Chattanooga Favored to Win Wide-Open Southern Conference
FCS

Chattanooga Favored to Win Wide-Open Southern Conference

The standings being turned upside down may be the new norm in the Southern Conference.

There’s no telling what to expect when most of the nine teams hold a realistic shot at the title.

On Monday, Chattanooga was installed as the favorite in both SoCon preseason polls – conducted separately by the head coaches and the media. It’s been six years since the Mocs finished atop the conference, completing a three-year run from 2013-15 with at least a share of the title.

“I’d certainly rather talk about being first in November when is all said and done. This group can make that a reality,” Mocs third-year coach Rusty Wright said.

The potential parity in this year’s title race was personified in the preseason polls by Wofford. Even though the Terriers captured outright SoCon titles in 2017 and ’19 and earned a share in ’18, they were picked eighth by the coaches and seventh by the media.

As the SoCon continues to celebrate its 100th anniversary of football, the teams have combined to return nearly 85% of their starters and 87% of their letterwinners. VMI is coming off its first championship since 1977 in the pandemic-delayed 2020 season, while ETSU and Mercer made title bids but fell short of it. None of those three schools was picked higher than sixth in the spring polls.

Chattanooga is tied with ETSU for the most SoCon preseason selections with 10, followed by Samford with nine. The Mocs, who finished 3-2 last season, dropped a 13-10 heartbreaker at Western Kentucky in the fall, then went 3-1 in the SoCon and trailed VMI by one game in the standings when the school opted out of the remaining portion of the conference schedule.

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE

Preseason Polls (with 2020-21 season records)

Coaches Poll

1. Chattanooga (3-2, 3-1), 59 points (4 first-place votes)

2. Samford (4-3, 4-3), 52 (2)

3. VMI (6-2, 6-1), 50 (2)

4. ETSU (4-2, 4-2), 49 (1)

5. Furman (3-4, 3-4), 34

6. Mercer (5-6, 5-3), 29

7. The Citadel (2-10, 2-6), 22

8. Wofford (1-4, 1-4), 21

9. Western Carolina (1-8, 1-5), 8

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year – Samford QB Liam Welch

Preseason Defensive Player of the Year – VMI LB Stone Snyder

Media Poll

1. Chattanooga (3-2, 3-1), 248 points (18 first-place votes)

2. VMI (6-2, 6-1), 217 (6)

3.(tie) ETSU (4-2, 4-2), 181 (3)

3.(tie) Samford (4-3, 4-3), 181 (2)

3.(tie) Furman (3-4, 3-4), 181 (1)

6. Mercer (5-6, 5-3), 123

7. Wofford (1-4, 1-4), 108

8. The Citadel (2-10, 2-6), 79

9. Western Carolina (1-8, 1-5), 32