For Georgia Southern and Samford, there's no time to work out the kinks.
After the teams face off at 7 p.m. EST in Birmingham, Ala. Saturday, one will be alone in first place in the Southern Conference and one will be at the bottom.
"We've got to play a conference game some time," said GSU coach Jeff Monken, "and if it's the first game of the year, so be it."
Samford joined the SoCon in 2008 and hasn't won a season opener since. On the flip side, the Bulldogs haven't lost to Georgia Southern, either.
Ever since Samford defeated the Eagles, 20-13, on Oct. 30, 2010, GSU has looked like a different team.
"They got on a roll, won six in a row and just kept fighting," said Samford coach Pat Sullivan. "I think they've got 20 starters back and they deserve everything that they've got. ... Other than Auburn at the end of the year, I think they may be the most talented team that we play. I truly mean that."
New school versus new school
When first-year head coach Jason Swepson and the Elon Phoenix face Vanderbilt Saturday at Vanderbilt, both teams will be facing a similar situation.
Both have new coaching staffs, and neither knows much about what the other team is going to be doing.
Swepson, who came to the Phoenix via N.C. State, brought in offensive coordinator Chris Pincince from Rhode Island and defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham from Rutgers.
"I'm going to have my hands on offense, defense and special teams," said Swepson. "I'm sure they're wondering if we're going to run some N.C. State plays on offense or some Rhode Island plays. On defense, will we run Rutgers schemes or N.C. State's. It's just going to be a combination of everything."
If it's broke, fix it
Appalachian State has always been known for bringing in All-Conference linebackers, most notable Dexter Coakley, and coach Jerry Moore and his staff recently decided to switch to a 3-4 defense to take advantage of the talent at the position - and perhaps some deficiencies on the line.
"It was the personnel that made us want to switch," said Moore. "We've never had a big football team. Sometimes we've had some good fortune, but we've lost a couple of ballgames and said, 'OK, maybe we're not so big.' I remember when we went to Montana in the semifinals twice and they beat us up front."
Some things never change
Ever since Chris Forcier transferred to Furman from UCLA, Paladin fans have been calling for him to start.
Sometimes it's been the bench, and sometimes it's been injuries, but Forcier, now a senior, still has yet to take over the team.
Under first-year coach Bruce Fowler, Forcier must beat out junior Dakota Derrick if he wants the job.
Both have gotten equal snaps with the starters at practice.
"I think both of them have done an excellent job," said Fowler. "We're just going to wait until game time."
Furman opens the season at Coastal Carolina Saturday at 6 p.m.
Facing the best
Two years ago, when the Chattanooga Mocs faced soon-to-be BCS national champion Alabama, coach Russ Huesman felt like the Mocs' defense was far better than the offense.
In 2010, it was the other way around — the offense moved the ball and the defense couldn't keep up — against soon-to-be BCS national champion Auburn.
The Mocs didn't take much from those two contests as they prepare to open the season against Nebraska Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
"I don't know if we learned anything," said Huesman. "We got thumped in both games. I'm not sure what you take a way from a game where you're really not effective."
NOTES: The Wofford Terriers open the season Saturday at Presbyterian at 1:30 p.m. ... The Citadel faces Jacksonville, which went 10-1 in 2010, Saturday at 6 p.m. ... The SoCon football season officially gets underway Thursday when Western Carolina travels to Georgia Tech for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.
Appalachian St. 0-0 0-0
Chattanooga 0-0 0-0
The Citadel 0-0 0-0
Elon 0-0 0-0
Furman 0-0 0-0
Ga. Southern 0-0 0-0
Samford 0-0 0-0
W. Carolina 0-0 0-0
Wofford 0-0 0-0
West. Carolina at Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m.
Appalachian State at No. 13 Virginia Tech
Wofford at Presbyterian, 1:30 p.m.
Chattanooga at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m.
Furman at Coastal Carolina, 6 p.m.
Jacksonville at The Citadel, 6 p.m.
Georgia Southern at Samford, 7 p.m.
Elon at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m.
SouthernPigskin.com SoCon Power Poll
1. Georgia Southern
2. Appalachian State
8. The Citadel
9. Western Carolina
*Voters: Armanti Edwards (Former ASU QB), Jayson Foster (Former GSU QB/WR), Scott Riddle (former Elon QB), Chris Sanders (former UTC QB), B.J. Bennett, J.T. Bennett, Charlie K., and Russell Varner (Southern Pigskin), Matt Yogus (Statesboro Herald), Adam Smith (Burlington Times), John Frierson (Chattanooga Times Free Press).