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Never too early for football predictions

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Posted: April 11, 2011 10:41 p.m.
Updated: April 11, 2011 10:39 p.m.
Never too early for football predictions

Georgia Southern head football coach Jeff Monken is all smiles after the Eagles defeated then-number-one ranked Appalachian State in overtime at Paulson Stadium in this Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 file photo. With the Eagles returning nearly the entire starting lineup from a team that made the semifinals of the 2010 FCS playoffs, expectations should be through the roof. Right? Right.


Let’s call it the “MLB Gap.”
    It’s that long stretch of the year between spring football camp and the start of the season, and while Major League Baseball and NBA playoffs are entertaining enough, there’s just something missing from the sports world when there isn’t really any college football to talk about.
    Plus, the NFL Draft doesn’t have quite the same sheen this year when we’re not even sure if there’s going to be a season in the fall.
    So, with only three sessions left in the spring camp season at GSU, I figured it’s never too early to take a look at the upcoming season and see if we can’t figure out what the Southern Conference may look like in September.
    Here’s the way I see things finishing (for now, anyway):


    —Appalachian State
    I have always been a strong believer that you’re number one until somebody reaches up and takes it from you, so considering that the Mountaineers have won the league — at least a share of it — for six years in a row, it would be crazy to put them anywhere but the top.
    The last time ASU made a major scheme change was when it switched to the spread, and three national championships later, I’d say it was a good idea.
    Another scheme change is underway, as the Mountaineers are changing to a 3-4 defense. And apparently, it’s been shutting down the offense.
    —Georgia Southern   
    The Eagles came the closest of anyone in the SoCon to dethroning Appalachian State last season with an overtime win over the Mountaineers at Paulson Stadium, and then they turned they that victory into a six-game winning streak and a trip to the FCS semifinals.
    Pretty much everyone from that team is back, so it’s a fair reach to say GSU will be an improved team in Jeff Monken’s second year.
    —Chattanooga
    It’s amazing what Russ Huesman has accomplished at Chattanooga in just two years, and the momentum is picking up. With quarterback B.J. Coleman, a transfer from Tennessee, coming back for his third-straight season as the signal-caller, the Mocs will challenge for the SoCon title.
    Huesman is building something up there. The UTC spring game on April 2 had a record crowd after the Mocs fell just short of a playoff bid in 2010.
    —Furman
    A new era began at Furman with the resignation of Bobby Lamb before the Paladins played GSU last season. Lamb’s entire life has been Furman football since the 80s, but FU fans and administrators got what they wanted, Lamb is now the head coach at upstart Mercer and the Bruce Fowler era has officially begun in Greenville.
    There are simply too many question marks at Furman right now, so I figured the fair thing to do would be to put the Paladins just north of the middle of the SoCon pack, right where Lamb left them last season.
    —Wofford
    The offseason in Terriertown has been tumultuous this season, and that’s putting it mildly.
    Since February, five Wofford players have been kicked off the team.
    Still, Mike Ayers has done a lot with a little before, so I guess it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Terriers won more than a few football games in 2011. Of course, another 3-8 season wouldn’t be a huge shocker, either.
    —Samford
    Pat Sullivan’s Bulldogs are jumping on the spread-offense train next season. They lose All-Everything running back Chris Evans (finally), and with a new scheme, the Bulldogs are another SoCon squad with a lot of question marks.
    They’ll try out their new offense in the season opener against Georgia Southern, a team they’ve currently beaten three times in a row.
    —Elon
    No more Pete Lembo. No more Scott Riddle. No more playoffs?
    The Phoenix and first-year head coach Jason Swepson have way too much to overcome in year one of the new era to be anything more than an afterthought in 2011.
    —The Citadel/Western Carolina
    They play each other, so they can’t both finish last.
    ’Nuff said.
    Obviously, a lot can change between now and the opening kickoff of the 2011 season, but fortunately by then you’ll have forgotten about this column and I’ll have a fresh new set of predictions to make.

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

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