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1. More firsts
Georgia Southern fans have long been known for their intensity, which makes sense. About three and a half decades ago, a school with prime football geography started up a program that, thanks to Erk Russell, immediately won big. In the Eagles' first year (1982), they went 7-3-1, beating UCF and Florida State's JV. In 1985, their second year in what is now FCS, they won the national title. They did it again in their third year and again in their sixth, seventh, 16th, and 17th.
In 34 years, GS has had a losing record only three times, and the Eagles ditched their coach all three times (and in two of those instances, it was the coach's first season). Expectations are intense in Statesboro.
Still, things have been even more hectic than normal of late. After three straight FCS playoff semifinal appearances from 2010-12, GS began its transition to FBS in 2013. With no playoff to shoot for, the Eagles settled for beating Florida. In 2014, with new head coach Willie Fritz, they immediately claimed their first Sun Belt title.
In 2015 came a new set of firsts, and they weren't all happy. First shutout loss since 1992 (44-0 against West Virginia). First Sun Belt loss (a nationally televised stumble at Appalachian State). First humiliating loss to a rival (Georgia State, by 27 points at home). First FBS coaching change.
Mind you, it was still an excellent season. The Eagles won nine games. They scored at least 37 points nine times, they finished 39th in S&P+ (the highest in the Sun Belt), and they ran circles around a good Bowling Green in their first-ever bowl win.
GS showed a level of consistent upside that no other team in the conference could match. And the Eagles hit this level despite relative youth; only one unit featured more than a couple of seniors (the secondary).
Despite losing head coach Jeff Monken to Army after 2013, Georgia Southern's transition has been the most seamless since Marshall came up in the 1990s. Even conference mate Appalachian State, which has won 17 of its last 19 games, stumbled out of the gates in 2014. GS rose to FBS in part because of spite -- if Georgia State was going to create a football program and move up, the Eagles had to, too -- and has looked frequently spectacular.
This team brings back most of what made it good, but for the second time in three years, Georgia Southern breaks in a new head coach. Fritz left for Tulane and was replaced by former UCF and Colorado State defensive coordinator Tyson Summers. He inherits a boatload of defensive talent that he should find to his liking, but at a school that has defined itself by its option attack, his offensive changes (or lack thereof) will define the start to his tenure.
2015 Schedule & Results
|Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 48 | Final S&P+ Rk: 39|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|5-Sep||at West Virginia||31||0-44||L||1%||0%||-36.0||-24.5|
|17-Oct||New Mexico State||118||56-26||W||96%||100%||+17.7||+1.0|
|22-Oct||at Appalachian State||42||13-31||L||19%||1%||-9.5||-11.5|
|23-Dec||vs. Bowling Green||25||58-27||W||86%||96%||+40.8||+38.5|
|Points Per Game||36.5||25||23.5||38|
2. Few unsure outcomes
Either it worked, or it didn't. The in-between was almost non-existent. While teams almost always look better in wins than losses, the spread between Georgia Southern's nine wins and four losses was stunning.
- Nine GS wins:
Average percentile performance: 88% (~top 15) | Average score: GS 49, Opp 19 | Yards per play: GS 7.4, Opp 4.8
- Four GS losses:
Average percentile performance: 13% (~top 115) | Average score: Opp 33, GS 9 | Yards per play: Opp 6.9, GS 3.9
Southern faced five S&P+ top-60 teams, crushed two, got crushed by two, and fell in overtime to Georgia.
Against lesser teams, GS was mostly great but got pounded by Georgia State in the ultimate nerd-beats-up-bully moment.
This was a strange season. The only game decided by fewer than 18 was the Georgia game, but even that wasn't as close on paper. Georgia outgained Southern by 1.1 yards per play, which usually translates to an easy win, but lost two fumbles in Eagle territory.
Fragility is common in a younger team, and all it takes is a look at the returnees to realize there weren't a lot of seniors. Now, but few teams boast the raw volume of experience that Georgia Southern can.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||44.9%||27||Succ. Rt. +||105.2||53|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||27.4||19||Def. FP+||30.3||81|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.7||40||Redzone S&P+||96.5||94|
|Q1 Rk||87||1st Down Rk||34|
|Q2 Rk||20||2nd Down Rk||40|
|Q3 Rk||66||3rd Down Rk||35|
3. A beautiful, staid identity
What Southern feared most was a repeat of the man referred to throughout Statesboro as "That Coach," Brian VanGorder. The current Notre Dame defensive coordinator was GS' head coach in 2006. He dumped tradition -- the triple-option, the buses, etc. -- in favor of appealing to top recruits.
