COLUMBIA, South Carolina — South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough opens up what he thinks is the most important part of the Bulldogs schedule as they head to Hampton for their first Mid-Eastern Conference game.
Pough also is glad to be back to familiar opponents after a tough non-conference schedule. "Sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach with these schedules. We got beat up pretty good," Pough said of his teams losses to Clemson and Coastal Carolina.
In other games Saturday involving South Carolina's Football Championship Subdivision teams Furman hosts Western Carolina; The Citadel hosts Gardner-Webb; Coastal Carolina hosts Elon; Charleston Southern is at Charlotte and Wofford hosts Virginia-Wise.
In Hampton, Virginia, South Carolina State (2-2) will look to continue its mastery over Hampton (1-3). The Bulldogs have won six straight over the Pirates.
Pough's biggest goal every year is to win the MEAC and the FCS playoff bid that comes with it. The Bulldogs have won or shared the conference title in four of the last six seasons, and Hampton coach Connell Maynor doesn't think this year will be any different.
"From what I see on film, they still have a very good football team and they are going to be challenging for the MEAC," Maynor said.
Pough said Hampton's 1-3 record is deceiving because the Pirates lost to Football Bowl Subdivision Old Dominion and powerful FCS teams in Richmond and William & Mary.
"They are still a good football team. We hope not to be fooled by their record because nothing could be farther to the truth," Pough said. "Anything you do to them, they'll adjust and take it away from you."
In Greenville, Furman (2-2, 1-0 Southern Conference) hopes to get its offense playing as well as its defense is playing as it hosts Western Carolina (2-1, 0-0).
The Paladins are only allowing 247 yards a game to rank sixth in FCS in total defense. But after losing starting quarterback Reese Hanson to a season-ending ankle injury in the opener, the offense is sputtering. Furman is scoring just 13 points a game to rank 105th out of 121 FCS teams.
"We're moving the ball. We go for a while. We just have trouble putting a drive together and we've had trouble in the red zone," Furman coach Bruce Fowler said. "It's not just one thing. It's a series of things."
The Catamounts have lost eight straight and 15 of their last 16 games against the Paladins. Second-year coach Mark Speir is trying to turn a program around that won its first SoCon game in almost three seasons last year and has just one conference win in its last 30 games.
"All games are big when you're trying to change culture and your trying to do positive things with your program," Speir said.
In Charleston, The Citadel (0-3) will try to finally pick up a win over a Big South Conference team as it hosts Gardner-Webb (2-2).
Bulldogs coach Mike Houston said his team's winless record masks the improvement they have made over each game
"We feel good going into this weekend with where we are," Houston said.
Houston said a variety of mistakes have hurt his teams. There were costly penalties in the opening loss to Coastal Carolina and a punt return for a touchdown allowed in last week's loss to Charleston Southern.
The Citadel has dominated Big South teams traditionally, coming into the season with a 14-2 record against the conference. The Bulldogs are 0-2 this season against the league.
At Conway, Coastal Carolina (4-0) hopes to keep getting better as it hosts Elon (1-2).
Chanticleers coach Joe Moglia said last week's 48-3 over Florida A&M was his team's best all-around game of the season.
But like a typical coach, Moglia can't be entirely satisfied with his team. They committed seven penalties for 63 yards.
The Chanticleers face an Elon team adjusting to a new coach. Moglia, in his third year, said that while learning a new coach's scheme can be difficult, the excitement over a new boss can help a team play better.
"Any time you bring in a new staff, everybody is ready to go, everybody gets optimistic," Moglia said.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, Charleston Southern (4-0) is trying to get its running game going again at Charlotte (3-1).
The Buccaneers ran for almost 233 yards a game last year, but has been held below 100 yards rushing in their last two games.
"We've played well in spurts as a team, but we've not probably in all three phases played a game consistently for four quarters," Charleston Southern coach Jamey Chadwell said. "We've been fortunate enough to win some games not doing that."
Chadwell has also spent his week trying to get his team back down after a 20-18 win over in-town rival Citadel in front of the largest crowd in school history of 7,954 people.
"We have to do a good coaching job this week of getting our guys down," Chadwell said.
In Spartanburg, Wofford (1-2) is trying to get back on track before Southern Conference play starts by hosting Division II Virginia-Wise (0-3).
The Terriers have struggled with injuries this year. A linebacker, defensive lineman and offensive lineman are out for the season. Kicker David Marvin hasn't recovered from a bone bruise. And 11 different players left last week's 43-36 loss to Garner-Webb, Wofford coach Mike Ayers said,
"We've got to make sure we coach these guys better. It will be an opportunity for guys who are young to step up and see what they can do," Ayers said.
Even with the slow start, Ayers said this season is not lost because the Terriers have SoCon play to come.
"We've got to be more consistent," Ayers said. "If we can accomplish that, we may have a chance to win some games. If we don't, then we probably won't."