll just sell SRO tickets to anyone who wants one. That way, we’ll sell plenty of tickets, make you folks lots of money, and save on the seats we didn’t have to add.

NCAA: Awesome!

When I read the comment that an “unlimited” number of SRO tickets would be sold, the first thing I thought about was a tragedy that took place in England in 1989 — the Hillsborough disaster.

I’m going to be blunt. I think selling an unlimited number of tickets to an event such as this one is irresponsible. It is also potentially dangerous.

Even if it meant fewer Bulldog fans were to gain entry, tickets should be capped at a certain point. Incidentally, is there a fire marshal anywhere near North Charleston?

On Thursday night, a representative at Charleston Southern told Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier that the school had sold “almost 7,000” tickets to the game. There was no immediate indication of how many SRO tickets had been sold.

That took on new meaning when, later on Thursday night, information was leaked that Charleston Southern had not yet sold all of the tickets for the seats on the home side.

In other words, CSU officials have been selling SRO tickets since 10 am Monday (remember, those were the only tickets offered to Bulldog fans by Charleston Southern). Meanwhile, tickets for at least one seated section on the home side have gone unsold for almost two weeks.

For the statistical review, I included all of The Citadel’s games and ten of the eleven games Charleston Southern has played. I threw out the Bucs’ game at Alabama.

Charleston Southern has wins over North Greenville (41-14), East Tennessee State (47-7), The Citadel (33-20), Monmouth (37-7), Presbyterian (10-7), Gardner-Webb (34-0), Coastal Carolina (33-25), Kennesaw State (28-14), and Liberty (31-24). The Buccaneers also lost to Troy (34-16), in addition to the ‘Bama defeat.

The Citadel has victories over Davidson (69-0), Western Carolina (28-10), Wofford (39-12), Mercer (21-19), VMI (35-14), Samford (44-25), Furman (38-17), South Carolina (23-22), and Coastal Carolina (41-38). The Bulldogs’ three losses came at Georgia Southern (48-13), versus Charleston Southern (33-20), and at Chattanooga (31-23).

As mentioned above, these statistics don’t include CSU’s game versus Alabama.

Charleston Southern’s offense has thrown the ball 222 times, with 13 other would-be pass play attempts resulting in sacks. Not counting those sacks, the Bucs have rushed 447 times; thus, CSU has passed the ball (or attempted to pass) on 34.5% of its offensive plays from scrimmage.

Passing yardage accounts for 39.7% of Charleston Southern’s total offense (with sack yardage removed from the total). CSU averages 6.68 yards per pass attempt (again, with sacks/yardage taken into account). That yards per attempt number is comparable to Furman among SoCon teams.

Charleston Southern averages 31.0 points and 395.9 yards per game, with an average of 5.8 yards per play. CSU would have finished 3rd in the SoCon in scoring offense, sixth in total offense, and fifth in yards per play.

Defensively, The Citadel has allowed 22.4 points and 369.3 yards per game, allowing 5.7 yards per play.

CSU is averaging 5.0 yards per rush, gaining 232.2 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs have allowed 156.9 yards per contest (4.5 yards per play).

The Buccaneers have completed passes at a 56.3% clip, with 14 TDs against only 5 interceptions. CSU’s pass efficiency rating would be near the top 30 of FCS if the Alabama game were not counted.

The Citadel was 24th nationally in defensive pass efficiency before last week, having allowed 7 pass TDs while intercepting 17 errant tosses prior to last Saturday. However, after the CCU game, The Citadel has dropped to 42nd nationally.

The Bulldogs allowed 3 TD passes against the Chanticleers, though they also intercepted two tosses (including a pick-6). The Citadel’s opponents have a completion percentage for the season of 59.6%.

Charleston Southern has converted 42.9% of its third-down attempts, which would rank 34th nationally save the Crimson Tide game (CSU was only 1 for 10 on third down in that contest). The Citadel has allowed opponents to pick up 37.2% of third down tries (48th in FCS).

CSU has gone for it on fourth down seventeen times, picking up a first down on ten of those attempts. On defense, The Citadel has given up fourteen conversions in twenty-two opponent tries (Coastal Carolina had no 4th-down conversion attempts last week).

Charleston Southern’s defense is allowing 16.2 points per game (which would easily lead the SoCon). CSU has given up 252.9 yards per game, with an average of 4.3 yards allowed per play. Both of those statistics would also lead the SoCon by a wide margin. Despite the Alabama game, the Buccaneers are still 2nd in FCS in total defense.

