Game Time: Saturday, September 2, 2017, 6 p.m. ET
Location: Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Where To Watch: ESPN3/WatchESPN
Betting Odds: Wofford -13, O/U 45.5
Odds via sportsbooks monitored by GamblersPalace.com
The Furman Paladins have decided if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Furman has seen the success that its Southern Conference brethren have had running the triple option and brought in former Air Force offensive coordinator Clay Hendrix to bring that style to Greenville.
Furman is hoping that the change will bring in a new golden era. This is a proud program that had a lot of success at the FCS level from the 1980s to the early 2000s, but has only made the postseason once in the last decade.
Mike Ayers is one of the longest tenured coaches in the FCS and has things moving in the right direction at Wofford. The Terriers didn’t make their first postseason appearance until 2003, but have been back six times since then.
Last season, the Terriers were just a breath away from making just their second semifinals appearance ever. Wofford went to double overtime with eventual runner-up Youngstown State, but fell 30-23 in double overtime.
Reasons to Like Wofford
Wofford should be the favorite to win the Southern Conference this season. The Citadel lost too much talent and Chattanooga is implementing an entirely new offensive system, so the conference is Wofford’s to lose.
Almost all of the key pieces from last year’s team returns. Fullback Lorenzo Long is gone, but quarterback Brandon Goodson is back to lead the charge. Goodson isn’t a great passer, but knows how to run the option and keep the tempo up.
He has a solid offensive line that will pave the way for this running game to put up big numbers once again. There are only two seniors on the line, but Ayers knows how to recruit linemen and Furman will have a tough time stopping this running game.
This is one of the nation’s elite defenses. The Terriers gave up 17.1 PPG and less than 300 YPG last season and return eight starters to this year’s team. The front seven is very tough to run on with Miles Brown and Tyler Vaughn leading the charge. These two combined to rack up 30 tackles for loss between them in 2016.
Reasons Not to Like Wofford
The Terriers just couldn’t put teams away last year. Wofford blew out just one conference opponent in 2016 and allowed mediocre teams like Mercer, Furman, and Western Carolina to hang around for an inordinate amount of time.
David Marvin’s decision to transfer to Georgia this offseason was a huge blow to this team. He was one of the best punters in the nation in 2016 (46.2 yards per punt) and had a strong leg for field goals and kick offs. He knocked through a 50-yard field goal in each of his three seasons as Wofford’s kicker and was very reliable from distance. The team used to be guaranteed at least three points if they crossed the opponent’s 30, but that’s no longer the case.
Reasons to Like Furman
Furman may have finished 3-8 last season, but the Paladins were able to hang around against each one of their opponents. They didn’t lose any game by more than 20 points last season and showed heart with how they finished the year. Rather than pack it in following an 0-6 start, the Paladins rallied to win three of their last five and nearly knocked off Mercer in their finale.
This team was able to give Wofford all it could handle last year too. The Terriers had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to knock off the Paladins as Reese Hannon had a great day through the air.
Reasons Not to Like Furman
Hiring Hendrix was the right move for the program, he is an alumnus and knows what Furman football is all about. However, it’s going to take some time for him to get the players in place that he needs to effectively run the option. Furman preferred to spread it out and move it through the air last season under their former head coach and the team’s leading rusher had just 398 yards on the ground.
The Paladins don’t have a wealth of experience either. That’s not a terrible thing on offense since Hendrix is installing a totally new scheme, but that’s a big problem on defense. Furman didn’t have a great defense last season and only return three starters in 2017. There’s very little depth behind the starters and a team like Wofford can gash this team late.
Furman will be improved by the end of the season, but this is going to be a statement game for Wofford. The Terriers have a real chance to run their FCS slate and are one of the six or seven best teams at this level. Wofford is going to win and win big.
Final Score: Wofford 45, Furman 17