For the past month, the Southern Conference has been watching the league’s frontrunners, Samford, Wofford and Chattanooga, to see which one will reach out and take the 2013 SoCon championship.
None of them did.
On Saturday, while Wofford was losing to Appalachian State and Chattanooga was losing in overtime to Samford, Furman (6-5, 5-2 SoCon), which was 2-4 and 0-2 at one point this season, put itself into position to claim the league’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs and a share of the SoCon championship with a win over Western Carolina.
“Obviously we’re down to one game and it’s a game at the end,” Furman coach Bruce Fowler said. “As coaches you talk about, ‘One game at a time,’ and , ‘they all count the same.’ And they do. Things have worked out where it comes down to the last game. It’s been a little different in that each week if we didn’t win the conference games, it probably would have eliminated us.”
Furman faces Wofford (5-5, 4-3) for all the marbles at home on Saturday at noon.
The other key game in the SoCon is Elon (2-9, 1-6) at Samford (7-4, 5-2).
If Samford wins and Furman loses, Samford will win the league’s autobid over co-champion Chattanooga by virtue of its overtime win over the Mocs.
If Samford and Furman both lose on Saturday, then Chattanooga (8-3, 6-2), which has already wrapped up its SoCon schedule, will win the league outright.
Though the Mocs likely don’t have a chance this weekend at No. 1 Alabama, the stars could align for them.
Samford would share the championship with Furman and Chattanooga if Furman wins, but its playoff destiny would be in the hands of the NCAA selection committee.
Head coach Pat Sullivan is doing his best to keep the Bulldogs’ attention away from all of that.
“There will be no scenario of any kind if we don’t win the ballgame on Saturday,” Sullivan said. “I think that we went back to focusing on one play, one quarter, one game at a time, and then let’s add it up, but these kids are smart. They know what’s at stake and I don’t have to tell them.
“I’m going to do my dangdest to keep my coaches, myself and my players on taking it one play at a time.”
One more time
Georgia Southern (6-4, 4-4) will see its season end on Saturday with a 2 p.m., game in Gainesville, Fla., against the Florida Gators (4-6).
GSU head coach Jeff Monken can draw at least one parallel between the teams.
“We’re a lot like Florida,” Monken said. “Florida is a very well coached team. A talented team. They’ve got a lot of guys hurt, and so do we. So we’re trying to get a team pieced together with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of freshmen who didn’t start the season in the mix. If we’re going to have a chance to win Saturday, we’re going to have to play the best game we’ll play all year.”
Monken joked when asked about Florida’s venue.
“It’s too bad we’re playing them at home,” Monken said. “They probably won’t get lost on the way to the stadium. If we were playing somewhere else we could hope for that.”
Around the league
The Citadel (5-6, 4-4) has wrapped up its SoCon schedule and will face No. 7 Clemson on the road Saturday at noon. Like Georgia Southern last week, Appalachian State (3-8, 3-4) will play the last SoCon game in program history when it hosts Western Carolina (2-9, 1-6) in the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.