When looking at the 2009 schedule, a few things stand out. First, the order of the games this year has been shuffled. While this may cause the need to adjust routine travel expectations, it really will not mean much in the scheme of the conference standings.
Secondly, and perhaps most important, are the difficult road games that Ferrum has this year. Opening the season at Emory and Henry is the first step of five road games that will all present different challenges. Emory and Henry has for the past couple of years defeated Ferrum (except in 2007, Ferrum ultimately won by forfeit as E&H had an ineligible player) This year, Emory and Henry will be a strong contender for the ODAC crown, and will feature two D3football.com Second team All American selections. Given that this is the season opener, and that its on the road, Ferrum will have its first real test early. The Panthers can win, but they must play every down to the whistle, and preferably need to take the lead and not have to play catch up.
The next road game will be against Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista. This is one of those everything to lose, and nothing to gain games. SVU is not an NCAA affiliated school (They are in the NAIA), and this game will not improve Ferrum's rankings in the eyes of anyone putting out weekly polls, or determining playoff possibilities based on the NCAA regional rankings.
While Ferrum will be favored to win this game, and should in the end win, it will not help in the long run. In the event that SVU won the game, it will prove to be a difficult obstacle to overcome as far as rankings are concerned.
Conference play begins on the road for Ferrum as they travel to Rocky Mount N.C. to take on the powerful North Carolina Wesleyan team that outgunned Ferrum last year in Ferrum 41-14. This game will be critical to the Panthers hopes of making the playoffs, and a Panther win here can have huge implications on the conference championships.
North Carolina Wesleyan will again be stong this year, and Ferrum will have to play an inspired game to win on the road.
Winchester will be the next road stop for Ferrum as Oct. 24th, the Panthers visit Shentel Stadium to take on the Shenandoah University Hornets for the only night game of the season. Shenandoah will be looking to make a statement in the USA South. This wil be an important game for both teams, and as last years game was so very close, The Hornets will be up for this one. I would expect another tough game. Nothing easy about this game. On paper, Ferrum will be the favorite albeit by a small margin.
Ferrum closes its season as it began it, on the road. The final game is in Maryville TN. Maryville comes into the season with a lot of question marks, but they will ride an ever increasing reputation as a team that gets up for big games, and is difficult to beat at home. Ferrum may be fighting for the conference title, but rest assured, Maryville will be looking to play the spoiler.
Over the last two seasons, Ferrum has been successful on the road. Last year, their only road loss came at the end of the season as they played for the conference championship. This year, I look for the Panthers to contend again, but it will not come without success as the visiting team.
Get Ready Panthers! Next Stop- Emory VA.