What a weekend to be an Eagle.
Thursday night Georgia Southern won it’s first ever game over a ranked opponent since joining FBS, by thumping arch-rivals #25 Appalachian State 34-14. Paulson Stadium looked like Paulson once again. Over 19,000 fans )looked like more) braved the cold, wet conditions and created an electric atmosphere that helped push the team to victory. As the clock struck 0:00, fans stormed the field, a scene that was reminiscent of the ’06 victory over Furman or the ’10 win over App State. All is well with the universe once again.
Saturday came and went, several dominoes fell in Southern’s favor. 10 teams in the top 25 lost and the Eagles shot up the polls accordingly. They clocked in at #28 in the AP with 62 votes and #34 in the Coaches Poll with 34 votes. If you examine the AP Poll voter breakdown, several writers had Georgia Southern in the top 25. Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune had the Eagles as high as 18th.
This is uncharted territory for Georgia Southern. They have never been this close to joining the top 25 since joining FBS. When you juxtapose where they are now with where they were just a year ago, it’s nothing short of stunning. Chad Lunsford remains the leader in the clubhouse for not only the Sun Belt Coach of the Year, but National Coach of the Year. I will hit anybody who disagrees with a folding chair.
In addition to the polls showing us love, ESPN, Bleacher Report, and CBS had Georgia Southern ranked in their power rankings.
So What Now?
The Eagles are probably one or two more wins away from cracking the Top 25. We are 2/3rds of the way through the season. Four games are left:
vs. Troy 11/10
@Georgia State 11/17
@Coastal Carolina 11/24
All of these matchups present their own set of challenges. Three divisional games left. ULM always plays Georgia Southern tough. The Warhawks lead the SBC West and Caleb Evans is 2nd in the league in passing yards. Troy wants a SBC championship as much as we do. The Eagles have lost three in a row to Georgia State, they always seem to play their best against Georgia Southern. Coastal Carolina is the surprise team of the conference. One win away from bowl eligibility and they’ve already beaten Chad Lunsford once before.
If the absolute, best-case scenario plays out, and the Eagles run the table, here is what is in play:
- The first-ever Sun Belt East division title.
- Undefeated in conference.
- Undefeated at home.
- Top 25 ranking.
- Hosting and winning the Sun Belt’s first ever championship game in Paulson.
- 13-1 record after winning the bowl game.
- Biggest single season turnaround in college football history.
There is even an outside chance that College Gameday visits Statesboro for the Week 11 matchup against the Trojans.
There aren’t many intriguing top 25 matchups scheduled for that weekend. College Gameday has showcased FCS schools like James Madison and North Dakota State in the past. Who’s to say they wouldn’t showcase the Sun Belt? If that comes to fruition, I might need to make the drive down to Statesboro for that one.
Even if the worst case scenario were to play out and Georgia Southern lost every game left (God forbid), this has already been an unforgettable season. Nothing is sweeter than beating App State. It feels great to be relevant again. I predicted a 7-5 record at beginning of the season, thinking a 5 win improvement and a bowl game was optimistic enough. The Eagle are poised to blow the doors off of my prognostication.
Chad Lunsford has silenced every one of his critics. His mixture of passion, charisma, intelligence, and discipline has turned around the program faster than anyone would have ever predicted. Sure, there may have been sexier coaching candidates on the market last December, but none of them are as fun as Lunsford. This program was in a metaphorical ditch last December and he’s pulled it out and has it knocking on the door of the top 25. For that, Eagle Nation is forever grateful.