Before the season, I did a prediction piece on each of the Division I college football teams in our state.
Maybe I should have looked more closely into Mercer’s schedule before predicting the Bears would win six games and break even in their 12-game season.
The Bears have reached that six-win total already, and they have five games left to play with some winnable games left in the bunch.
Mercer is 6-1 through its first seven games, and the Bears are 2-1 in Pioneer Football League play, both respectable numbers.
And both numbers look like they could even stronger by the end of the season. The Bears head out on the road for the next two weeks for their second and third games away from home. Being on the road for two straight games definitely will be tougher than playing at home (where the Bears are undefeated), but those two games will be against two of the worst teams in the conference: Campbell and Davidson.
Those two teams are a combined 1-13 overall, and they are both 0-4 in conference play. After that, the Bears step up in competition as they play Jacksonville and Marist, two of the strongest teams in the Pioneer League.
And then Mercer wraps up its season against Stetson, which is winless through three conference games and 1-5 overall.
The schedule-makers certainly did the Bears a favor. Besides Mercer, there are five teams with one conference loss or fewer, and Mercer only plays two of them -- missing out on Butler (4-0), Dayton (3-1) and Morehead State (3-1).
But there are no apologies for that. Mercer has played who is on the schedule, and it has won most of those games.
Bobby Lamb’s coaching staff and players have had a terrific season. They have done just about everything that could be asked of them in this first season (their only season in the Pioneer League).
Looking at the rest of the schedule, the Bears realistically could end up with nine victories, and that’s a number that should excite Bears fans. Yes, things will get tougher next year with the addition of scholarships and the move to the Southern Conference.
Those teams have been playing with scholarships for decades and will have an advantage over the Bears. But Lamb and his program have proven this year they can step up to the challenges that will face them moving forward.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org