The move infuriated [former Georgia Southern and current Georgia Tech head coach Paul] Johnson, who wanted his Navy program to schedule Southern so he "could beat 'That Coach's' ass," as the story goes.
"Oh yeah, it really sounded sexy when someone came in and said they were going to throw the ball all over the field, until they didn’t win any playoff games and started losing five, six times a season," Johnson said. "Then it wasn’t so much fun."
Last spring, my podcast mate Steven Godfrey wrote about Georgia Southern's long relationships with winning and playing option football. It was a great look at how culture isn't just created by the current coach. Fritz inherited a culture and thrived with it, winning 18 games in two years.
But Summers is a defensive guy. He's not married to any offensive system, and that made people nervous. He's made some reassurances.
"For those of you wanting to ask, we are going to look (offensively) the way we look now," he said. "It'll be the gun option ... the gun, triple-option. What we've got to do is be able to throw the ball."
Still, his coordinator hires were interesting. Summers brought in two locals -- former Valdosta State head coach David Dean and former Valdosta high school coach Rance Gillespie -- as co-coordinators. Gillespie was Chris Hatcher's offensive coordinator at GS from 2007-09, when he helped unsuccessfully shift from running 75 percent of the time in 2007 to throwing 54 percent of the time in 2009. Meanwhile, at Valdosta State last year, Dean's squad ran just 53 percent of the time.
Good coaches adapt to personnel, and Dean and Gillespie are inheriting some of the nation's best option personnel. They wouldn't be able to break into a 50-50 pass attack even if they wanted to. But it will be interesting to see what tendencies change.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Kevin Ellison||6'0, 195||Sr.||NR||NR||40||89||597||4||5||44.9%||4||4.3%||6.1|
|Favian Upshaw||6'1, 170||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8128||19||48||227||0||5||39.6%||2||4.0%||4.3|
|Vegas Harley||5'11, 185||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8293|
|Hampton McConnell||6'2, 190||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7979|
|Shai Werts||5'11, 188||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7951|
|Seth Shuman||6'1, 195||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7911|
|Matt Breida||RB||5'10, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7593||204||1615||17||7.9||10.9||41.2%||3||1|
|L.A. Ramsby||RB||5'11, 210||Jr.||NR||NR||165||816||13||4.9||4.1||40.0%||2||1|
|Kevin Ellison||QB||6'0, 195||Sr.||NR||NR||110||743||8||6.8||8.1||42.7%||5||3|
|Wesley Fields||RB||5'10, 195||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8364||101||682||7||6.8||8.3||39.6%||0||0|
|Favian Upshaw||QB||6'1, 170||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8128||78||594||6||7.6||10.8||44.9%||4||1|
|Chaz Thornton||RB||5'7, 185||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7683||20||137||1||6.9||11.4||35.0%||1||1|
|Noah Hickey||RB||5'7, 205||So.||NR||NR||9||65||0||7.2||13.7||33.3%||1||1|
|Vegas Harley||QB||5'11, 185||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8293||9||58||1||6.4||7.0||44.4%||1||1|
|Thomas Banks||RB||5'10, 195||So.||NR||NR||7||11||0||1.6||0.0||0.0%||0||0|
|Jermany Hawkins||RB||5'10, 207||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8315|
4. So many weapons
For nine of last year's 13 games, Georgia Southern's option was so crisp that it was able to overcome youth on the offensive line. Two freshmen and a sophomore combined for 27 of GS' 65 starts. The Eagles' line stats were only okay (52nd in Adj. Line Yards), but they ranked ninth overall in Rushing S&P+ regardless. That's how good quarterbacks Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw were, and that's how absurdly explosive the running backs were.
Fifty-one FBS running backs carried at least 200 times in 2015. Of these, only 15 had an opportunity rate of at least 41 percent, and seven averaged at least seven highlight yards per opportunity. Two did both: Florida State's Dalvin Cook and GS' Matt Breida. They were among the nation's most efficient feature backs, and they were by far the two most explosive.
