After three games, Ferrum has looked strong in some parts of it's game, and struggled in others. The offense is capable, and has the ability to put points on the board, but mistakes and some unexpected injuries have slowed the offensive output. The defense looked pretty solid in it's first two games, but was outmatched against Bridgewater. The pass defense has talent, but was really burned in its last outing. This will need to change as the Panthers go into conference play.
The question is, can Ferrum win the conference? Their first test will come early as the Panthers welcome defending conference champion North Carolina Wesleyan to W.B. Adams field for homecoming. Last year, the Bishops jumped out to an early lead, and although Ferrum did mount a second half rally, they came up 10 points short on the road. In order to beat this team, Ferrum needs to do exactly what NCW did to them...get the lead early, and make them play catch up.
The Ferrum offense was drastically affected by injuries this past week, and it showed. Less than a hundred yards on offense. After going 0-3 in non-conference play, look for Ferrum to be fired up for their homecoming match up with the Bishops.
North Carolina Wesleyan will not be a push over however...remember in my preseason poll, I picked them to repeat as conference champions. While I think this could still be an accurate pick, they are not as strong as last year. Their offensive line is fairly inexperienced, and their quarterback is a freshman. This being said, they are still a very talented football team. For Ferrum to win will take a superb effort.
As the season shakes out, Averett looks to be as good as anyone in the conference. The Cougars opened with a hard fought loss to Hampden-Sydney, and won in week three against an under manned Guilford team in a runaway. This team is strong, and will be in the mix for the championship until it is decided. Look for Averett to have smooth sailing with rough seas coming in their last half of their schedule.
The other team usually thought of as the potential representative of the USA South is Christopher Newport. The Captains always play a very strong non conference schedule. After finishing the non conference section of their schedule 0-3, many fans are thinking that this may not be their year. Look for CNU to have a strong say in who the USA South representative is in the playoffs. This is still a quality team that will be in the mix at the end.
Again, the question is, can Ferrum win the conference? It will not be easy. they have to play solid every game, but if they want to contend, a win over North Carolina Wesleyan will certainly put them headed in the right direction.