The Citadel is averaging 32.8 points and 434.3 yards per game, gaining 6.2 yards per play.

CSU is allowing 3.0 yards per rush (101.2 yards per game). Both of those statistics would rank in the top 10 of FCS.

The Buccaneers have allowed only 5 TDs through the air while intercepting 7 passes. CSU’s defensive pass efficiency rating would probably rank in the top 20 of FCS (possibly top 15) without the game against the Crimson Tide.

The Citadel’s rushing offense averages 359.7 yards per game (second-best nationally), gaining 5.9 yards per carry. The Bulldogs don’t throw the football that often, of course; they now rank 41st in FCS in offensive pass efficiency (5 TD passes, 4 picks).

The Bulldogs have an offensive third-down conversion rate of 50.9%, which is fourth-best in FCS (behind James Madison, Lehigh, and Chattanooga). Charleston Southern has allowed third down conversions at a 28.1% rate and ranks in the top 10 nationally in that category.

I think 3rd-down conversion rate will be a big key to the game on Saturday. CSU’s offense is good on third down, as is the Bulldogs’ D. Charleston Southern’s defense is outstanding on third down; The Citadel’s offense is stellar at moving the chains.

The Citadel is 6 for 17 on fourth-down tries, which is decidedly below average (and a bit surprising), while CSU opponents are just 7 for 22 converting fourth-down attempts (top 25 nationally).

Charleston Southern’s offense has a 65.1% Red Zone TD rate. The Bulldogs have a defensive Red Zone TD rate of 52.6%. Of the Buccaneers’ 28 Red Zone TDs, 20 have been via the rush.

CCU opponents have a Red Zone TD rate of 57.1%. The Citadel’s offense has a Red Zone TD rate of 61.5%. Of the 32 touchdowns the Bulldogs have scored on Red Zone possessions, 30 have been rushing TDs.

The Citadel is +9 in turnover margin (gained 29, lost 20). Charleston Southern’s turnover margin is +3 (gained 13, lost 10). CSU ranks in the FCS top 10 in fewest turnovers given up.

Charleston Southern is 7 for 13 on field goal attempts (33-38 on PATs). The Citadel is 14 for 18 on FG tries (44-45 PATs).

The Citadel has a net punting average of 36.1; CSU’s is 32.9.

The Bulldogs have 31 touchbacks on 74 kickoffs, while the Buccaneers have 8 touchbacks on 56 kickoffs. The Citadel has an edge of 5.2 net yards in kickoff coverage.

Charleston Southern has averaged 19.3 yards per kick return. The Citadel’s average per KO return is 23.0.

CSU has averaged 15.5 yards per punt return, which is ninth-best in FCS and tops in the Big South. The Citadel (5.0 yards per return) ranks last in the SoCon in that statistic.

Charleston Southern has averaged 34:17 in time of possession per game. The Bulldogs have also controlled the clock, but not to that same extent (31:56).

The Buccaneers are averaging 68.2 offensive plays from scrimmage per game, with a very slow 1.99 plays-per-minute rate. The Citadel is averaging 69.5 plays per game, with a plays-per-minute rate of 2.18.

Charleston Southern is averaging 6.5 penalties per game (53.0 penalty yards per contest). Opponents of the Bucs are called for slightly fewer penalties (5.2 per contest, 46.3 penalty yards/game).

The Citadel has been called for 5.8 penalties per game (50.2 penalty yards per contest). Opponents of the Bulldogs have been flagged just 4.7 times per contest (36.8 penalty yards per game).

Note: individual statistics are for all games.

Austin Brown (6’1″, 207 lbs.) has seen the lion’s share of snaps for the Bucs at quarterback. He is completing 56.5% of his passes, with 11 TD tosses against 5 interceptions.

Charleston Southern had two running backs rush for 100+ yards against The Citadel in the last matchup. Darius Hammond (5’10”, 192 lbs.) leads the team in rushing, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He is also a threat at returning punts (having taken one back for a TD versus the Bulldogs last season).

Mike Holloway (5’8″, 195 lbs.) rushed for 172 yards and 3 TDs against The Citadel in September. A third running back, Ben Robinson (5’7″, 183 lbs.), is averaging 6.7 yards per carry.

Charleston Southern’s projected starters on the offensive line averages 6’2″, 283 lbs.

Left tackle Erik Austell (6’3″, 285 lbs.) was a first team All-Big South pick. Fellow tackle Benny Timmons (6’2″, 300 lbs.) and center Jackson Williamson (6’0″, 285 lbs.) were second-team all-league selections.