Highlight Yards per Opportunity (FBS RBs with at least 200 carries and 41 percent opportunity rates):
- Breida (10.9 hlt/opp, 41.2 percent opportunity rate)
- Cook (10.1, 41.1 percent)
- Leonard Fournette, LSU (6.8, 44.4 percent)
- Marlon Mack, USF (6.7, 44.8 percent)
- DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech (6.3, 42.9 percent)
Nobody else came close.
Breida is back, as are L.A. Ramsby (4.1, 40.0 percent), Wesley Fields (6.8, 39.6 percent), and Chaz Thornton (11.4, 35.0 percent). That's an embarrassment of option riches.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|BJ Johnson||WR-Y||6'1, 212||Sr.||NR||NR||32||15||249||46.9%||25.8%||7.8||53.1%||46.9%||1.52|
|Myles Campbell||WR-Y||5'5, 160||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||16||8||130||50.0%||12.9%||8.1||37.5%||50.0%||1.51|
|L.A. Ramsby||RB||5'11, 210||Jr.||NR||NR||6||4||14||66.7%||4.8%||2.3||16.7%||0.0%||0.00|
|Wesley Fields||RB||5'10, 195||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8364||5||4||105||80.0%||4.0%||21.0||60.0%||80.0%||2.73|
|Matt Breida||RB||5'10, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7593||5||3||6||60.0%||4.0%||1.2||60.0%||20.0%||0.68|
|Keigan Williams||WR-X||6'1, 205||Sr.||NR||NR||4||3||50||75.0%||3.2%||12.5||50.0%||75.0%||1.73|
|Montay Crockett||WR-Z||6'0, 180||Sr.||NR||NR||4||1||31||25.0%||3.2%||7.8||25.0%||25.0%||3.59|
|Malik Henry||WR-Z||6'0, 170||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7811||3||2||46||66.7%||2.4%||15.3||0.0%||66.7%||2.17|
|Isaiah Seise||TE||6'1, 239||So.||NR||NR||1||0||0||0.0%||0.8%||0.0||0.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Obe Fortune||WR||6'1, 178||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8028|
|J.L. Banks||TE||6'2, 230||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793|
|Darion Anderson||WR||6'0, 176||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8722|
|Michael Jackson||WR||5'10, 169||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8700|
|Mark Michaud||TE||6'4, 210||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8006|
|Chris Barrett||TE||6'3, 230||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7959|
5. How much can the passing game improve?
Because Georgia Southern was so married to the option (even running the ball two-thirds of the time on passing downs) and so good at it, the Eagles were able to dig out of some passing-downs holes without putting their QBs in obvious-pass situations. That's good because, while the bowl game was a rousing success, the passing was mediocre at best.
Even with the threat of the option creating strong play-action opportunities, Ellison and Upshaw only combined to average 5.5 yards per pass with a dismal 43 percent completion rate. Starting Z receiver Derek Keaton caught just six of 25 passes, and go-to guy B.J. Johnson caught 15 of 32.
If passing improves, it might be because of young receivers. Keaton is back, as is No. 4 target Myles Campbell, but there is a load of former star recruits beneath the surface. Redshirt freshman Obe Fortune was nearly rated a four-star recruit by Rivals, and incoming freshman Darion Anderson was nearly a four-star per the 247Sports Composite. In all, six true or redshirt freshmen were deemed either high-two- or three-star recruits, including three tight ends. If the quarterbacks can deliver, it appears that there is a lot of young potential.
Of course, relying on young receivers rarely gets you very far. But thanks to the run, the passing game only really needs to improve by so much.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Darien Foreman||LG||13||29||2015 1st All-Sun Belt|
|Andy Kwon||C||6'2, 295||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7667||13||13||2015 2nd All-Sun Belt|
|Tommy Boynton||RT||6'4, 300||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7200||13||13|
|Jeremiah Culbreth||LT||6'3, 300||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8252||11||11|
|Ryan Northrup||RG||6'2, 290||So.||NR||NR||3||3|
|Max Magana||LT||6'6, 290||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7826||2||2|
|Curtis Rainey||C||6'2, 297||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7817||0||0|
|Heath Warren||RT||6'3, 250||Jr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Christian Taylor||OL||6'5, 335||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8120||0||0|
|Tristan Hill||OL||6'4, 275||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8100||0||0|
|Jeremiah Theus||OL||6'4, 285||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8004|
|Drew Wilson||OL||6'4, 300||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8475|
|Lawrence Edwards||OL||6'6, 258||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8377|
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.6%||37||Succ. Rt. +||106.2||47|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||35.6||1||Off. FP+||32.2||20|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.6||84||Redzone S&P+||107.2||39|
|Q1 Rk||36||1st Down Rk||49|
|Q2 Rk||25||2nd Down Rk||96|
|Q3 Rk||79||3rd Down Rk||9|
6. A Summers-Costantini defense
Back at the turn of the century, when Paul Johnson was winning national titles, Summers was a linebacker and captain at Presbyterian. The 35-year-old has risen quickly, spending a few years as a graduate assistant before becoming safeties coach at Georgia Southern in 2006, moving to UAB for five years, then up to coordinator for George O'Leary at UCF in 2014.
