During those years, both games often occurred on the same Saturday in November. The Greenville News had a section on the sports page entitled "Braggin' Rights", where they would drown the front page in orange and garnet. From 1988-1992, they had a section called "Braggin' Rights Too", where they offered more coverage than ever to Furman and The Citadel.
In those five meetings, the Southern Conference title was on the line three times, with playoff births at stake four times. Both teams were ranked number one in the nation during these years. If the conference hopes to continue as a football power, they desperately need both teams to step back up to that level.
The ongoing carnage of the departures to FBS, the SoCon is counting on East Tennessee State, Mercer, and VMI to fill the void. That's two schools that didn't have football until 2013, one school that lost its football program, and three schools that have exactly zero conference titles and one playoff appearance in the last 30 years.
The Citadel has invested in significant facilities upgrades, and Coach Kevin Higgins has returned them to the triple option offense that led to their success in the early 90s. After last year's 7-4 campaign that included wins over scholarship-heavy Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, the Bulldogs have a chance to make a lot more noise in 2013.
It is a mystery to me why the Bulldogs were picked 4th in the preseason coach's poll and 5th in the media poll, unless it involves the heightened expectations at Samford and Chattanooga. I would not be at all stunned if the Bulldogs ended up with the second slot at the end of the season. Hopefully, that record will be enough to get them into the FCS playoffs.
Chalking up another round of wins at ASU, Georgia Southern or both would certainly help.
Furman is engaged in its own significant facilities upgrade. After a promising start to Bruce Fowler's tenure in 2011, Furman slid to 3-8 last season. Part of this can be attributed to the NCAA's peculiar--but not surprising--decision to deny Chris Forcier an extra year of eligibility. It can also be attributed to starting a freshman quarterback, and having a defense that regularly collapsed in the second half.
|Will completing this project help Furman get back to the top?|
Furman led in practically every game last season but couldn't close the deal. It remains to be seen if true sophomore Reese Hannon can learn to finish as well as he started. Much will also depend on how quickly the 13 defensive signees from last year's recruiting class can contribute.
While they found a gem in Hannon, the Paladins lost over 3000 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns (including kick returns) with the departure of WR Will King, TE Colin Anderson, and all-world/all-everything Jerodis Williams. (Side note: Both Anderson and Williams are currently fighting for roster spots with the Minnesota Vikings).
There is cautious optimism that the Paladins can start climbing back up the ladder this year, although they are not expected to challenge for a conference title or playoff berth. But one thing is certain: Coach Bruce Fowler knows Furman, knows the SoCon, and knows how to win. In the chaotic atmosphere of the changing of the SoCon guard, anything can happen. At the very least, Paladin fans are hoping that a renewed commitment to the football program will pay off sooner rather than later.
The Southern Conference is hoping for the same thing, kind of a "Back to the Future" deal with both of these schools. With the "big boys" (in their minds at least) leaving, someone needs to step up to keep the conference in the two and three-bid range in football. Chattanooga and Samford have yet to prove that they can be consistent. If Furman and The Citadel cannot step it up, then Wofford may be the only hope.
And Mike Ayers can't coach forever. Can he?