However, Austell is not listed on the current two-deep after suffering an injury late in the season against Kennesaw State. Timmons has moved from right to left tackle.

Tight end Nathan Prater is 6’8″, and is from Ninety Six, South Carolina.

It is a requirement for me to lament that he does not wear #96 (for his hometown) or #68 (for his height). Instead, he wears #81. So, so disappointing.

Prater and starting wide receivers Kevin Glears (6’0″, 185 lbs.) and Nathan Perera (6’3″, 210 lbs.) are all sixth-year players. Perera was an all-Big South pick in 2011 before suffering knee and shoulder injuries. He has been targeted a lot late in the season, and is averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

Another starting wideout, Colton Korn, is the player to watch on 3rd down. He moves the chains (and had eight receptions earlier this season against The Citadel). His brother, Willy Korn, is the wide receivers coach at CSU (and whose star-crossed career at Clemson has been well-chronicled).

Another receiver to watch is Kenny Dinkins (5’10”, 185 lbs.), a speedster who had 114 receiving yards against Liberty.

Charleston Southern generally plays a 3-4 defense, but will throw out multiple looks against the Bulldogs’ triple option attack.

Weakside linebacker Aaron Brown, a first-team all-conference pick, leads the Buccaneers in tackles. Brown scored a touchdown against North Greenville in the opener, a 53-yard play that was technically a fumble return after NGU bungled a punt.

Middle linebacker Zane Cruz (6’2″, 215 lbs.) is second on the team in tackles. Fifth-year senior Zack Johnson (6’0″, 200 lbs.) is the “spur” linebacker. He is third on the team in tackles for loss.

The “bandit” linebacker, Solomon Brown (6’1″, 220 lbs.) was the Big South Freshman of the Year. He is second on the team in sacks (5) and tackles for loss (10).

Defensive end Anthony Ellis (6’1″, 245 lbs.) led the team in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (14). He was also a first-team all-league selection.

The four starters in the secondary have combined to make 89 career starts. Thirty of those are by cornerback and All-Big South pick Malcolm Jackson (5’11”, 180 lbs.).

Truett Burns (6’0″, 172 lbs.) is in his third year as Charleston Southern’s starting punter. The junior usually employs a “rugby” style of punting.

This year, he is averaging 35.8 yards per punt, with 15 of his 44 punts landing inside the 20 (against one touchback).

Tyler Tekac (6’0″, 180 lbs.) is now CSU’s placekicker. The freshman is 7-11 on field goal attempts, with a long of 40 yards. He is 21-24 on PATs.

Joseph Smith (6’3″, 200 lbs.) is the all-Big South long snapper. Not every league has an all-conference place for a long snapper; good for him.

As mentioned earlier, Darius Hammond is Charleston Southern’s punt returner, and he is an all-league performer in that role. Hammond is also CSU’s primary kick returner.

Odds and ends:

– Charleston Southern has 36 players on its roster from South Carolina, 19 from Georgia, 16 from Florida, two from North Carolina, and one each from Virginia, Texas, and California.

Note: those numbers are what I compiled back in September. The current numerical roster only lists 61 players (presumably the “playoff roster”, as per NCAA rules).

– This will be the third consecutive meeting between the two schools in which Charleston Southern has had extra days to prepare. The previous two matchups came after CSU played Thursday night contests the week before.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Charleston Southern is a 3-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 52.5. For those who follow such things, the line actually opened on Monday afternoon as a pick’em, so the money is coming in on the Bucs’ side. Admittedly, I don’t think it would take a great deal of cash to swing an FCS line.

Other lines for FCS playoff games: William & Mary-Richmond is a pick’em; JMU is favored by 20.5 over Colgate; Jacksonville State is a 7-point favorite over Chattanooga; Illinois State is a 15.5-point favorite over Western Illinois; North Dakota State is a 9-point favorite over Montana; McNeese State is a 4.5-point favorite over Sam Houston State; and Northern Iowa is a 4-point road favorite at Portland State.

Portland State is 9-2, has beaten two FBS teams (including Washington State), is playing at home after getting a bye…and it’s a 4-point underdog to a four-loss team that is travelling halfway across the country.

[Lee Corso voice] Somebody knows somethin’ [/Lee Corso voice]

– Among FCS teams, The Citadel is 6th in this week’s Massey Ratings. Other FCS ratings of note: Chattanooga, 8th; Charleston Southern, 11th.

The top 5 in the Massey Ratings are (in order) Illinois State, North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Northern Iowa, and Dartmouth. Harvard is 7th, so The Citadel is sandwiched between two Ivy League schools.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in North Charleston, according to the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high around 63 degrees.