His lone UCF defense rose from 48th in Def. S&P+ in the previous year to 34th, and for whatever it's worth, it fell to 112th in his absence. Summers ended up at Colorado State, and his only Rams defense improved only from 92nd to 88th.
Summers chose former UCF defensive line coach Lorenzo Costantini as his first coordinator.
Summers has been pretty good at utilizing whatever speed he can find in the front seven, particularly at linebacker. The starters in his UCF linebacking corps combined for 26.5 tackles for loss and 14 passes defensed; his Colorado State defense ranked seventh in linebacker havoc rate.
Summers and Costantini should find plenty to like about what they're inheriting.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jamal Johnson||DT||6'2, 245||Sr.||NR||NR||13||30.0||4.9%||6.5||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jay Ellison||NT||6'1, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8490||13||23.5||3.8%||3.5||2.5||1||0||0||0|
|Logan Hunt||DE||6'1, 247||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8181||13||22.0||3.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Bernard Dawson||DE||6'1, 248||Sr.||NR||NR||13||20.0||3.3%||6.0||4.0||0||0||0||0|
|Darrius Sapp||DT||6'1, 330||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8161||13||15.0||2.5%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan George||DE||6'1, 244||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7956||12||13.0||2.1%||4.0||3.5||0||0||0||0|
|Ross Alexander||DE||6'2, 237||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7900||13||6.5||1.1%||0.0||0.0||1||0||0||0|
|Nardo Govan||DE||6'2, 250||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||NR||11||5.5||0.9%||1.0||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Zack Copeland||DE||6'1, 250||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7694||9||4.0||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tre Griffin||DE||6'1, 245||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8191||12||3.5||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jalen Green-Stewart||NT||6'1, 277||So.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||6||3.0||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ian Bush||DT||6'0, 301||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8000||4||2.0||0.3%||0.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Sean Gaddy||DT||6'0, 270||Sr.||NR||NR||3||1.5||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Trayvon Williams||DT||6'2, 318||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8379|
|J.B. Kouassi||DE||6'2, 226||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8185|
|Deshon Cooper||DE||6'3, 240||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8439|
|Darius Roper||DT||6'3, 270||Jr.||NR||0.8000|
|Traver Vliem||DE||6'4, 237||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8148|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Ironhead Gallon||LB||5'9, 210||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||13||61.0||10.0%||4.5||1.5||0||3||0||0|
|Chris DeLaRosa||LB||6'1, 230||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7683||13||35.5||5.8%||4.0||1.0||0||0||2||0|
|William Bussey||LB||6'0, 215||Sr.||NR||NR||13||9.5||1.6%||2.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ken Butler||LB||5'11, 220||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8200||11||8.0||1.3%||0.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Kurt Oehlbeck||LB||5'10, 180||Jr.||NR||NR|
|LB||6'2, 239||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9664|
|Todd Bradley||LB||6'0, 215||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8113|
7. So much returning up front
To be sure, there are toys in the toy box up front. GS ranked 17th in Adj. Line Yards and made stops on 53 percent of short-yardage situations (fourth in FBS). And almost literally everybody in the front seven returns.
The line went six deep; all six are back and will be joined by three-star JUCO transfers Deshon Cooper and Darius Roper. The linebacking corps basically went five deep; four return and are joined by Florida State transfer and former four-star Ukeme Eligwe.
