So, this isn’t how any Georgia Southern fans expected the 2017 season to go.
On the contrary, the Eagles are off to their worst start — by far — in the program’s modern history and may well set an unwanted record for most losses in a season if things don’t change quickly.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to be salvaged from this season. It has already been settled that the Eagles will miss a bowl game for a second consecutive season and, depending on how interim head coach Chad Lunsford does over the final month, could spend the offseason conducting a third coaching search in five seasons.
To say that it’s been a rocky road would be an understatement, but the Eagles have a chance to claim a measure of success this weekend.
Headed to town on Saturday are the Panthers of Georgia State. The Eagles’ in-state foes have recovered from a rough start of their own and at 4-3 are still in position to reach a bowl game. Missing out on the postseason while Georgia State goes bowling would be a tough pill to swallow for Eagle fans, but the more pressing issue is the current two-game winning streak held by the Panthers in the head-to-head series.
Every win or sign of progress that the Eagles can manage over the final month of play will be welcomed. That said, a win over Georgia State would go a longer way than most other possible accomplishments in terms of setting the program back on the right track.
Right now, it’s what the Eagles are doing to themselves that is of bigger concern than what any given opponents bring to the table.
Not a week goes by where breakdowns aren’t spelling doom for Georgia Southern. From games where the offense has sputtered, to a season-long issue with racking up penalties, to the recent unwanted trend of giving up fistfuls of big passing plays, the bad has continuously outweighed any good the Eagles have come up with.
Now it’s time for Georgia Southern to finally get over the hump.
Owning up to this season’s shortcomings is a good first step, but that isn’t good for much if the Eagles can’t find a way to fix them.
Taking on a rival in what is sure to be a game full of emotion could help with that. The goal of winning the Sun Belt or making a bowl game is gone, but the desire to take down an in-state rival should still provide enough kindling to get the Eagles fired up.
Several years ago, it would would have seemed ridiculous to imagine the Panthers coming to town with bowl aspirations while Georgia Southern was the team being brought up in the weekly ‘Worst Of’ polls. But that’s where things stand. And every second spent feeling bad about the situation is a second longer it will take to get things back to where they should be.
Taking down the Panthers won’t magically put the program back together, although it would be a nice change of pace to see Georgia State fans struggle to figure out what went wrong for a change.
All of the pressure on Saturday will be on State. They’re the ones who are favored. They’re the ones who are still in search of bowl eligibility and they’re the ones with a winning streak in the series to defend.
To put it simply, Georgia Southern is — even if just for this season — the underdog it used to be. The Eagles have spent their entire modern history defeating the odds and succeeding where failure seemed to be the only option. And if the current situation is to turn around anytime soon, it’s going to take plenty of instances of the Eagles’ track record of overcoming and overachieving in the face of tough odds.
Even amongst the darkest of days for Georgia Southern, a win over that team from Atlanta will provide a few hours of sunshine.