Friday, September 25, 2009

Gridiron Gridlocks (& Quick Hits)

It's time to do some football preview talk and get into other sports for Big South play, where the stakes are really high...

The Big South Conference football teams take on a remarkable level of opposition this week--not FBS schools this time, but the cream of the FCS crop, so buckle your chinstraps because these games are going to be hard-hitting contests, but also great fun...let's have a look...

VMI Keydets at #1 Richmond Spiders
...yes, VMI is taking on the top FCS team in the country, which completes the Big South Championship Daily Double--only the Big South Conference has teams playing the defending champions in FCS and FBS (this game & CSU's opener at Florida) this year. The Keydets last played a #1 in 2001, when they faced Georgia Southern after the Eagles had won title #6 for GSU. Contrast that rarity with the fact that games against the Spiders are relatively common for VMI: this game marks meeting #86--and the series is tied 40-40-5. Seriously. Can't get closer than that, now can you? The cynics will point out that UR has taken the last seven in the series, but we refuse to get cynical...

And if all THAT isn't enough to get your attention, how about this gem: sensational offense and special teams weapon Tim Maypray sits just 43 yards short of the Big South record for all-purpose yards (he could salt that one away on the opening kickoff, but we'll give him the first quarter to set the mark).

At about the time that game's wrapping up, the Big South can turn its eyes to the North:

Stony Brook Seawolves at #15 UMass Minutemen...unlike the historic series for the last two squads, these teams have only faced off once before (a UMass win in 2006). Obviously SBU will have work to do, but among the bright spots for the Seawolves: even though they are 1-2, all three games have been decided by ten or less, and SBU has the most efficient Red Zone offense in the Conference--scoring every time they've gotten inside the 20. Star running back Conte Cuttino needs only 54 yards on the ground to be the only SBU player to reach 3000 in his career.

And while that one's going on, we have the headliner at a jam-packed Williams Stadium in Lynchburg:

JMU Dukes at #24 Liberty Flames
...two ranked teams renew their rivalry in the Commonwealth Saturday evening--only the fourth time a ranked Big South team has faced a ranked opponent from outside the Conference. James Madison leads the all-time series 9-5, but LU counters that with a four-game home winning streak (by a score of 133-23). The Flames have a lot at stake--think of it in basketball terms: this game represents a shot at a "quality win" outside the Conference when it comes down to contending for at-large playoff berths (LU has been turned away after winning the Big South the last two years and Coach Rocco want to avoid a similar fate this season). If it comes down to a gamble, the Flames have the hot hand: 4-4 on 4th down this year (one of only 15 FCS schools perfect on 4th this year). Watch out for Mike Brown, recognized by the Conference and national publications for his stellar work at Lafayette--currently second in the Conference in all-purpose yards per game!

Of the three, only one can be seen on the Big South Network: JMU-LU, 7pm Saturday (available for $5.95--order here).

Take the rankings out of consideration for a moment and we find three more football games on the slate for tomorrow:

North Greenville Crusaders at CSU Buccaneers...somebody's gotta win, and that's good news for two teams with a combined 0-7 record. Charleston Southern is 8-1 vs. NGU, including wins in the last five meetings. Believe it or not, this game marks the home opener for CSU after three weeks as road warriors against stiff competition.

NC A&T Aggies at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers...CCU won this match-up 20-7 last year and the Chants have done well against teams from the MEAC. The fans in Conway have cooked up a "black out" to welcome NCAT to Brooks Stadium.

Presbyterian College Blue Hose at The Citadel Bulldogs...these Palmetto State opponents have squared off 60 times before, but not in a continuous series, as the last meeting was back in 1991--and PC hasn't taken a game off of the Bulldogs since 1979. That's not the only streak the Blue Hose seek to turn around--they have also lost six in a row overall and nine straight on the road.

Of that trio of games, the NGU-CSU (1:30pm) and NCAT-CCU (7pm) games can be found on the Big South Network.

So what about Gardner-Webb? Idle this week, but thanks for asking.

Meanwhile, as we dash and smash from clash to clash in football, the big story elsewhere is Big South Conference play--this weekend marks the real plunge into League games for both volleyball and men's soccer. Rivalries renewed and games with double meaning, nothing like it--if you have a chance to catch your team in action, get out there and do it, people! As for women's soccer, the ladies are still a week away from getting into Conference play in earnest, so there's not as much activity on the pitch for them right now.

A quick hoops holler for you--ESPN announced the teams for its annual BracketBusters event, and the Big South has four in the field this time: Radford, Winthrop, Gardner-Webb, and PC. Match-ups, schedules, and TV selections to be announced at a later date.

On our Facebook Fan Page this week, I asked what sport you'd like to see added to the Big South...the responses came back even for lacrosse and rugby (!), with votes also registered for swimming, wrestling, rowing, and roller derby (?!?). Fun--we'll have to ask more thought-provoking questions like that...

That's all for now, gotta run-------ENJOY THE GAMES!
And that's SHOUT, out.

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