Fans of the National Football League like to use the phrase “any given Sunday” when referring to the league’s competitive balance. The concept is a valid one week-in and week-out, as even the worst team in the league could defeat the best.
“Any given Saturday” does not always apply in college football. Typically there is much more of a competitive gap at the college level. The 2013 Southern Conference is an exception to that rule. In fact, the league has a cycle this year, which exemplifies this parity:
Western Carolina University defeated Elon University, 27-24 on Oct. 26
Elon defeated Furman University, 28-25 on Oct. 5
Furman defeated Appalachian State University, 27-10 on Oct. 19
Appalachian State defeated Georgia Southern University, 38-14 on Oct. 26
Georgia Southern defeated The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 23-21 on Sep. 28
Chattanooga defeated The Citadel, 28-24 on Oct. 26
The Citadel defeated Samford University, 28-26 on Nov. 2
Samford defeated Wofford College, 34-27 on Oct. 26
Wofford defeated Western Carolina, 21-17 on Oct. 19
Even for Elon, which comes off of its bye week at 2-7, 1-4 in SoCon play, the last three games are all winnable against The Citadel, Georgia Southern and Samford.
Yes, the Phoenix became the first Div. I opponent to lose to Western Carolina in 33 games when Elon was defeated two Saturdays ago on Oct. 26. Yes, the Phoenix has not scored a touchdown in the second half since Sept. 21. However, Elon is close.
The recent losses have not been blowouts, and if just a few small things went differently, the Phoenix could easily be in contention for a SoCon title. Elon is mathematically eliminated from title contention this year due to having a maximum of four possible SoCon wins and Chattanooga already having five.
Elon has a chance to close its final season in the Southern Conference on a high note. The Citadel, a SoCon member since 1936, makes its final scheduled visit to Rhodes Stadium on Sat., Nov. 9, for a 1:30 p.m. homecoming game. The Citadel, another one of the SoCon’s triple-option offenses, is fresh off of that big win against Samford last week. If anything is true in this year’s SoCon, teams that are up one week can easily fall down the next.
At 3-6, 3-4 in conference, The Citadel has yet to put together back-to-back wins this season. Due to a scheduling quirk, Elon is the Bulldogs’ final conference game on the season. The Citadel will certainly invade Rhodes Stadium hungry, but Elon has had two weeks to prepare for the Bulldogs and correct the mistakes that plagued them in recent contests. This Saturday could be Elon’s best chance to pick up a win since their last win against Furman.
Meanwhile, Chattanooga, Samford, Wofford and Furman all have a shot at the Southern Conference championship and automatic NCAA FCS playoff berth. Surprisingly, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, both ineligible for the conference title, are a nonfactor at 2-4 in the league each. The SoCon title race will go down to the wire, and Elon has a chance to spoil hopes with a strong finish.