Back SoCon Game of the Week Preview: Furman at Wofford

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SoCon Game of the Week Preview: Furman at Wofford

By Matthew Golden
SouthernPigskin.com
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Furman will travel to Spartanburg, South Carolina to face off against the Wofford Terriers in a matchup jam-packed with playoff and conference implications.

Overview

The two teams atop the Southern Conference will clash this Saturday. Furman will travel to Spartanburg, South Carolina to face off against the Wofford Terriers in a matchup jam-packed with playoff and conference implications. Furman, ranked #7 in the FCS Coaches Poll, can essentially secure the 2019 Southern Conference Championship with a win. The Paladins are red hot, winning six of their last seven, and three straight heading into Saturday. #20 Wofford sits just a half a game behind Furman and can put themselves in the driver’s seat with a victory at home. Wofford has won three of their last four, their one loss coming against FBS powerhouse Clemson. The Terriers’ matchup against Furman will be the second of three consecutive conference games to finish their season. With the end of the season looming, this game controls how the top of the Southern Conference is shaped.

Why to Watch

Playoff seeding and conference implications aside, this matchup will feature two of the most well rounded teams not only the SoCon, but the FCS. All three phases of the game will be on full display, as Wofford ranks first in the SoCon in both total offense and defense, while Furman sits at second in each mark. In what could be considered the team’s first unofficial playoff game, Wofford put together their most complete performance, a victory last weekend against conference foe Mercer. The offense clicked from the jump, putting up 41 points, while the defense held the Bears to just seven. Furman heads into Saturday after dropping a 60-piece on VMI and shutting their opponent out in the second half, in each of their last four contests. The momentum of these two teams will come to a head on Saturday and provide a conference showdown  to remember.

Keys to the Game

Quarterback Play: There is no question that Joe Newman is the nucleus of Wofford’s offensive game plan. The elusive senior can hurt defenses with his feet or his arm. If the Furman defense allows Newman to get going and do what he wants to do, they’ll be in for a tough matchup. In Furman’s case, things aren’t as clear cut. The Paladins have found themselves in what may be a quarterback dilemma, after benching Darren Grainger and replacing him with Hamp Sisson. Sisson lead a comeback victory against Chattanooga and started against Mercer the following week in what was maybe the teams most effective game offensively. Both guys being redshirt freshmen points to a pretty bright future for each team, but in a big game like this weekend, you don’t want to be questioning who should be taking the snaps under center. The expectation is that Sisson will be the guy moving forward, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see packages included Grainger’s dual threat ability. 

Protection and Pass Rush: Wofford enters the weekend ranked atop the FCS in total sacks allowed, with just one. While Furman usually presents a pass rush, it’ll be imperative that they get after Newman. On the other side of the football, Wofford features the top pass rush in the conference. With Sisson only having one start under his belt, the Paladins needs to protect him and provide him time to make good decisions. I would expect to see the Terriers bring pressure early and often in this ball game.

Third Down: These are the two best teams in the Southern Conference when it comes to keeping a drive alive and  getting off the field on third down. Wofford and Furman both rank inside the top 12 in the FCS on third down conversions. Those make-or-break situations will tell the story of this game, when it’s all said and done. I’d expect some wrinkles in the game plan on third down from both sides. Whichever team can be more successful on what many players know as “money down”, will likely have their way on offense. Obviously, Wofford having the home field advantage will provide the Terriers with a little extra energy in “get off the field” situations.

Players to Watch

Furman

Devin Wynn: Wynn, a versatile tailback, is coming off a dominant five touchdown performance, in which he earned the honor of Southern Conference Player of the Week. The Greensboro, Georgia native is ranked third in the conference in terms of rushing yards and total touchdowns. Ten games into his junior season, Wynn has 982 rushing yards, 18 yards short of becoming the 16th player in Furman history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Thomas Gordon: The senior wideout is the second leading receiver in the Southern Conference in terms of both total yards and yards per game. After ten receptions for 148 yards last week, Gordon moved to second in school history in career receiving yards. Gordan’s experience will bode well for the Paladins and provide Sisson a reliable target in time of need. Expect Gordon to be called upon early and often on third downs and in critical situations.

Wofford

Joe Newman: As previously mentioned, the do it all quarterback is the heartbeat of the Wofford offense. The signal caller started all thirteen games last year for the Terriers, after seeing action in eleven games in 2017. There was a great deal of hype around Newman coming into this year, and, after a rough start, he’s reminded fans and opposing coaches why. Now in his senior year, Newman ranks fourth in the SoCon in rushing and is the only quarterback in the top five. His elusiveness isn’t matched at the quarterback position in the conference and it’ll be interesting to see how Furman game plans around containing him. He’s serviceable in terms of moving the ball down field with his arm, and usually takes good care of the football.

Prediction

What will most likely be the best matchup in the Southern Conference this year, will come down to which team puts four complete quarters together. I’d expect an exciting matchup that could come down to the final possession -- perhaps even the final play. It’s not every week that the two top teams in a given conference matchup with this much on the line, but this weekend we’re in for a good one.  I expect Gibbs Stadium to be buzzing come Saturday afternoon which will provide that slight advantage Wofford could use.

Wofford 38, Furman 31