The Citadel, Wofford leave little mystery on offense
(STATS) - If you're looking for high-octane offense and passing games that can barely be slowed let alone stopped, it's a good weekend to be a football fan.
Friday night's Cal-Oregon shootout can be your amuse-bouche. Settle in for an entree on Saturday in the FBS (TCU-West Virginia, Oklahoma-Texas Tech) or FCS (Lehigh-Holy Cross, Montana-Northern Arizona), and if there's room for dessert, you could do a lot worse than Chargers-Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
Those air raids might make a game like Saturday's tilt between The Citadel and Wofford at Spartanburg's Gibbs Stadium tough to swallow. But the Bulldogs and Terriers will shove it down your throat anyway.
There are 125 teams in the FCS, and if you treat the combined passing attempts of The Citadel and Wofford as one team, they'd rank 120th. This is nothing new. They're the bottom two in the subdivision when it comes to putting the ball in the air for a third consecutive season.
It's ground and pound all the way for these triple-option attacks, and if that isn't working? Keep grinding.
"There are a lot of similarities there," Citadel coach Brent Thompson said. "They do a lot more out of the shotgun than we do on offense, but a lot of the basic premises are the same. Their defense is a little different than ours, but there are a lot of similarities there, too."
Thompson's team would seem to be on letdown alert after one of the biggest wins in program history. The Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0) played keep-away from then-No. 5 Chattanooga last Saturday, holding the ball for 39:26 of a 22-14 win that established them as the SoCon's team to beat.
But there's no reason to overlook the Terriers (4-2, 2-1), who spent last weekend resting after a 31-19 win at Western Carolina on Oct. 8. Wofford won 16 straight in the series prior to last season's 39-12 Citadel rout.
"We went down there (in 2015) and we played bad, and they punished us," Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. "They flat punished us.
"Every game I've watched, they haven't had a lull in their play. They're very consistent in their psychological makeup, and they're very consistent in the X's and the O's and the physical part of the game. This team is undefeated. Say no more."
It should come as little surprise that The Citadel and Wofford rank 1-2 nationally in time of possession, with the Bulldogs' 35:43 average giving them a six-second edge on the Terriers. But Thompson's team has been particularly unwilling to share in its last three games, holding it for 40:35 per contest.
"The ballgame's gonna be determined by what team can get the other team off the field," Ayers said. "If you don't win some third downs against those guys, they'll stay on the field all the way to the goal line."
As good as both teams are at running the ball - The Citadel averages 5.5 yards per carry while Wofford's at 5.3 - there's a bit of a defensive edge for the Terriers. They're allowing an FCS-low 2.1 yards per carry - 1.8 better than the Bulldogs' 3.9 - and Ayers' team is better defensively overall, yielding just 4.60 yards per play while The Citadel allows 5.47.
The Bulldogs enter as just a 1 1/2-point favorite, so perhaps Las Vegas is factoring in the potential of a letdown - or maybe there just isn't much separating these two mirror images.
There's little doubt, though, that Wofford needs it more in terms of making the playoffs. The Citadel has its signature win, gets a chance at another solid resume victory when Samford visits in two weeks and shouldn't have a problem getting in with a loss or two if it doesn't win the SoCon. The Terriers likely need to beat either the Bulldogs or Chattanooga to have a shot at getting an at-large spot.
But Wofford has its sights set higher than sneaking in. Win Saturday and at worst the Terriers will finish the weekend tied for the conference's top spot in the loss column. Should The Citadel earn its first victory at Wofford since 1998, the Bulldogs might threaten to run away with it.
Come Saturday, they might have found the team that can run with them.