It's hard not to be impressed with some of the numbers associated with Wofford's football team.
Fullback Eric Breitenstein is the active career rushing leader in the FCS, running wild in the Terriers' triple option, which leads the nation in rushing yards per game for a third straight season.
Wofford also focuses on stopping the run as its defense ranks fifth nationally in rushing defense.
And then you see the size of Wofford's enrollment, which makes you do a double take: it's just over 1,500 students.
Wofford not only has the smallest enrollment in the Southern Conference, but the second-smallest among all 122 schools in the FCS (to Presbyterian).
Yet Wofford is ranked No. 5 nationally, always seems to be in the mix for the SoCon championship and leads this year's race as the Terriers prepare for a daunting second half of the schedule, including games at Georgia Southern on Saturday and against Appalachian State at home on Oct. 20.
So how does such this small private college in Spartanburg, S.C., thrive among the best teams in the nation?
Head coach Mike Ayers, now in his 25th season at Wofford, and his coaching staff have committed to recruiting a little differently and running a triple option on offense that is considerably different from what most teams run.
"I think it starts from 25 years ago when we got here," said Ayers, whose team is 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the SoCon.
"We knew that for us, with our size school and where we were from a program standpoint that we were not going to be able to recruit some of the better talent. That's not to say that we don't have good players now. But we felt that for us philosophically, to give us a chance, that we couldn't be like everybody else."
The Terriers committed to running the ball and stopping it, and haven't deviated from an option style to the current triple option that works so well - Georgia Southern, The Citadel and Cal Poly run it - that perhaps it should be embraced by more coaches nationally.
Ayers was an assistant coach at Wofford from 1980-82. He returned to the program in 1988 after guiding East Tennessee State, restored the option (from the I formation) with the Terriers and transformed a 1-10 team from the year before to a 5-5 club in his first season. And the Terriers haven't looked back ever since, posting winning records in 17 of the last 23 seasons, including eight of the last nine, while Ayers helped take them from the NAIA level to Division II to Division I.
"We were an option offense," the 64-year-old Ayers said. "We were fortunate enough to hit on a couple guys and we worked hard. We brought in guys that we felt like would be willing to grind the grind, guys that a lot of people overlooked. But you put 'em in the weight room, you work 'em hard, you give 'em something that they're capable of doing, and you have some success as the years have gone by, moving from NAIA to Division II to Division I and getting into the Southern Conference, the more success we had, the better players we were able to recruit.
"We would recruit one or two guys that a lot of people wanted and then the majority were guys that we felt like just fit our system. We didn't care whether anybody liked them besides us or not, we just felt like that they fit into our system. And then we continued and the more success, more guys we were able to recruit, (the more) that were upper-echelon guys."
Ayers has had his share of help in creating stability while Wofford recruits against schools as big as Georgia Southern (over 20,000 students) and Appalachian State (over 17,000). Wade Lang has been on staff for all 25 years, including the last 23 as offensive coordinator. Nate Woody is in his 22nd year at Wofford, including the last 12 as defensive coordinator.
Wofford tends to fill recruiting classes with players who are a little smaller than those going to other schools. It works into the Terriers' philosophies, however, as, say, undersized offensive linemen can utilize their speed in running the triple option.
Breitenstein, at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, doesn't have the traditional size of a fullback, but those schools who overlooked him now know he could fit in everywhere. The fifth-year senior and Walter Payton Award candidate leads all active FCS players with 4,588 rushing yards and 55 touchdowns in his career.
Junior Alvin Scioneaux thrives as an undersized linebacker - 6-2, 215 - just as former defensive end Ameet Pall (6-0, 245) did after the Terriers plucked him out of a Canadian high school. He went on to tie for second place in the 2010 Buck Buchanan Award voting.
"I think every school has to recruit to the strengths of their university, to the strength of their college," Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said. "You look at teams all over the country ... Look at the ACC and you've got state schools like Florida State and Clemson, which have 30,000, and then you've got Duke and they have 4,000 students. It's the same at Stanford and Notre Dame and places like that who have success. The size of the school, I don't think, is the telling factor on who you can recruit.
"I'm sure Mike recruits a lot of the guys that Furman and Samford and Elon and other schools like his (recruit). They're similar, they're similar in their size, they're similar in terms of their academic requirements, their academic programs. And each one of them has things that are unique about it and make it special for them."
