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My Take: Truly the dawn of a new Georgia Southern era

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My Take: Truly the dawn of a new Georgia Southern era


Did you notice anything different in the air when you woke up Tuesday morning? Was there a sense of newness, wonder and anticipation that wasn’t present on Monday?
    Probably not.
    But if you’re a Georgia Southern fan, everything just changed.
    The Eagles are now officially in the Sun Belt Conference, and when it comes to who they play, where they play, how they travel, who visits Statesboro to play and even the implications of wins and losses, everything’s new.
    The pond just turned into an ocean, and for all intents and purposes, Georgia Southern is the same-sized fish it was yesterday.
    I’ve heard the argument that even though the GSU football program is now a member of the FBS, it’s still not playing with the “big boys.” Big boy football, I’m told, is still only being played in the power conferences.
    And that just simply isn’t true.
    Is it true that Arkansas is better at football than Arkansas State? That Georgia Tech is better than Georgia State? That LSU is better than Louisiana-Lafayette? That Georgia is better than Georgia Southern? Is Texas better than Texas State? You get the idea. And the answer to all those questions is generally yes.
    But just because the so-called big boys are better at football than the Sun Belt and Conference USA programs of the world doesn't mean they aren’t playing “with the big boys.” And that isn't even really even the point.
    Georgia Southern has spent the better part of three decades hitting its head against the ceiling of the FCS (formerly called I-AA, but regardless the identity crisis of the second tier of college football is no longer a concern for the Eagles), and now, the the new ceiling, the FBS ceiling, isn't even in view. Truth is, nobody knows how high it goes for GSU.
    The growth of the program, even over the last few short months, is obvious. Look at the new, improved Paulson Stadium. Look at the football schedule. Every conference game will stream online and four games have already been picked up for regional or national TV coverage.
    Look at the national news outlets that have been giving Georgia Southern offseason coverage. Sure, the mentions are small, but small is better than nothing.
    The growth lately has been fast, but it’s only just beginning.
    And with growth comes growing pains. Winning just got harder. It’ll be harder to recruit talent on par with other surrounding FBS schools. Scoring got harder. Playing defense got harder. Every first down, every yard just got harder.
Whether the Eagles win one game or 12 games this fall, it’ll be a challenge.
    Everything’s a challenge. Right now, the Eagles are fighting to prove they belong with the rest of the Sun Belt. Eventually, whether it takes a year or a decade, they’ll be fighting to prove they’re the best the Sun Belt has to offer. Then they’ll be fighting to prove they can win Bowl games against the best the nation has to offer.
    Playing for FCS national championships was great for Georgia Southern, and winning six of them, was an amazing accomplishment. But the show has moved from the pond to the ocean, and there are some mighty big fish swimming in it. The only way to avoid getting eaten is to grow, and the process has officially started.

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

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