South Carolina State lost 11 starters off last year’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship team, but still remain the preseason choice to win a fourth consecutive league title.
On one hand, Bulldogs coach Buddy Pough can’t figure out why. He says his team has too many question marks to be considered a title contender before even taking the field.
But on the other hand, he leaves no doubt his team’s goal this year isn’t just winning the league title, but also winning a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game for the first time in his 10 years at the school.
“We have a lot of work to do on the offense,” Pough said.
“But if the offense can get it together early, we might just be OK.”
The Bulldogs went 9-3 last year, losing to Football Bowl Subdivision team Georgia Tech, national runner-up Georgia Southern in the playoffs and Bethune-Cookman in South Carolina State’s first regular-season FCS loss in three years.
The Bulldogs play two FBS teams in their first three games – Central Michigan and Indiana. Sandwiched in between is a trip to Bethune-Cookman, which could go a long way toward determining the MEAC champion in just the second week of the season.
The Wildcats were a close choice to finish second in the league and picked up more first-place votes than South Carolina State in the preseason poll. Bethune-Cookman returns only 12 starters.
“The fact we’ve got such a tough schedule – we’ve got to get a good start,” Pough said.
Pough’s biggest goal on offensive is to replace the entire middle of the unit. Center Sam Timothy, three-year starting quarterback Malcolm Long and last year’s leading rusher Chris Massey are all gone.
The team got an unexpected blow when sophomore Lennel Elmore, last year’s leading receiver, was declared academically ineligible as fall camp opened.