Ray Tanner said he’d like to have South Carolina football’s 12 game in place by Nov. 5. If that’s the case, there’s only one hurricane-affected team available that could realistically fit that timeline.
It seems the Southern Mississippi Eagles are the team to beat.
The biggest barrier to scheduling a team to play for Dec. 1 is the possibility of that team playing in a conference title game. Southern Miss got upset by Charlotte this weekend, putting it at 2-2 in the Conference USA West Division standings. With UAB at 5-0 in the division, a Blazers win and Eagles loss to Marshall this upcoming Saturday would eliminate the Eagles, just before Tanner’s deadline.
There’s no posted line on the Eagles’ game, while UAB is a 21-point favorite.
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There’s also a chance Akron, coached by former Auburn coach Terry Bowden, could be eliminated this week, but there hasn’t been much indication of contact on that front.
At the moment, there are four mid-major teams that had games canceled by the hurricane and haven’t rescheduled.
▪ Marshall: USC’s opponent for the game canceled in September. The Herd are 3-1 in CUSA’s East Division, behind 4-0 FIU and 3-1 Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders have the tiebreaker over Marshall, but the Herd won’t face the Panthers until the season’s last week. That means Marshall would have to lose to at least Southern Miss and Charlotte to come into play. Tanner said his original hope was to reschedule that game.
▪ Appalachian State: The Mountaineers just got upset by Georgia Southern and South Carolina high school product Shari Werts, putting them a game back of GSU and Troy in the Sun Belt. App. State is better than its next two opponents, meaning it likely wouldn’t be eliminated until Nov. 17 at the earliest, and could well go into the last weekend (at Troy) with a shot at a conference title. On top of that, there are two more issues. The Mountaineers lost a home game, meaning they’d likely prefer to replace that. They’re also formidable, and if this game could mean the difference between bowling and staying home for South Carolina, the Gamecocks probably don’t want an opponent this strong.
▪ Central Florida: The Knights are here in name only. The chances they miss their conference title game are slim, as they sit at 4-0 in league and 7-0 overall. Unless Temple upsets them this Thursday, they’re likely in the race until Thanksgiving and are considerable favorite. This is another team South Carolina might not want to face if its gunning for a winnable game.
▪ Bonus team, Akron: The Zips are 2-2 in the MAC and 4-3 overall, with a win at Northwestern on their resume. Their game against Nebraska was canceled because of lightning and severe weather. They trail Buffalo in the MAC East by two games and don’t have the tiebreaker, so a loss to Northern Illinois on Friday and a Buffalo home win against Miami on Tuesday night would put Akron out of MAC title game contention. NIU is a 4 1/2-point favorite and the Bulls are favored by a touchdown.
That means Akron and Southern Miss, could be available by weekend’s end, and barring a big upset, the Eagles will certainly be available by Nov. 11. Southern Miss has seemed a more likely option, but if Akron is available at the start of the week, perhaps things could swing that way.
The Gamecocks are 4-3, 3-3 in the SEC and still have an FCS team on the docket in UT Chattanooga. They travel to Oxford on Saturday to take on an all-offense, no-defense Ole Miss team.
NOTE: Akron was added after publication