That Ayers, who has a 167-111-1 record at Wofford, keeps bringing in talented players makes the program even more special. The college's higher academic standards tend to provide the Terriers with smart players. Plus as the talent base has improved, they have been able to redshirt freshmen and build up to having more fifth-year seniors.
The offense and defense seem to complement each other well, as their plus-6 turnover-over margin suggests this season. The Terriers have a new quarterback in junior Brian Kass, who benefits from an outstanding line. They are running the triple option a little differently, more out of the shotgun with less pitching of the ball.
Defensively, it's a mix of veteran players and youth, although injuries to senior linebacker Mike Niam and now across the D-line are hurting the unit. Junior linebacker Mike McCrimon leads the team in tackles and junior safety James Zotto is a force in the secondary.
"The obstacles are still the same," Ayers said. "As we get better players, so does everybody else. It's coming up with a system that continues to work. A lot of folks, when we were running three-back option football, a lot of people said, well, you can't do it now, you gotta do this, you gotta do that, you gotta throw it here, you gotta throw it there. What we've done is tried to get better. For us, our mind-set every year is to find better ways to do better things. It's not necessarily reinventing the wheel, but just trying to make the wheel just a little bit better."
TOP 25 EXCITEMENT
A season-high five games matching Top 25 teams will be played Saturday.
No. 6 Eastern Washington (4-1) at No. 2 Montana State (6-0) in the Big Sky Conference.
No. 5 Wofford (5-0) at No. 7 Georgia Southern (4-1) and No. 13 Appalachian State (4-2) at No. 25 Samford (5-1) in the Southern Conference.
No. 8 Youngstown State (4-1) at No. 14 Illinois State (4-1) in the Missouri Valley Conference.
No. 21 Central Arkansas (4-2) at No. 21 McNeese State (4-1) in the Southland Conference.
Bring it on.
WAC-Y BIG SKY?
The Big Sky continues to court Idaho as a candidate to rejoin the conference now that the Western Athletic Conference officially said it is dissolving for football in 2013. The Vandals, who left the Big Sky in 1996, will play an independent schedule next year, just like the only other football-playing member that will be left in the WAC, New Mexico State.
Idaho's return to the Big Sky would push the conference to 14 football members and allow it to split into two seven-team divisions instead of having its bulky, 13-team one-division format.
While playing in the FCS (then Division I-AA) from 1978-95, the Vandals appeared in the national playoffs 11 times, including marches to the semifinals in '88 and '93.
AROUND THE NATION
Big Sky: Hey, Drew Brees, give some props to Montana State quarterback DeNarius McGhee. The redshirt junior has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his 31 career games. With 59 TD passes, he is one shy of Kelly Bradley's school record entering the No. 2 Bobcats' showdown with No. 6 Eastern Washington ... Coach Beau Baldwin's Eagles will be glad to know Big Sky road teams have won 11 of the first 18 conference games ... Defense matters, right? Idaho State has allowed 68 points per game in a three-game losing streak. Even a ton of Kevin Yost passing is not going to beat those defensive shortcomings.
Big South: Coastal Carolina will take its shot to turn the conference race upside down. Coming off a bye, the Chanticleers host No. 11 Stony Brook on Saturday. Coastal is 8-1 off byes the last nine seasons ... Imagine Charleston Southern, which has lost 16 of its last 17 games, getting hot. A three-game homestand of VMI, Presbyterian and Edward Waters offers the opportunity for coach Jay Mills' 1-4 squad. Buccaneers cornerback Charles James is sidelined with a broken hand, however.
CAA Football: No. 3 Old Dominion returns from a bye, hoping the layoff hasn't slowed the FCS' top-scoring offense (56.2 ppg). The fourth-ranked Monarchs host Villanova ... In contrast, no FCS team has scored fewer points than Rhode Island (0-5), which has a mere four touchdowns, a season high of 10 points and a 7.6-point average. But the Rams host Georgia State (0-6), so this could be the week for quarterback Robert Bentsen to get the offense moving.
Ivy: If Princeton (2-2, 1-0) is for real this season - and there are plenty of signs - consider this "statement week" as Brown (3-1, 0-1) visits in what's really a must-win for both teams as far as the league race is concerned. Tigers defensive tackle Mike Catapano is coming off a monster game against Lafayette ... A more manageable non-league schedule has made such a difference for coach Buddy Teevens at Dartmouth. His Big Green (3-1), who host Sacred Heart on Saturday, are seeking a third straight .500 or better season, which they haven't had since 1995-97 under John Lyons ... Harvard (4-0) won't have any trouble adding to its 13-game winning streak - all by double figures - when it hosts struggling Bucknell in the season's final non-league game for the Ancient Eight.
