South Carolina State may have had the craziest schedule of any FCS team in the nation last season. SCSU didn’t play a home game until October 22 and didn’t play its second home contest until November 12. Additionally, the Bulldogs had consecutive bye weeks between their first and second Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games.
If that’s not bad enough, the school decided to sacrifice any chance of winning a game in the non-conference schedule by being a punching bag for three different FBS schools. The Bulldogs’ first three opponents were UCF, Louisiana Tech and Clemson, and they were routed in all three games. SCSU didn’t score a point against either UCF or Clemson and lost by 29 points against Louisiana Tech.
This season, SCSU decided to at least give itself a chance in its non-conference schedule. The Bulldogs will face two quality FCS teams and a Division II foe before kicking off their MEAC slate.
2016 South Carolina State Football Season In Review
The Bulldogs provided us with the feel-good story of the year last season. Joe Thomas Sr. became the oldest person ever to play in a Division I football game at 55 years old. He took a handoff for three yards against Savannah State and made history in the process.
SCSU had one of the most ineffective passing attacks in the country in 2016. Four different Bulldogs played quarterback, and none of them finished the season completing over 50 percent of their passes. They were one of just four teams in FCS to average less than five yards per passing attempt.
The running game was a little better, but not by much. Bishop Ford led the Bulldogs on the ground, rushing for 567 yards and five touchdowns. Altogether, the offense averaged just 291.3 yards per game. Without a stalwart defense, this team would have finished much worse than 5-6.
Few defenses were as good as the Bulldogs were last season. SCSU allowed opponents to run for just 3.6 yards per carry, and that includes its three games against FBS opponents.
Darius Leonard led the unit and was selected as the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year. He had 124 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss and almost single-handedly won two of the Bulldogs’ five games. He picked off two passes in a 14-9 win against Howard, returning one for a touchdown, and he registered 5.5 tackles for loss and a sack in the season finale against Bethune-Cookman.
2017 South Carolina State Football Season Preview
Quarterback is again the main concern for the Bulldogs entering the 2017 campaign. Converted wide receiver Mykal Moody ended up leading the team in their season-ending win over Bethune-Cookman. He only attempted three passes but ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and he received a lot of the repetitions in spring.
Pushing Moody will be Dewann Ford and Marquane Goodman. Ford played a little last year, while Goodman redshirted. If Moody struggles, one of these two will likely be next in line to get the snaps.
The running game should be better than it was last season behind an experienced and talented offensive line. Robbie Stephenson and Justin Evans were both named preseason First-Team All-MEAC and should open up holes for Ford and others throughout the year.
SCSU should have the top defense in the conference once again. Leonard has returned for one more season and is expected to be one of the top linebackers in not just the MEAC but all of the FCS. He was named a preseason FCS All-American and has been added to the Butkus Award watch list, too. Fellow linebacker Dayshawn Taylor, who was second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss, also returns.
2017 South Carolina State Football Schedule
September 3: South Carolina State at Southern
September 9: South Carolina State vs. Charleston Southern
September 16: South Carolina State vs. Johnson C. Smith
September 21: South Carolina State at North Carolina Central
September 30: South Carolina State vs. North Carolina A&T
October 6: South Carolina State vs. Morgan State
October 14: South Carolina State at Bethune-Cookman
October 21: South Carolina State at Delaware State
October 28: South Carolina State vs. Howard
November 11: South Carolina State vs. Hampton
November 18: South Carolina State at Savannah State
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Buddy Pough has won six MEAC titles over his 15 seasons at South Carolina State and suffered just his second losing campaign in 2016. The three FBS foes on the schedule led to the team finishing at 5-6, although the Bulldogs went 5-3 in conference and their record should improve with the easier non-conference slate this fall.
The Bulldogs’ hopes for another MEAC title will be decided in September. That’s when SCSU faces the other two heavyweights in the conference. North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T have been the two best teams in the MEAC the last two seasons, and the Bulldogs will face them in back-to-back weeks. The Bulldogs have a very good chance to win their last six games following that stretch and should be a solid play in FCS Pick ‘Em Contests throughout the year.