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My Take: Down, but not out... right?

It’s that time of year again.

Based on the previous five seasons, the battle cry of the Georgia Southern Eagles has appeared to have been, ‘The playoffs start now,’ come mid-October each year.

After Saturday’s eight-point loss up in the mountains of Chattanooga, Tenn., it’s same song, different chorus.

The Eagles (3-3, 1-2 Southern Conference) once again have to "circle the wagons," as sophomore defensive tackle Brent Russell so eloquently put it after the UTC game, because a fourth loss — regardless of the opponent — will put them in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the fifth-straight season.

Granted, it will be interesting to see how many 7-4 teams get in to the newly-expanded, 20-team FCS playoff bracket.

Georgia Southern fans remember all too well the 2007 season, when, despite road wins over Appalachian State and Wofford, the SoCon’s two playoff representatives, New Hampshire became the fifth (yes, fifth) team in from the Colonial Athletic Association at 7-4 despite recording exactly zero wins over playoff-caliber opponents, leaving GSU on the outside looking in.

I suppose that win over a terrible Marshall squad had enough sheen to get UNH into the field. If only the Eagles had beaten Savannah State week one instead of West Georgia that year.

But I digress.

The fact of the matter is, the SoCon is most likely too good at the top, with Chattanooga, Furman, and let’s not forget Wofford’s unbeaten conference slate and of course, Appalachian State, the No. 1 team in the land, all competing for the same playoff spots as the Eagles.

It just doesn’t look like there will be enough room for three teams in this year in a diluted, competitive league.

So, back to the original point, the Eagles will be much better served striving to attain an 8-3 record, arguably a guaranteed ticket, than playing for 7-4 and a slim chance at being on the bubble.

And winning the next five ain’t going to be a walk in the park.

It starts Saturday against The Citadel, a fellow option team that, based on its performance against UTC the week before the Eagles headed up there, has a lot of the same philosophies on how to play the game and not nearly as many tools.

Then, GSU returns to Paulson Stadium for the final two home games of the season. First up — Samford.

The Bulldogs (3-4, 1-3), though dwindling at the bottom of the league, will probably be up for the Georgia Southern game, considering they’ve owned GSU since they joined the SoCon in 2008.

If the Eagles can get past that hurdle, they get to put it on the line against a not-so-run-of-the-mill homecoming opponent — Appalachian State.

That’s about all there is to say about that.

Then, it’s back on the road.

The first of the final two regular-season games comes against Western Carolina in Cullowhee, N.C. The last time the Eagles were up there, they pulled off an overtime win despite trailing 31-3 with 11 minutes to go and turning the ball over seven times.

That right there tells you just about all you need to know about what type of ship they’re running up in the ’Whee.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Furman game. No, not "a" Furman game, but "the" Furman game. The game against the same Paladins who, for all intents and purposes, put an end to the Jayson Foster era in 2007 and ushered in the Lee Chapple era in 2008.

Oh, and the same Paladins that smacked the Eagles around and ruined the "Blue Out" in a 30-22 win that wasn’t that close in 2009.

So there you have it. Georgia Southern has a lot of work to do and not a whole lot of time to do it. Is a five-game winning streak possible? It’s hard to say.

The last time the Eagles put together a winning streak like that was 2004, when they won eight-straight games and the late loss to Furman on the road didn’t matter in the grand scheme of the playoffs.

Since then, the most they’ve put together in a row was four. That was 2005, and the Eagles did end up making the playoffs, although the first-rounder against Texas State ultimately ended a coaching career and the "first" option era.

Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken has said that championship teams don’t lose twice in a row.

All the Eagle Nation can hope for is that — just this once — he’s wrong.

 

Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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