2023 Gulf South Conference Football

SAC Games to Watch: Loaded Non-Conference Schedule Opens 2022 Campaign

SAC Games to Watch: Loaded Non-Conference Schedule Opens 2022 Campaign

South Atlantic Conference teams open the 2022 season with non-league matchups and opportunities to make a statement at the beginning of the campaign.

Aug 31, 2022 by Kyle Kensing
SAC Games to Watch: Loaded Non-Conference Schedule Opens 2022 Campaign

A full Labor Day weekend slate of non-league games awaits the members of the South Atlantic Conference. The 2022 season gets underway on Thursday and ends Saturday night, the weekend bookended with SAC matchups against CIAA competition as Tusculum hosts St. Augustine's and Newberry faces Allen. 

Between is a docket that includes Mars Hill visiting Div. I FCS playoff participant East Tennessee, Barton beginning the South Atlantic era on the road at Chowan, and Limestone at Div. I Gardner-Webb. 

Carson-Newman at West Georgia 

Carson-Newman went into 2021 with a Top 25 preseason ranking, but struggled mightily against a West Georgia bunch that reached the NCAA Playoffs. The Eagles kick off 2022 with lower outside expectations but an opportunity to defy those right from the jump. 

C-N visits the No. 12-ranked Wolves looking to slow down one of the nation's most prolific passing attacks. UWG quarterback Harrison Frost threw for 3,618 yards and 25 touchdowns a season ago, helping pace the Wolves to nine wins. He returns primary targets Mechane Slade, who caught for just under 1,000 yards in 2021, Terrill Cole and Ronnie Blackmon. 

UWG's air-raid look promises to test a C-N secondary undergoing some significant personnel changes, although returning Jalen Anderson after a two-interception season helps. Slowing UWG isn't just a challenge for the secondary, of course: Look for a linebacker corps that's the decided strength of this Carson-Newman defense to be vital to Thursday's upset effort. 

Concord at Emory & Henry 

Emory & Henry begins its membership in the SAC with a matchup against Concord out of the Mountain East. The Mountain Lions were picked in the middle of the pack of the preseason MEC poll despite losing standout receiver Twyan Pearce. Pearce hauled in nearly 1,200 yards a season ago, leaving Concord quarterback and 2nd Team All-MEC honoree Jack Mangel to find a new primary target. 

Emory & Henry checked in on the lower end of the preseason SAC poll, but the Wasps have some playmakers who could ensure a surprising first year in the league. Quarterback Kyle Short returns behind center. Last year, the dual-threat Short passed for 15 touchdowns and rushed for four, supplementing the attack that 1,853-yard rusher Devontae Jordan powered. 

Jordan's gone, leaving Mykah English as the lead ball-carrier. English's performance in Week 1 ranks among the more intriguing storylines of the SAC's first week. 

The Wasp offensive line faces one of the more productive defensive ends it will see in the season's first few weeks, as Concord's Dajor Davenport racked up seven sacks and nine tackles for loss last year. 

Virginia State at Lenoir-Rhyne 

Lenoir-Rhyne begins its pursuit of a championship season at home with Virginia State, a team coming off a disappointing 2021 but projected for improvement into the upper half of the CIAA. Linebacker Zion Johnson is an All-CIAA performer and, along with defensive back Kymon Pope, two of Virginia State's players to watch. 

However, this Week 1 matchup is mostly notable as a reintroduction to the Bears. This is a tough Lenoir-Rhyne team with some lofty ambitions in the new season — ambitions that will be tested very early with a Week 2 date against reigning national champion Ferris State. 

L-R can't get caught looking ahead to the Bulldogs, but rather, needs to use its opening contest as an opportunity to tune up before one of the biggest dates on the entire Div. II calendar this season.