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FCS Game of the Week Preview: No. 21 East Tennessee State at No. 12 Wofford

First place in the SoCon is on the line

NCAA Football: Wofford at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Saturday, October 20, 2018, 1:30 p.m. ET

Location: Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg, South Carolina

How To Watch: ESPN Plus

Betting Odds: Wofford -9, Over/under 44


Randy Sanders has turned around the languishing East Tennessee State Buccaneers in his first season on the job. The Buccaneers have only made the postseason once in their history, yet they have a good chance of making it to the playoffs this year. They are currently 6-1 and poised to have their best season in quite some time.

This week, we will see just how good they are when they travel to Spartanburg to take on the Wofford Terriers. Wofford has been the best team in the Southern Conference this decade. The Terriers are coming off a 34-14 loss to Furman, and a loss would knock them out of the race for the conference title.

Reasons to Like East Tennessee State

The Buccaneers have made a habit of winning close games. They are 4-0 in conference play yet none of those wins were by more than three points. Their defense has been the key in those games, as they have kept two good offenses down in order to squeeze out victories.

East Tennessee State has been very good at stopping the run this year. They have allowed teams to average just 2.5 yards per carry, and that is great news coming into this game with Wofford. Wofford runs the triple option, and the Terriers like to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible.

There is a hidden advantage inside of this too. East Tennessee State faced another triple option team when they faced The Citadel last week, so the Bucs defense knows what they need to do to bottle up the Terriers.

Reasons Not to Like East Tennessee State

To paraphrase former Sunday Night Football announcer Paul Maguire, “Throwing the ball is not East Tennessee’s strength.” The Buccaneers have not been able to move it through the air at all, with Temple transfer Logan Marchi and Austin Herink combining to average less than seven yards per throw. They have also thrown more interceptions than touchdowns on the year.

Reasons to Like Wofford

Wofford has one of the best defenses in the country. The Terriers are currently ranked No. 10 in the nation in total defense, and they are allowing just 4.4 yards per play. Defensive end Thad Mangum has had a very good year, and he will be someone ETSU must contain.

Joe Newman is better than your average option quarterback. Although Newman has tossed five interceptions this season, he has also come up with some big throws and moves the chains with his arm to keep the defense honest. He is completing almost two-thirds of his passes, and his ability to throw has really bailed them out at times.

Reasons Not to Like Wofford

Although Newman is a good passer, the Terriers will have a lot of trouble on offense if they don’t find success with the triple option. That is the key to this game.

Prediction

This one is going to be close. I have no idea why the line shot up from 3.5 to 9 as there is no new news on the injury front, but I will gladly take the extra points. East Tennessee State is worth a play on the moneyline too.

Final Score: East Tennessee State 24, Wofford 21