MEAC: The Battle of the Bay remains a fixture among FCS rivalries. Norfolk State (2-4) visits Hampton (0-4), with both teams trying to salvage a disappointing season. Hampton, which hasn't been 0-5 since 1991, leads a tight series, 25-23-1 ... North Carolina Central's 3-2 start, and rout of South Carolina State, emphasizes the strengths of coach Henry Frazier III, who has moved on from a difficult offseason. Running back Andre Clarke (305 rushing yards, seven touchdowns) has scored in every game. The Eagles head to Morgan State, where both teams put 2-0 conference marks on the line.
Missouri Valley: After getting thumped last Saturday, both No. 8 Youngstown State and No. 14 Illinois State will both try to get back on track against the other. The winner will take a huge step toward making the FCS playoffs ... Obviously, North Dakota State has the best defense in the FCS, but don't overlook the Indiana State team that travels to the Fargodome this week. The Sycamores, behind linebackers Aaron Archie and Jacolby Washington, defensive end Ben Obaseki and cornerback Calvin Burnett, rank third in the FCS in scoring defense (13 ppg) and 16th in total defense (313.5 ypg). Indiana State is 0-4 all-time against the No. 1-ranked Bison.
Northeast: During Duquesne's four-game winning streak, it has rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit in three of the games. Dukes senior running back Larry McCoy, whose 4,099 career rushing yards rank second among active FCS players, needs 162 more yards to pass Donte Small as their all-time leading rusher ... If you feel like Albany's Drew Smith has been around since the Clinton administration, you're not alone. The veteran standout is enjoying his best season with a national-high 12 touchdowns to go along with just over 100 rushing yards per game.
Ohio Valley: It's crossroads week in the OVC. Jacksonville State visits Eastern Illinois and UT Martin heads to rival Murray State. All four teams have 2-1 conference marks, but trail Tennessee State in a tightly contested race ... Murray State quarterback Casey Brockman shared national offensive player of the week honors for his 455-yard, five-touchdown passing performance against Austin Peay. Keep in mind, it was only his fourth-highest yardage total in his career. He's enjoyed big games.
Patriot: Tenth-ranked Lehigh (6-0) will put a 15-game league winning streak on the line at Georgetown (3-3). The visiting Mountain Hawks have a 12-5 series lead, but it's 11-0 in all-time league games (and all 11 are by 17 points or more). The Hoyas are on their third starting quarterback, Stephen Skon, because of injuries ... With quarterback Steve Elder coming off a win in his first career start, Holy Cross will head to Colgate and its usually strong home-field advantage, trying to get to 2-0 in the league race for the seventh time in eight seasons. The host Raiders (2-3) have held their own against a difficult schedule, so they might be ready to challenge for the league title.
Pioneer: The three first-place teams - Butler, Drake and Jacksonville - are on the road Saturday. The one most in jeopardy of falling is Butler (4-2, 3-0), which visits Marist and its tough defense. Marist won the only series meeting, 28-10 last season ... Three of the league's place-kickers already have a field goal of at least 50 yards: Morehead State's Rainer Duzan, San Diego's Ernie Collins and Jacksonville's Dylan Lynch.
SoCon: One player who has exploded onto the national scene this season is Samford redshirt sophomore Jaquiski Tartt, a safety with big size and big-play ability. In six games, he has returned three interceptions for an FCS-high 134 yards (including a 65-yard touchdown) and recovered two fumbles (including an 80-yard touchdown return), while making 54 tackles and seven pass breakups. He hopes to slow red-hot Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Jackson in Saturday's important game in Birmingham, Ala. ... Western Carolina didn't have answers for either Wofford's triple option (590 yards) or Georgia Southern's (614), so The Citadel (3-3) likely can get back on track after three straight losses. It would keep alive a potential winning season under coach Kevin Higgins ... Against Wofford, Georgia Southern will wear camouflage uniforms as far of its Military Appreciation week.
