The Samford Bulldogs are nearing the end of the 2021 football season, which will conclude with a rivalry showdown against the Furman Paladins this Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama.
This game will follow the Bulldogs’ (4-6, 3-4) challenging road game against the Florida Gators, far and away their most formidable opponent of the year. The game, though much closer than experts predicted, ended with a 70-52 loss.
The Bulldogs will look to this game against the Paladins (5-5, 3-4) to end their up-and-down season on a positive note. This game would also bring the Bulldogs back up to a .500 record in the conference, something that the Bulldogs have accomplished each season since 2016.
The story for this Samford season has been a tale of two units. The offense has been incredible this season, averaging around 450 yards per game. They rank first in the Southern Conference for total offense and tenth in the nation for scoring offense.
Senior quarterback Liam Welch has only added to his historic Samford career. He recently won the SoCon Offensive Player of the Month award for October, his second time winning the award. Welch is currently seventh in the nation in total passing yards (2697) and first in the SoCon in yards per game (343.1). With career statistics rivaling those of fellow Samford legend Duck Hodges, Welch could potentially be playing on Sundays down the road.
However, the defensive side of the ball for the Bulldogs has been porous. Samford gives up around 36 points per game, which would be last in the SoCon if not for Western Carolina, who gives up around 42 points per game. Samford does rank last, however, in total defense, giving up around 480 yards per game.
Samford’s defense also ranks in the SoCon’s bottom three in rushing defense and dead last in passing defense. Defensive coordinator Nick Benedetto will need to make some adjustments to his defensive unit this weekend and the upcoming offseason if Samford wants to compete for future SoCon titles.
As for the Furman Paladins, their offense ranks near the bottom in every category in the SoCon, but their defense has stepped up in the later portion of the season.
Furman is in the top three in scoring defense, allowing around 21 points per game, and they rank fourth in total defense (allowing about 370 yards per game). The Paladins also have an aggressive pass defense, as they are tied for second in the SoCon in total interceptions (10).
The Paladins will be coming off of a motivated upset victory against VMI last week. Quarterback Jace Wilson threw for two touchdowns and two touchdown passes, both of which were season highs for the freshman.
Overall, Samford and Furman have had very similar seasons and are looking at this game through very similar lenses. Both teams have the same record, and one side of the ball is clearly superior to the other.
This rivalry game has the potential to be a close and gritty Seibert Stadium showdown that could have a serious impact on the 2022 season. It will also be Senior Day for the Bulldogs, possibly adding an extra spark to the fire that exists between these two teams.
Samford and Furman will play this Saturday, November 20, at noon. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.