Bax Trax: 3 keys to Mercer’s season opener

Mercer's Alex Lakes (27), middle, weaves through football players in their game against Stetson.

Mercer’s Alex Lakes (27), middle, weaves through football players in their game against Stetson.

The Mercer Bears are set to kick off their season against last year’s co-league champions the Citadel Bulldogs.

Coming off a 5-6 season (2-5 in conference) Mercer will be looking to chase after its own SoCon title. Here are the keys to the game against the Bulldogs.

1.Will there be any rust?

The Bears will need to be sharp out of the gates in order to knock off one of the top teams in the conference. You always have to wonder if your team will be ready after a long offseason without game action. Last season, the Bears beat Austin Peay 28-7 on the road to open the season but failed to score in the first quarter. As the game wears on both teams will probably find a groove as they come into a new season. It’s possible that the team that hits their stride first will pick up the win. If the Bears get into a hole earlier, it will be tougher to overcome with the clock draining offense that the Citadel runs in the form of a triple option attack.

2.Are the Bears finally healthy?

A season ago injuries plagued the Bears left and right, as they lost key guys at multiple positions. With those key contributors presumably back for the opener it should give the Bears a deeper team. It could create a lot more explosive plays on offense with guys like Alex Lakes and Chandler Curtis coming off a season filled with injuries for both players. While also beefing up the defensive side of the ball with playmakers like Kyle Trammell and Stephen Houzah. If the team is finally healthy and can stay that way, then the conference could be put on notice after this game.

3.Will it rain?

Hurricane Hermine is brewing near Florida and is expected to dump a lot of rain across the Middle Georgia area. While the forecast currently shows only around a 20 percent chance of rain during the game, rain could have an impact on how the game is played. The Citadel is known for running the football and a rainy game favors a ground and pound style of football. Yet the rain may actually hurt the Bulldogs more. The triple option uses a run or pitch style, where the quarterback chooses to keep the ball or flip it to a trailing runner depending on how the play unfolds. A slick ball could spell disaster for the Bulldogs. While the Bears generally run the ball up the gut with Lakes. It would make passing the ball tough on the Bears something that the Citadel doesn’t do often. Either way the rain could cause problems for both teams and make the game more of a grind.