Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There's a sense of opportunity in Southern Conference football this season.
With Appalachian State and Georgia Southern headed out the door to the FBS level next year, the other schools will jockey around in a potentially odd conference title race.
During their final season in the FCS, ASU and GSU will play above the 63- scholarship limit, making them ineligible for both the SoCon title and a bid to the FCS playoffs. Their games will count toward the SoCon standings, however, meaning the conference's automatic bid to the playoffs will go to the highest-finishing team that is eligible.
And that could be the third-best finisher.
Still, the other teams believe this is their season to finish higher than ASU and GSU.
Wofford has been the other power in the conference - winning a share of last year's title with its two rivals - and is seeking its fourth straight FCS playoff appearance. But the conference race is so deep that the SoCon head coaches picked the Terriers to finish fifth.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has a talented enough squad to earn its first playoff bid since 1984, Samford and The Citadel their first since 1992.
Only rebuilding Furman, Elon and Western Carolina appear to be out of the title mix.
"Everyone in the league is thinking the same thing about how this is a great time to make a move and establish themselves as a top-three type of team," The Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said.
Elon remains eligible for the SoCon title, although next year it will make a move in FCS conferences to the Colonial Athletic Association. That's when Mercer, East Tennessee State and VMI will enter the SoCon.
A strange season? It should be just that this year.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2013 Southern Conference race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
1. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
3. The Citadel
7. Western Carolina
Appalachian State (ineligible for league championship)
Georgia Southern (ineligible for league championship)