GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Riding the strength of a seven-game winning streak, its longest since 1999, and second place finish in the Southern Conference, the Furman Paladins are back in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs, earning an at-large bid to the 24-team field of playoff teams.
Furman (7-4, 6-2 SoCon), ranked No. 22 in STATS FCS Poll released earlier today, will play Elon (8-3, 6-2 CAA), ranked 15th in the FCS Poll. Kickoff for the Saturday ESPN3 broadcast contest is set for 1:00 p.m. at Rhodes Stadium.
The playoff berth will be the 17th for Furman — tops among current Southern Conference schools and first since 2013. The Paladins, who own an 18-15 all-time playoff record, have played for three FCS (formerly I-AA) Championships and captured the league's first national championship in 1988, defeating Georgia Southern, 17-12, in Pocatello, Idaho. No other current SoCon school has ever made an FCS national championship game appearance.
The Paladins started the season 0-3, dropping a 24-23 road decision at Wofford and a 34-31 verdict to Elon, both playoff teams, and a 49-16 verdict to USA Today 22nd-ranked N.C. State. First-year head coach Clay Hendrix's team rallied to win their next seven games, the program's longest streak since 1999, beginning with a 45-14 road triumph over Colgate, the eventual Patriot League co-champion. Furman's bid to claim a share of the 2017 SoCon title fell short on Saturday with a 26-20 loss at 13th-ranked Samford, another playoff team.
A 3-8 program a year ago, Furman was a preseason No. 7 pick in a poll of SoCon head coaches and nowhere in any preseason poll picture or discussion.
The Paladins didn't crack the STATS FCS Top 20 poll until Oct. 30, debuting at No. 23 following a 28-6 road thumping of then 18th-ranked Western Carolina — its first poll appearance in over three years.
The winner of the Furman-Elon game will meet tournament No. 7 seed Wofford in a Dec. 2 second round matchup in Spartanburg, S.C.
Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information