The Samford Bulldogs will find out if they’re for real over the course of the next month.
The Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0 Southern Conference) are off to their best start since 1995 and sit at the top of the SoCon with a season-opening, 24-21 win over Furman and a 25-21 win Saturday at Western Carolina.
Samford cracked the Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 coaches poll for the first time as a member of the SoCon, but still hasn’t cracked the media poll.
The Bulldogs will have plenty of chances during the next month, based on four of the next five opponents — Georgia Southern (No. 10), The Citadel (No. 11), Appalachian State (No. 17) and Wofford (No. 6)
Samford faces Georgia Southern (2-1, 1-1) on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Paulson Stadium.
"We cracked the Top 25 for the first time in our conference. But, four the next five teams we play are in the Top 25, so we’ll see where we are," said Samford coach Pat Sullivan.
Sullivan, who took over the program in 2007, a year before joining the SoCon, feels like this group may be the one to get the Bulldogs into the FCS playoffs for the first time.
"I know Pat feels like it’s maybe the best team he’s had since he’s been there," said GSU coach Jeff Monken. "It’s really impressive to see. You talk about people who say, ‘We want to have a balanced attack on offense.’ Well, they really have a balanced attack on offense. (Samford has) 171 rushing yards per game, 213 passing per game, 152 rushing attempts, 136 passing attempts. That’s about as balanced as you can get. We just try to run it to the right and the left the same number of times. They do a great job."
Sullivan knows the Eagles have turned over the football nine times through three games, but doesn’t expect Samford to get the same treatment of GSU giveaways.
"If you (commit turnovers), you get yourself in trouble, but you certainly can’t count on that," said Sullivan. "I don’t think that will happen. Their coaching staff has been working on that, and they’ll get all of that corrected. You hear every coach in America say that if you win the turnover battle and you win the kicking game, you’ve got a chance in every ballgame. That’s what we’ll have to do, and I’m sure that’s what they’ll be working on as well."
Sullivan is 3-1 against Georgia Southern, and 2-0 in Paulson Stadium. The Eagles broke the losing streak with a 31-17 win in the 2011 season opener in Birmingham, Ala.
The Last time the Bulldogs were in Statesboro, they won, 20-13.
"They clearly do a great job of coaching that team," said Monken.
Answering some questions
Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore wasn’t sure what to make of the Mountaineers’ 52-28 loss to The Citadel on Sept. 15.
He was especially worried when the No. 17 Mountaineers (2-2, 1-1) found themselves down 10-0 early against Chattanooga (1-3, 0-1) last Saturday.
ASU got it together and ended up with a 34-17 win.
"Anybody who keeps up with us would have to understand that we didn’t have a clue what would happen up at Chattanooga," said Moore. "We lost the week before, a big loss to The Citadel, and we were down 10-0 at Chattanooga. We battled back, tied it up at halftime, and played pretty solid the whole ballgame really. … I think we kind of labeled ourselves against The Citadel, and we played pretty good at Chattanooga. I hope we’re a football team that continues to get better."
Appalachian State returns to action Saturday when it hosts Coastal Carolina at 3:30 p.m.
NOTES: Western Carolina faces Furman (1-3, 0-1) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Greenville, S.C. The Paladins got their first win of the season last Saturday, defeating Presbyterian, 31-21. … Elon (2-2, 1-0) faces No. 9 Wofford (3-0, 1-0) at home Saturday at 1:30 p.m. … No. 11 Citadel (3-1, 2-0), which lost, 52-14, Saturday at N.C. State, plays host to Chattanooga Saturday at 6 p.m.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.