– Do you think North Charleston mayor Keith Summey gets upset that the folks at Charleston Southern are always trying to suggest the school is located in Charleston? There are constant attempts to tie in a rivalry with The Citadel and/or College of Charleston by making references like “intra-city”, “inner city”, “cross town”, etc.

I’ve wondered about this at times. After all, he’s a Baptist College (now CSU) graduate.

– I just wanted to note that Tevin Floyd and Dominique Allen were both on point at the presser this week, particularly Allen. Excellent job, guys.

For personal reasons not related to the gridiron (or the locale), I’m not sure I’ll be at the game on Saturday. It would be the first time I haven’t seen a playoff game involving The Citadel in person.

If I’m not there, I’ll be watching it on ESPN3. I’ll almost certainly have a better view of the action if I’m not at the game, which is ridiculous, but also true.

One thing I remember from the contest The Citadel played in North Charleston last season was how poor the sightlines were on the visitors side, even for the seated areas. That’s because the bleachers are on flat ground, and fans are separated from the action by a fence, a track, and the players and coaches lining the sideline.

Of course, most of the visiting fans won’t even be lucky enough to have seats.

I have had several people I know, Bulldog fans who have each attended dozens (if not hundreds) of home and away games over the years, tell me they aren’t going to the game specifically because they want to actually watch the game.

The setting for the matchup was described earlier this week by a Bulldog supporter as a potential “mosh pit”. That particular individual was actually being positive in his assessment, but I’m too old and decrepit to enjoy what may wind up being a scene vaguely resembling the infield at the Kentucky Derby (albeit with more discreet alcohol consumption). So if I can’t make it, I’m not going to be all that upset.

I just hope nothing really bad happens.

As for the game itself, I don’t have any idea what to expect.

I was really surprised (and pleased) at how dominant The Citadel was on the ground against Coastal Carolina. I thought the Bulldogs would move the ball, but I certainly wasn’t expecting 500+ rushing yards.

Coastal Carolina isn’t that bad a defensive team. CSU has a better defense than the Chanticleers, but it is hard to imagine The Citadel struggling in this game like it did offensively back in September. I think the Bulldogs’ O has come of age since then.

I mentioned the 3rd-down conversion statistic earlier. Maintaining long drives is going to be a big factor for both teams. So are turnovers and penalties (the Bulldogs were hurt by untimely flags in the first meeting).

The Bulldogs better be extra-careful on kickoff and punt coverage on Saturday, especially punts. (Potential solution: don’t punt; embrace the Kevin Kelley school of coaching.)

Will the Bulldogs be tired after a long season and another road game? Will the Buccaneers be off their rhythm after a week off?

I don’t know, and nobody else does either.

That’s why we watch the games.

Game review, 2015: Coastal Carolina

That was a wild one…

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

Game story, Myrtle Beach Sun-News

Photo gallery, Myrtle Beach Sun-News

Coastal Carolina post-game news conference

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WCIV-TV

Video of the winning field goal and the immediate aftermath

School release

Post-game notes from The Citadel

Box score

Eric Goins had this to say after the game…

I came back [to] the sideline [after the blocked field goal attempt], and…General Rosa was there…and he said, ‘Hey, you’re gonna have to kick another one.’ And I believed him, because I felt like that was the way the game was going. And he was right.

John Rosa: former college quarterback, current school president, modern-day Nostradamus.

Very random thoughts on the game:

– Coastal Carolina has a nice setup for its varsity sports, including Brooks Stadium. I don’t know exactly how CCU plans on expanding the stadium to 20,000 seats (as part of its move to FBS), but it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Parking was easy. I just parked in lot “YY”, which was located about a half-mile from the stadium. Shuttles came regularly to take people to the game. I had no issues leaving, either (though I chose to walk back to the parking lot after the game).

– CCU is yet another school (including The Citadel) that believes when it comes to its speaker system, louder is better. In particular, there was a halftime promotional video that featured audio which will surely lead to permanent hearing loss for anyone who was in attendance.

– Not that anyone at Coastal Carolina will (or should) care about my opinion, but I would ditch the “teal” turf. It looks terrible, both in person and on TV.

Like I said, though, they aren’t asking for my opinion.

– Speaking of the ESPN3 broadcast, apparently someone in production thought The Citadel’s starting quarterback was “Dominic” Allen. I watched part of the game when I got home and was disappointed to see that basic error.

I hope it is corrected for next week’s game.

– The analyst for the ESPN3 broadcast was former Boston College and N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien. He was not the most colorful of “color” analysts, to be sure.