The lone loss is linebacker Antwione Williams, and that isn't a trivial loss. Williams was the front seven's best havoc player, recruiting 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four forced fumbles, and three pass break-ups. But there might be enough candidates to absorb that.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Darius Jones||NB||5'9, 180||Sr.||NR||NR||13||27.0||4.4%||2||0||2||4||0||0|
|RJ Murray||FS||5'11, 198||So.||NR||NR||8||5.0||0.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Robert Brice||S||5'11, 205||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||3||5.0||0.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Rayquan Sam||CB||5'9, 180||Sr.||NR||NR||13||3.5||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Joshua Moon||S||5'11, 178||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8364||5||2.0||0.3%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jessie Liptrot||CB||5'11, 175||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8173|
|Jay Bowdry||S||5'11, 169||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8063|
|Christian Matthew||CB||6'2, 166||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8225|
|Monquavion Brinson||CB||5'11, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8472|
|Martial Washington||S||6'3, 203||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8248|
|Rakeen Hightower||S||6'0, 190||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8170|
|Kindle Vildor||DB||5'11, 177||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8006|
8. One giant, terrifying question mark
And here we have it: Georgia Southern's blatant red flag. I've written lately about the statistical impact of returning production in the secondary, and the Eagles have almost none.
Gone are six players (three cornerbacks, three safeties) who combined for 30 percent of Georgia Southern's tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, 31 break-ups, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.
With only a mediocre passing downs pass rush, Georgia Southern was devastating -- ninth in the country -- on passing downs. They weren't always good at forcing them, but they almost always capitalized on them, and the secondary was a huge reason.
Fritz did not leave the cupboard bare, at least as far as athleticism is concerned. The Eagles have eight who were three-stars per 247: sophomore Joshua Moon, three redshirt freshmen, and four incoming freshmen, including Monquavion Brinson, one of the stars of the Sun Belt's best signing class. With some experience, this should be one hell of a secondary.
But one has to figure there will be regression in 2016, and the amount might determine whether Georgia Southern is the Sun Belt favorite heading into November.
|Matt Flynn||6'0, 200||Jr.||8||41.0||1||1||1||25.0%|
|Younghoe Koo||5'10, 190||Sr.||67||62.4||45||0||67.2%|
|Younghoe Koo||5'10, 190||Sr.||28-28||5-7||71.4%||2-2||100.0%|
|Montay Crockett||KR||6'0, 180||Sr.||3||14.7||0|
|Deshawntee Gallon||PR||5'9, 210||Sr.||2||16.5||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||34|
|Field Goal Efficiency||72|
|Punt Return Success Rate||7|
|Kick Return Success Rate||25|
|Punt Success Rate||60|
|Kickoff Success Rate||6|
9. Replacing some field position weapons
Georgia Southern was a fantastic field position team, ranking fourth in overall field position margin (plus-8.2 yards per possession) and first in offensive starting field position (35.6). Return man Derek Keaton was a huge reason for that; though he didn't score any touchdowns via return, his averages (15.3 yards on punt returns, 25.9 on kicks) were massive. His absence could be significant, though the return of strong kickoffs man Younghoe Koo will help.
2016 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|10-Sep||at South Alabama||115||13.8||79%|
|24-Sep||at Western Michigan||65||-1.5||46%|
|5-Oct||at Arkansas State||89||4.6||60%|
|15-Oct||at Georgia Tech||54||-3.4||42%|
|22-Oct||at New Mexico State||117||14.3||80%|
|5-Nov||at Ole Miss||7||-18.0||15%|
|19-Nov||at Georgia State||105||10.1||72%|
|Projected wins: 8.1|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||8.4% (49)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||95 / 106|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||6 / 6.5|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-0.2|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||69% (89%, 48%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||9.0 (0.0)|
10. Everything happens in October
Georgia Southern's season starts and ends in cooperative fashion; the Eagles have at least a 72 percent chance of winning in each of its first three and last three games. At worst, the Eagles should go about 5-1 in these.
Then there's the middle. In a span of five games, GS plays four straight on the road (and three of the four are against potentially strong teams), then returns home to host Appalachian State. Oh yeah, and then the Eagles head to Ole Miss. Wow.
That gauntlet will define how we view Summers' first season. Ole Miss is probably going to be quite good, but at least five of those six games are winnable; in fact, the Eagles have a 42 percent or better in each of five. But as many as five are losable.
Georgia Southern should be excellent again, likely the third-best team in the Sun Belt at worst (or fourth if you believe in Troy). And with a win at Arkansas State on October 5, the Eagles would host Appalachian State as the Sun Belt favorite.
But matching last year's nine-win output would be impressive with this schedule, and things could skew in a good or bad direction based on how well the new offensive coaching syncs with personnel and how well the pass defense holds up. It's fun writing about this team, and I hope the Eagles do well.