Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Charleston Southern Football Preview

Before the game Saturday, please remember to check out the open-door scrimmage the CU basketball programs are hosting at the CEC.  With the men hitting the court from 9-10:30, and the women from 10:30-11:30, it's an excellent opportunity to check out a pair of top-25 programs before the bright lights of the season are turned on.

I look at this as an attempt to replace Buffs Madness by capitalizing on the mass of people already on campus for football.  CU's version of a midnight madness event was well intentioned, but poorly advertised last fall, leaving whole swaths of the Events Center empty for the performance.  Despite a clarion call from Coach Boyle, a similar problem seems to be plaguing the scrimmage this go-around, leaving me to wonder why they don't plan these things father in advance.

Regardless, I'll be there bright and early Saturday morning.  Admission is free, though, since it's a football gameday, parking on campus is anything but.  For those who can't attend, I'll be live-tweeting the event, so be sure to follow me @Rumblinbuffalo.


The first attempt to play the 3rd and final non-conference game of the year was washed away with much of Boulder in last month's devastating flood. 

Replacing a canceled football game, which are often scheduled decades in advance, is not an easy thing to do, and the CU athletic department was put into scramble mode to replace it on the schedule.  To their credit, they managed the feat, first plowing through all available FBS options before finally settling on a tiny FCS school.  Bye-bye Fresno State, hello Charleston Southern.

That the Buffs were able to find anyone willing to shoehorn the game into their schedule on short notice in close to miracle.  That they got it done for the relatively paltry sum of $400,000 is a strong opening salvo fired from the Rick George regime.  Strong work from the fellow Son of Illinois.

Now, however, we come to the awkward point of actually playing that tiny FCS school smack-dab in the middle of a grueling Pac-12 campaign.  I'm sure the Buffs are eagerly anticipating a respite from 40-point in-conference drubbings, but I can't help but feel... underwhelmed by the challenge this week.  It's just hard to focus on #2 Oregon one week, only to turn around and see, of all things, the Charleston Southern Buccaneers rolling into town.  Hopefully, the team is more focused than I on the task at hand.

Kickoff from beautiful Folsom Field is set for high-noon on Saturday.  Television coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

When last we met - 

Well, CU and this other CSU have never met before.  In fact, as far as I can tell, the two schools have yet to meet in any head-to-head team sport.  I checked the record books for men's and women's basketball, soccer, tennis, and volleyball with no results.  A couple of hits for the College of Charleston (men's basketball, tennis), but nothing for ChaSo.  Nope, this is a matchup of convenience, rather than familiarity.  That, and a quick payday.

The Buffs come in having won their last matchup with an FCS school (thank God), thanks to their come-from-behind 38-24 win over Central Arkansas earlier this season.  Since CU's last on-field victory was only a month ago, and theoretically still fresh in everyone's mind, I won't rehash it.

For Charleston Southern, taking the FBS plunge for a cash-infusion is nothing new.  This will be their 13th 'guarantee game' since the start of the 2002 season.  I hope the money has proven worth it, as they've lost the previous 12 by a combined score of 671-98, including last season's 44-0 drubbing at the hands of the University of Illinois (I-L-L!).  Even more, the Bucs haven't scored on a FBS squad in 125 minutes of play, with their last breakthrough coming against Florida State in 2011 at the tail end of their 62-10 loss in Tallahassee.  That's... not good.
The Bucs have never matched up well with the FBS.
Even in their own sub-division, this is hardly a power program.  They've never made the FCS playoffs, and only have one conference title (a shared one, at that) to their name.  Historically, this should be a blowout, but games are not played in the history books, are they?

The Buccaneers in 2013 - 

Charleston Southern has exploded this season.  Normally mired in a mediocrity, they've blazed a surprisingly perfect 7-0 trail to start the season, landing them in the FCS top-25, and firing up students and alumni alike.  Enrollment is up, and games at the 4,000 seat stadium are beginning to sell out.  What was once a program defined by a hilarious Major-League-style anonymity ('Hello, do you know us?  We're a Division One football team!') is now turning heads.

They started their improbable 2013 run with a 32-29 win at local rival Citadel.  After falling behind 16-0 early in the second quarter, the Bucs responded by pouring on 21 unanswered points.  The game would settle into a see-saw affair in the second half, with each team finding the endzone twice.  Despite converting less than 30% on third down and only producing 280 yards of offense, a final field goal with six minutes to play was all ChaSo would need as the defense held for the statement victory.
Charleston Southern stunned the Citadel.
Since then, other than a 27-24 scare at nationally recognized Appalachian St, it has been a series of solid, grind-it-out victories.

Now, I won't even pretend to have seen them play this season (they do have two games scheduled for ESPN3 later this season), but a few things jump out when looking at the stat sheet.

Compared to the 155 combined points that CU has allowed over the last three weeks, the Buccaneers 26.4 points per game is outright pedestrian.  They're 60th (out of 122) in the FCS with 381 yards per game, and love to hold onto the ball (11th in TOP) with their option-based pistol attack.  On defense, they're above average (34th overall, 344 yards per game), giving up over 5.6 yards per play, but are 1st in the FCS on 3rd downs (25%) and 8th in scoring defense (only giving up about 17.3 pts per game).
Get ready for more option and mesh points.
It all boils down to a team that lives on ball control and timely defense.  CU will have to take advantage of the possessions they get, and keep the chains moving to claim victory.

Star players - 

The big star on offense is 5-10 junior running back Christian Reyes.  The Oregon native leads the team in rushing yards (729) and scoring (six touchdowns), and sits only 50 yards away from breaking the Buccaneer single-season rushing record.  With starting option QB Malcolm Dixon sidelined with a knee injury, he is the primary threat in the rushing attack.
The Buccaneers will lean heavily on Reyes.
In Dixon's place is freshman QB Daniel Croghan III.  From Bishop England High School in Charleston, the 6-4 local product has seemed more than comfortable with the weight placed on his shoulders, as he comes in fresh off of winning the Big South's freshman of the week award.  To date, he has completed 62% of his passes, and has yet to throw an interception.  QBs in this system need to run, however, and Croghan has yet to put up the ground numbers that Dixon had (only 3.8 yards per carry).

The defense is reeling in the wake of an ACL injury to star defensive end Will Hunt.  Slack will have to made up by senior linebacker Calvin Bryant, who has 47 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season.

Coaching - 

Charleston Southern is lead by first year head coach Jamey Chadwell.  Replacing the retired Jay Mills, he's made an immediate difference to a program that hadn't been known for much up to this point.
Young Jamey Chadwell has the Buccaneers trending up.
A former assistant with the Buccaneers, he's back in Charleston after coaching in the D-2 ranks.  If ChaSo can keep this run of play up through the rest of the season, and finally break into the FCS tournament, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on an FBS staff in the near future.

Prediction -  

(My record on the season: 5-0.  Against the spread: 3-2.  Optimistic/pessimistic: CU +9.2 pts/gm)

Lines as of Wednesday @ 6pm - NO LINES

Well, this should go a lot better than how the Fresno game would probably have turned out.  My only question is how the team will respond in the wake of the last three weeks of embarrassing losses.  Buoyed by a home crowd, and focused by the excitement of a new QB under center, I have to imagine that they'll find a way to beat the Buccaneers.

Given CU's notorious history with teams from the FCS, I'm not going to predict a blowout, but BuffNation shouldn't have to sweat this one too much.

CU 31 - CSU 17


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