COLUMBIA — The biggest game between South Carolina teams so far this year is happening today as Coastal Carolina heads to Charleston Southern.
Both teams are unbeaten in the Big South Conference, and the winner has the inside track to the league title and a Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth.
“Let’s throw the ball down and see if our best is better than their best,” Charleston Southern coach Jamey Chadwell said.
In other games today involving South Carolina’s FCS teams, Presbyterian travels to Liberty; Wofford is at Chattanooga; Furman hosts Samford; The Citadel is at Elon; and South Carolina State hosts Florida A&M.
In North Charleston, Charleston Southern (9-1, 2-0 Big South Conference) is getting ready for perhaps the biggest game in program history against Coastal Carolina (9-0, 3-0).
The Buccaneers won the Big South title in 2005, but then the league didn’t have an automatic bid to the playoffs. A win Saturday would let Charleston Southern take a big step toward its first postseason appearance.
The Chanticleers would clinch a share of the league title and a guaranteed playoff spot with a win and a Presbyterian loss to Liberty. But Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia isn’t talking about that or all the hype that goes into a big game on the road. He’s using the same mantra he uses each week – follow assignments and do the things you are supposed to do right every time and good results will follow.
“The reality is we can’t do much about any of that stuff. We have to take care of business ourselves,” Moglia said.
The Buccaneers have to find some way to stop one of the best offenses in the FCS. The Chanticleers’ 47.7 points a game is tops in the nation. They have scored at least 50 points in six of their last seven games. Senior running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is third in the country, averaging 139 yards rushing a game.
Chadwell said his rushing offense – which is 10th in the nation at 249 yards a game – will need to help his defense stay off the field.
Even with a loss, Coastal Carolina can likely rally and make the playoffs with an at-large bid. Charleston Southern my not, because the Buccaneers have played two Division II teams.
In Lynchburg, Va., Presbyterian (3-5, 1-1 Big South) still has a shot at winning the Big South, but will have to beat Liberty (5-4, 2-1).
The Blue Hose will have to find a way to get past a stingy defense. The Flames are fifth in FCS, allowing just 18 points a game, and even that average is skewed upward by Liberty’s 55-52 double-overtime loss to Coastal Carolina. Even with a win, the road to a Big South title is still tough for the Blue Hose, who play Coastal Carolina next week.
In Chattanooga, Tenn., Wofford (5-3, 4-1 Southern Conference) suddenly finds itself back in the Southern Conference race. But to stay there, the Terriers will have to beat Chattanooga (7-2, 5-1).
Chattanooga has the second-best rushing defense in the league, allowing just 177 yards a game on the ground.
In Greenville, Furman (4-5, 3-2 SoCon) can continue its remarkable turnaround and help a few fellow SoCon teams by beating Samford (6-3, 4-1).
The Paladins have won two league games in a row – over departing Appalachian State and Georgia Southern – and are still in the conference title hunt. To get to the playoffs, Furman would have to win its last three games and have Chattanooga lose its final two conference games.
Furman has been helped with the return from injury of starting quarterback Reese Hannon and a defense that is suddenly becoming opportunistic. The Paladins have returned interceptions for scores in two of their last three games and forced eight turnovers in the last two league wins.
In Elon, The Citadel (3-6, 3-4 SoCon) will wrap up a disappointing league season against Elon (2-7, 1-4).
The Citadel has lost plenty of close games this season. Only one of its six losses (21-10 to Wofford) was by more than a touchdown.
Bulldogs coach Kevin Higgins said the key will be his defense stopping Elon’s passing game.
“I think this is the best group of wide receivers on any team in our league,” Higgins said.
The Phoenix are third in the SoCon at 237 yards passing a game.
In Orangeburg, South Carolina State (6-3, 4-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) is trying to impress the FCS playoff committee by beating Florida A&M (3-6, 2-3).
Bulldogs coach Buddy Pough said he is resigned to not winning the MEAC this year. Bethune-Cookman would have to lose two conference games, and the Wildcats are on an 18-game conference winning streak.