published Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Southern Conference continuing unpredictable season

UTC head coach Russ Huesman, right, shouts from the sidelines in this file photo.
UTC head coach Russ Huesman, right, shouts from the sidelines in this file photo.
Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Welcome to the bizarro Southern Conference, where nobody seems to know what's happening or who's good from one week to the next.

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, the two schools leaving the SoCon for the Sun Belt, who have more scholarships than anyone else, have been anything but dominant. ASU's Mountaineers are a stunning 1-4 overall (1-1 SoCon), while the Eagles (3-2) are 1-2 in league play.

Samford (4-2, 2-0) and Wofford (3-2, 2-0) are atop the SoCon standings entering week seven and are the only teams without a league loss. Fellow preseason favorites the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (3-2, 1-1) and The Citadel (2-4, 2-2) have had their ups and downs. The Citadel got a critical win over App State in overtime last Saturday to stay in the SoCon mix.

"I think the conference is just nuts," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "You don't have a gimme game, and there's not an unbeatable team in the league. That's what's weird about it."

It was strange from the beginning because while Georgia Southern and App State are ineligible for the league title, games against them count in the standings. The Mountaineers, who have lost three games by three points, haven't started 1-4 since 1993.

"You look around and look at the scores, and I think it's this way across the entire landscape of college football, there's some parity," Furman coach Bruce Fowler said during the SoCon teleconference Tuesday, "and I think each Saturday you have to be prepared that anything can happen."

UTC hosts Fowler's Paladins this Saturday at Finley Stadium. Furman leads the all-time series 27-15, with a 15-game win streak at one point, and the Paladins are 8-0 all-time at Finley.

The Mocs last week handed Western Carolina its 25th straight SoCon loss, and the Catamounts' struggles seem to be the only predictable thing this season. Huesman reiterated Tuesday something he said last week, that WCU will win some SoCon games this season. And who knows if that will be considered an upset?

"I don't know what is or isn't [an upset]," Huesman said. "And that probably says it the best: You just don't know what an upset is. If Western would have beaten us, I don't know if that would have been an upset. It's strange."

Summerlin soaring

Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin was named the league's offensive player of the week Monday for the second time in a row. After throwing for 327 yards and four touchdowns against WCU on Sept. 28, the senior shredded Georgia Southern's defense last week.

In the Bulldogs' 44-34 win over the Eagles, Summerlin finished 23-for-42 for a career-high 495 yards and three touchdowns. He had touchdown throws of 74, 69 and 58 yards.

Summerlin leads the SoCon in passing by a wide margin, with 292.3 yards per game. Second in the league is WCU's Troy Mitchell with 206. Summerlin is also tops in touchdown throws with 14, three more than UTC's Jacob Huesman.

Herren returns

Mocs left guard Synjen Herren, who missed last week with a left shoulder injury, returned to practice Tuesday. Huesman said Herren, a redshirt sophomore from Northwest Whitfield High School, is probably the toughest player on the team, but also one of the players who gets injured the most.

"I just think we're going to have to brace every part of his body," Huesman joked, "from his fingers to his toes -- just brace it all and let him walk out there and be one big brace."

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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