The conference race took a roller coaster ride on Saturday. First, Furman shocked Chattanooga, sending the race into total uproar. The early favorite Mocs loss sent shockwaves through the conference and sent the race wide open. Second, Samford was beating Wofford by nine with under two and a half minutes left. Then, right when it appeared the race would be dealt another shockwave, the Terriers went on a 14-0 run to pull the shocking win. Finally, UNCG was up big early at ETSU and even led late into the contest, prepared to rock the conference again. But the Bucs made one more clutch shot down the stretch to remain unbeaten.
Only one day off, and then the teams are back at it. Monday may be one of the most intriguing days of the conference season. With the college football national championship game on the horizon, two games got moved up. Furman is hosting Samford and Wofford is hosting Chattanooga. Both games have moved from a 7:00 start to a 6:00 start so that fans may get back to watch nearby Clemson play in that contest.
Time to look at Monday's headlines.
Championship mettle is tested. Wofford is the reigning regular season champions, and the two time reigning tournament champs. No team left in the conference is as battle tested as the Terriers. They are 3-0 and host Chattanooga, the preseason favorites who are 2-1. The Mocs loss to Furman on Saturday makes this one all the more critical to the Mocs. A Wofford win would suddenly make them 4-0, and the Mocs 2-2. This is a challenge for Justin Tuoyo, Greg Pryor and the Mocs. This may just be the moment of truth for this club. It is also a chance for Wofford to firmly announce that they are not only a contender, but once again may be the league favorite.
Sorting out the pesky middle. Samford is 1-2 in SoCon play while Furman is 2-1. Samford performed better out of conference. Can Furman keep the momentum from their upset of Chattanooga on Saturday going for another day? Western Carolina is 1-1 in SoCon play and UNCG is 1-2 in conference. Their match-up in Cullowhee will help begin to sort out where the two teams belong in the conference race. There is room for more contenders at the top with Wofford, ETSU, Chattanooga and Mercer. But there isn't room for all four of these teams. These early conference games will help start settling a pecking order and if one of them is truly a title contender.
Emotional road bounce back. Chattanooga. Samford. UNCG. All of them lost games in different, yet emotional ways on Saturday. Do they respond with the blues on Monday, or do they respond with fire and energy? Their responses will go a long way to determining the winners on Monday night. All three are on the road again, but I would hardly call any of the three in a position that they cannot win in. These teams are all good enough to do it. Which ones respond correctly and which ones do not?
Can ETSU avoid the letdown against VMI? VMI has been pummeled in two SoCon games so far, and lost a third one in a close loss at home to Wofford. Still, their two road games have not been pretty so far, losing by 28 at Furman and 21 at Western Carolina. ETSU seems capable of handing out another beating similar to that at home on Monday night. However, the Bucs won a thriller on Saturday. They know about the Keydets struggles. Will they be ready to play on Monday or will they be overlooking the apparently overmatched Keydets?