However, he knew what he was talking about, not a big surprise given his excellent coaching career. Some of his nuts-and-bolts discussion was really good; you could even call it refreshing.

I think he could become a very good analyst if he called more games.

– Coastal Carolina’s receivers weren’t exactly the headliners coming into the game, but as a group the CCU wideouts made a number of outstanding catches. The Citadel’s defense gave up way too many big plays yesterday, but you also have to credit the opposition sometimes. The Chanticleers made several “velcro” grabs on Saturday.

– CCU linebacker Alex Scearce is apparently okay after being injured late in the game, which is good to know. I would describe that post-play scene as unnerving.

– The officials drew mixed reviews on Saturday. I wasn’t overly impressed with the Patriot League crew, to be honest.

I thought the spot on Dominique Allen’s fourth-down sneak in the first half was dubious, and they missed a potential pick-6 by Nick Willis in the third quarter (which wasn’t even reviewed, arguably more puzzling than the call on the field).

I didn’t understand the sideline interference penalty either. It’s possible I missed something there, so I’ll give the officials the benefit of the doubt on that one.

– With two interceptions against CCU, The Citadel’s defense now has 19 for the season. Somewhat surprisingly (at least to me), that is “only” fourth-best in school history, behind 1970 (23), 1977 (21), and 1981 (20).

Yes, in 1970 the Bulldogs intercepted 23 passes in 11 games.

– The Citadel rushed for 524 yards on Saturday (6.7 yards per attempt). The Bulldogs carried the ball 78 times.

One reason The Citadel had so many rushes is that the Bulldogs consistently converted third downs (11 for 17). Five of The Citadel’s twelve drives lasted 10 plays or more. The Bulldogs did not have a “three and out” during the contest.

– After a late scoring change (due to a misidentified player), it turns out The Citadel had four 100-yard rushers. Dominique Allen, Tyler Renew, Cam Jackson, and (better to be recognized later than never) Vinny Miller all cracked the century mark.

– Given the total offensive output, and the fact The Citadel won the turnover battle 4-1, it may seem strange that the Bulldogs needed a last-second field goal to win the game.

They did need that kick, though. Why?

  • Missed opportunities on offense: two FGs that went awry (one blocked), a lost fumble, a turnover on downs, and that excruciating sequence at the end of the first half
  • Big plays allowed on defense: CCU had pass plays of 91 (TD), 26 (TD), 17, 47, 16 (TD), 26, 42, 17, 16, and 33 yards; the Chanticleers also had rushing plays of 44 (TD), 22, 17, and 16 yards (TD)

– The end-of-half sequence I mentioned above should serve as a useful “teaching moment” going forward. It could have dearly cost the Bulldogs to miss out on a potential field goal.

To give the players and coaches credit, they regained the lost momentum immediately by scoring on the first possession of the second half.

Then Coastal scored on its first possession of the second half…and then The Citadel responded (with that big Cam Jackson run)…and then…

It was that kind of game.

– My best guess is that about half the crowd at Brooks Stadium on Saturday wore light blue. It was an impressive turnout.

Announced attendance for The Citadel-Coastal Carolina: 6,751.

Attendance for the other seven FCS playoff games this weekend: 14,575 (at Montana); 7,062 (Northern Iowa); 4,888 (Chattanooga); 4,395 (William & Mary); 3,303 (New Hampshire); 3,098 (Sam Houston State); 997 (Dayton).

It isn’t easy to draw fans for the post-Thanksgiving FCS playoff games, but having less than 1,000 in the stands for Western Illinois-Dayton is not good.

Speaking of attendance, here is the link to the Charleston Southern ticket office website:

Link

There likely won’t be any tickets available for The Citadel to sell (outside of about 700ish tickets that will be offered to the top 100-120 donors), so if you want to go to the game, you need to go to the CSU website.

You probably need to get them as soon as they become available at 10 am ET on Monday (November 30). Tickets will be at a premium because of the lack of seats (and space) at Buccaneer Field.

In the 2014 game played between the two teams, the announced attendance was 7,954; in actuality, there were probably about 5,500 people there.

I would anticipate the potential for a much bigger crowd this Saturday, but the truth is there really isn’t space for a lot more fans. That is certainly true for seated spectators. CSU only has around 4,000 “permanent seats”.

I’ll have a preview for that matchup later in the week.

Here are some (really bad) pictures I took on Saturday, after I managed to get my camera to work again. At least, as much as it ever works.

The game photos are in sequential order. I’ve annotated a few of them.