FCS Game of the Week: Furman at Wofford
Week 12 Matchup: No. 9 Furman (7-3, 6-1 Southern) at No. 21 Wofford (6-3, 5-1)
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. ET at Gibbs Stadium (13,000) in Spartanburg, South Carolina
Series: Furman leads 54-32-7 (last meeting: Furman won 34-14 in Greenville, S.C., on Oct. 13, 2018)
The Skinny: The rivalry dates to the first intercollegiate game in South Carolina in 1889. Furman will clinch the Southern Conference title and an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs with a win. Wofford will move into first place with a victory, but it still has another conference game remaining at The Citadel on Nov. 23. The Citadel and Chattanooga, who are both 4-2 in conference and meet on Saturday, remain alive for a share of the conference title.
The SoCon’s top teams have experienced offensive lines, so it’s not surprising Wofford (340.6) and Furman (282.5) rank No. 2 and 5, respectively, in the FCS in rushing yards per game. Wofford is led by QB Joe Newman (814 yards, 11 TDs), whose 7.5 yards per carry ranks highest among FCS signal callers, but the Terriers’ triple option also boasts five other players between 249 and 498 (Blake Morgan) rushing yards. Furman’s Devin Wynn (982 yards, 13 TDs), Devin Abrams (535) and Corey Watkins (427) are all above six yards per carry. Two games ago, Hamp Sisson replaced fellow redshirt freshman Darren Grainger as the Paladins’ QB and he’s since led them to points on 12 of 15 drives. Thomas Gordon (41 receptions) is dangerous in the passing game.
Defensively, Furman is No. 1 in the SoCon in points allowed per game (19.4) and Wofford leads in yards allowed per game (341.4). Furman has 18 takeaways and has limited opponents to 147 rushing yards per game during a three-game winning streak. Spur Jordan Willis and LBs Braden Gilby and Elijah McKoy rank 1-2-3 on the team in tackles with 68, 61 and 58, respectively. Wofford has done well to overcome injuries on the defensive line. Its balanced group allowed only 144 yards to Mercer last Saturday – the fewest in the Terriers’ last 45 games. DE Michael Mason (28 tackles, six sacks), OLB Jireh Wilson (38 tackles, 4½ sacks) and CB George Gbesee (29 tackles, 10 passes defended) have been among the standouts.
Two outstanding kickers should impact the game. Furman’s Grayson Atkins is 29-for-36 (80.6 percent) on field goals in his career, including 5-for-6 from 50 yards and beyond. Wofford’s Luke Carter is 31 of 38 (81.6) on field goals and has never missed a PAT in 131 attempts in his career. He’s also helped Furman rank No. 2 in the FCS in net punting average (42.71).
Prediction: Both teams are adept at putting together long scoring drives and seek to play with the lead given their running styles. Newman’s big-game experience is made even bigger with Sisson just getting acclimated with the Paladins. Furman, 20-17.