Southland: The road team has yet to win as the Central Arkansas-McNeese State series moves into its seventh meeting Saturday in Lake Charles, La. It's a pivotal game regarding who can make a run at the conference title and a playoff berth ... Inexperience could catch up to conference leader Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions have 27 players who have seen their first action this season ... Sam Houston State junior quarterback Brian Bell has taken a big step this season with Richard Sincere not being utilized in the Wild Bearkat as often. Bell's career numbers are sneaking up on some school and conference records. In his career, he has passed for 4,467 yards and 36 touchdowns with 5,139 total yards ... Lamar has switched its starting quarterback from Ryan Mossakowski to redshirt sophomore Caleb Berry.
SWAC: Texas Southern received harsh sanctions by the NCAA on Tuesday for the lack of control until former coach Johnnie Cole. The Tigers are banned from postseason eligibility in 2013 and '14, will be docked scholarships and paid recruiting visits, and be placed on five years probation through Oct. 8, 2017. Its wins were vacated from 2006-11, which includes the SWAC championship season in 2010. "If we had not gone through this process, we possibly could have made the same mistakes again," athletic director Dr. Charles McClelland said. "We concentrated on taking the breath out of these issues and now we're exhibiting excellence in the process" ... Talk about a lopsided series, winless Grambling State takes a 48-4-2 lead into its game at Mississippi Valley State ... Hard to do: Mississippi Valley State senior Brandon Stansell leads the conference in rushing, but hasn't scored a touchdown.
WHAT WE KNOW, WHAT WE THINK WE KNOW
The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/88q2k7t.
Also, once again this season, In the FCS Huddle is projecting the potential FCS playoff field. The projections are a long-range look at the season - not based off current records or rankings - and can be found at http://www.sportsnetwork.com/fcs/FCS_Bracket.pdf.
Last Week's Record: 39-15 (.722)
Season Record: 320-82 (.796)
All Times ET
Saturday, Oct. 13
Butler (4-2, 3-0 Pioneer) at X-Marist (2-3, 1-1), noon
Richmond (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at X-No. 12 New Hampshire (4-2, 2-1), noon
X-Duquesne (4-1, 2-0 NEC) at Central Connecticut State (0-5, 0-2), noon
Lafayette (3-2) at X-Yale (1-3), noon
X-Brown (3-1, 0-1 Ivy) at Princeton (2-2, 1-0), 12:05 p.m.
X-Monmouth (3-2) at Cornell (2-2), 12:30 p.m.
X-North Carolina Central (3-2, 2-0 MEAC) at Morgan State (3-2, 2-0), 1 p.m.
Holy Cross (1-4, 1-0 Patriot) at X-Colgate (2-3, 0-0), 1 p.m.
Morehead State (1-4, 0-2 Pioneer) at X-Dayton (2-4, 1-2), 1 p.m.
St. Francis, Pa. (3-3, 2-1 NEC) at X-Albany (5-1, 3-0), 1 p.m.
Robert Morris (1-4, 0-2 NEC) at X-Bryant (0-6, 0-4), 1 p.m.
X-No. 10 Lehigh (6-0, 0-0 Patriot) at Georgetown (3-3, 0-0), 1 p.m.
Columbia (1-3, 0-1 Ivy) at X-Penn (1-3, 1-0), 1 p.m.
Georgia State (0-6) at X-Rhode Island (0-5, 0-2 CAA), 1 p.m.
X-Jacksonville (5-1, 3-0 Pioneer) at Davidson (0-5, 0-2), 1 p.m.
Norfolk State (2-4, 0-3 MEAC) at X-Hampton (0-4, 0-2), 1 p.m.
X-South Carolina State (2-4, 1-2 MEAC) at Delaware State (2-3, 1-1), 1:30 p.m.
Sacred Heart (1-4) at X-Dartmouth (3-1), 1:30 p.m.
X-Chattanooga (2-3, 1-1 SoCon) at Furman (2-4, 1-2), 1:30 p.m.
X-VMI (2-3, 1-0 Big South) at Charleston Southern (1-4, 0-1), 1:30 p.m.
X-Howard (4-1, 3-0 MEAC) at North Carolina A&T (2-3, 0-2), 1:30 p.m.
X-Drake (4-2, 3-0 Pioneer) at Valparaiso (0-5, 0-2), 2 p.m.
Jackson State (2-4, 2-2 SWAC) at X-Alabama State (4-2, 4-1), 2 p.m.
