Through two games, the Georgia Southern football squad is right where any team would want to be. The Eagles sit at 2-0 overall and 1-0 in Sun Belt Conference play following last week’s win over South Alabama in Mobile.
That sort of start would be enough to put most fan bases on top of the world, but most fan bases are Georgia Southern’s.
And that’s not a bad thing - it’s just a state of mind that needs to be taken with a grain of sald.
By most measures, the Eagles have utterly dominated the first two games of 2016. Georgia Southern holds a 78-9 scoring advantage over its opponents and hasn’t allowed a touchdown since the first half of last season’s GoDaddy Bowl.
Then again, there are a few questions floating around.
Savannah State wasn’t embarrassed quite as thoroughly this time around as it was two seasons ago when the Tigers made their last trip to Paulson Stadium. Likewise, South Alabama was punchless against the Eagles for a second straight season, but allowed 31 fewer points.
All I can say is that - if this is what constitutes a concerning state of affairs - the Eagles are doing just fine.
Back in the old FCS days, weekly dominance was important. It’s what allowed Georgia Southern to move up in the rankings and what provided for more home games once the playoffs came around. At the FBS level - where there are far fewer easy games and more tilts against teams from the nation’s top conferences - the goal has much more to do with surviving each week.
Maybe the selection committee for the national championship playoff needs to be wowed by style points, but for the time being, Georgia Southern is much more concerned with conference standings and bowl eligibility. In the Eagles’ new world, closer-than-expected wins over weaker teams don’t hurt at all if the Eagles can find a way to win the games that are toss-ups or expected losses.
It should also be said that the scores of the first two games don’t exactly reflect just how dominant Georgia Southern has been.
Maybe the Eagles failed to put up another 80-plus points on Savannah State, but the Tigers were also sitting on fewer than 100 yards of total offense with less than a minute remaining in the game. And last week, South Alabama made three trips to the red zone, only to walk away with a total of six points for its trouble.
Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves.
Georgia Southern is just as dominant as ever - it’s just showing on the defensive side nowadays.
In two games, there have already been countless hurries of quarterbacks dropping back to pass. The Eagles already have a great head start on an end-of-season highlight reel of huge hits and the play selection of opponents who drive into Georgia Southern territory makes it obvious that they don’t expect to be there much and are trying to make the most of their opportunity.
For nearly the entire modern existence of Georgia Southern football, the big plays and talking points have been supplied by the offense. I guess it just takes a little adjusting to realize that the Eagles haven’t missed a beat in the department of overwhelming opponents, but that the dominance is coming on the other side of the ball.
For those who still aren’t comfortable with this change, take solace in the fact that the Eagles aren’t exactly slacking in their normal offensive capabilities. A lack of long scoring plays may have some concerned about the offense’s explosiveness, but the Eagles are still imposing their will on most offensive drives.
Georgia Southern is averaging just under 6.5 yards per play this season. Even if the game against an overmatched Savannah State is taken out of the equation, the Eagles still got more than six yards per snap against South Alabama.
That’s impressive in its own right and stands out even more when considering that there aren’t any 70 and 80 yard highlights inflating the average. In fact, with all of the experience and speed along the skill positions of the Georgia Southern offense, it can be argued that the lack of huge scoring plays is more of a fluke than the offense’s stellar numbers that don’t have big plays to lean on.
Huge plays on either side of the ball are great. They definitely contribute to wins and can turn any game on a dime.
But they are also just a few blips in the grand scheme of things. The turnovers and trick plays and 80-yard runs will keep fans happy while binge-watching YouTube clips in the offseason, but it’s the workmanlike consistency that the Eagles are currently showcasing on both sides of the ball that makes the bigger difference during the actual season.
Maybe Georgia Southern fans should take a step back if these first two games are really going to be considered ‘ho-hum’ results. There are plenty of teams that would love to be in the Eagles’ current position. And if the Eagles really do ramp up the excitement from their current level of success - well, it’s going to be a fun season, no matter the threshold for what you consider to be a dominant effort from Georgia Southern.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.