Just under a month ago, Georgia Southern headed out to Louisiana-Lafayette with plenty of questions buzzing around the program.
On one hand, many fans were looking at the wealth of experience throughout most of the depth chart and wondering if 2020 could be the season that the Eagles finally get back to the top of the Sun Belt mountain. On the other, a harrowingly-close 27-26 win over FCS Campbell in the Eagles’ first game had plenty of others ready to claim that the sky was falling.
The Eagles ultimately went on to lose to ULL in the final seconds. Some saw that as a good sign as the Ragin’ Cajuns were ranked 19th in the nation at the time and the overwhelming favorite to win the western division. The pendulum then swung back the other direction again as Georgia Southern nearly blew a three-possession lead to a UL Monroe team that has been overwhelmed by every other opponent it has faced.
The latest point of data for the Eagles is a 41-0 pasting of Massachusetts over the weekend. And again, there are different ways to view it. Even on his best day, Lou Holtz would have a hard time building up the narrative that UMass — a 1-11 team last season that didn’t know it would even play a game this season until two weeks ago — was going to be a big obstacle.
But still, there’s something to be said for a dominant defensive effort from the Eagles and an offense that, safe for a fumble and a penalty or two, executed just about everything that was drawn up for it.
And now comes another huge test and/or opportunity for Georgia Southern.
Appalachian State has been the gold standard in the eastern division for the last two years, but it’s Coastal Carolina that currently holds a national ranking. And guess who’s up next for the Eagles?
Georgia Southern has done a stellar job in its marquee conference games as of late. The Eagles took down a loaded Arkansas State team in dramatic fashion in 2018 and has handed App State nationally televised losses in each of the last two seasons. If the hype is to be believed about the Chanticleers, this could be the exact type of game in which the Eagles seem to thrive.
If the Eagles want to pull off another upset, they’ll need to carry over some offense from last weekend while simultaneously figuring out how to slow down a CCU attack that is averaging over 40 points per game. And that offense will look rather familiar to Eagle players and fans alike as Coastal head coach Jamey Chadwell and his option attack were once seen as a possible fit for Georgia Southern during the 2015 coaching search that ultimately resulted in the Eagles hiring Tyson Summers while Chadwell moved from the top spot at Charleston Southern to the offensive coordinator with the Chanticleers before serving as interim head coach in 2017 and taking the helm officially in 2018.
He has certainly provided results for Coastal so far. And while both teams love to run option and take big shots at calculated moments, it will still be a bit of contrasting styles. The Chants have been more free-flowing and high-paced while the Eagles have tended to focus more on ball control, sustaining drives and minimizing mistakes and negative plays.
Of course, even that hasn’t been totally true for the Eagles as they showed multiple new formations and took to the air more than usual against UMass.
Slowing building the playbook? Testing things against an overmatched opponent? Throwing something on the game tape, just to make Coastal think about it?
It could be any of those things. It could be none of them.
With so many questions still surrounding the Eagles, one thing is certain. Georgia Southern once again has the chance to insert itself right into the heart of a conference title battle and Saturday will be its best chance yet to stake that claim on a big stage.