X-Liberty (1-4, 1-0 Big South) at Presbyterian (2-4, 0-1), 2 p.m.
X-South Dakota (1-4, 0-2 Missouri Valley) at Missouri State (0-6, 0-3), 2 p.m.
Western Carolina (1-5, 0-4 SoCon) at X-The Citadel (3-3, 2-2), 2 p.m.
X-No. 8 Youngstown State (4-1, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 14 Illinois State (5-1, 2-1), 2 p.m.
Alcorn State (2-4, 2-2 SWAC) at X-Alabama A&M (6-0, 5-0), 2 p.m.
X-Jacksonville State (3-2, 2-1 OVC) at Eastern Illinois (3-3, 2-1), 2:30 p.m.
X-Grambling State (0-5, 0-4 SWAC) at Mississippi Valley State (1-4, 1-2), 3 p.m.
X-No. 13 Appalachian State (4-2, 2-1 SoCon) at No. 25 Samford (5-1, 3-1), 3 p.m.
X-Northern Iowa (1-4, 0-2 Missouri Valley) at Southern Illinois (3-3, 2-1), 3 p.m.
Austin Peay (0-6, 0-4 OVC) at X-No. 23 Eastern Kentucky (4-2, 2-1), 3 p.m.
Bucknell (1-4) at X-No. 22 Harvard (4-0), 3:30 p.m.
X-No. 11 Stony Brook (5-1, 1-0 Big South) at Coastal Carolina (2-3, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.
Villanova (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at X-No. 3 Old Dominion (5-0, 2-0), 3:30 p.m.
William & Mary (2-4, 1-4 CAA) at X-No. 4 James Madison (4-1, 2-0), 3:30 p.m.
Southern Utah (2-4, 1-2 Big Sky) at X-Montana (3-3, 1-2), 3:30 p.m.
CO-GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 6 Eastern Washington (4-1, 3-0 Big Sky) at X-No. 2 Montana State (6-0, 3-0), 3:35 p.m. This should be a back-and-forth slugfest and EWU has played better than Montana State. But the Bobcats' home-field advantage is always big.
No. 16 Northern Arizona (4-1, 2-0 Big Sky) at X-North Dakota (3-3, 1-2), 4 p.m.
UT Martin (4-2, 2-1 OVC) at X-Murray State (3-3, 2-1), 4 p.m.
Indiana State (4-2, 2-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 1 North Dakota State (5-0, 2-0), 4 p.m.
Northwestern State (3-3, 1-1 Southland) at X-Southeastern Louisiana (2-4, 2-0), 4 p.m.
Campbell (1-4, 0-2 Pioneer) at X-San Diego (2-3, 1-1), 5 p.m.
X-UC Davis (2-4, 1-2 Big Sky) at Idaho State (1-4, 0-2), 6 p.m.
CO-GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 5 Wofford (5-0, 3-0 SoCon) at X-No. 7 Georgia Southern (4-1, 3-1), 6 p.m. Considering all the running plays, Mike Ayers and Jeff Monken might be able to coach the game and play nine holes together in a three-hour span.
MidAmerica Nazarene (4-1) at X-Gardner-Webb (0-5), 6 p.m.
Savannah State (0-5, 0-3 MEAC) at X-Florida A&M (2-4, 2-1), 6 p.m.
Texas Southern (1-5, 1-3 SWAC) at X-Southern (2-3, 1-2), 6:30 p.m.
Western Illinois (3-2, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 20 South Dakota State (4-1, 2-0), 7 p.m.
X-No. 9 Sam Houston State (3-2, 1-1 Southland) at Nicholls (1-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.
X-No. 18 Tennessee State (6-0, 2-0 OVC) at Southeast Missouri State (2-3, 1-1), 7 p.m.
Maine (2-3, 1-1 CAA) at X-No. 17 Towson (2-3, 1-1), 7 p.m.
Fordham (4-2) at X-Cincinnati (4-0), 7 p.m.
McMurry (3-2) at X-Lamar (2-4), 8 p.m.
No. 21 Central Arkansas (4-2, 2-1 Southland) at X-No. 19 McNeese State (4-1, 1-1), 8 p.m.
Northern Colorado (1-4, 0-2 Big Sky) at X-No. 15 Cal Poly (5-0, 3-0), 9:05 p.m.
Weber State (0-6, 0-3 Big Sky) at X-Sacramento State (4-2, 2-1), 9:05 p.m.