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IT'S HERE

Football season has begun, so we look to


August 22, 2016

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    And just like that, it’s football season. The college football season kicks off Friday night with Hawaii visiting California.
    Most folks reading this probably couldn’t care less about those teams under normal circumstances. But this weekend will provide the first live college football action since January — so I say it calls for some level of celebration.
    College football kicks off in earnest next week as nearly every Division I team in the country opens its season -- including Georgia Southern, who will host Savannah State in its 2016 season opener at Paulson Stadium next Saturday night.
    We’ll preview that game in next week’s Connect column. This week, I wanted to do a season preview with some very vague predictions. For my preseason week-by-week score predictions, you’ll need to pick up a brand-new Connect off newsstands September.
    Going into the season, I would put every game into one of three categories for the Eagles: on-paper wins, on-paper losses and toss-ups.
    Let’s start with the games Georgia Southern should win — on paper, anyway. The Eagles’ schedule starts relatively light with three consecutive games that look a lot like fairly easy wins (Savannah State, South Alabama, and UL-Monroe). Later in the season, I would also include New Mexico State, Georgia State and Troy as games Southern should win.
    I know, Georgia State smacked the Eagles pretty good last year, but let’s not get into that right now. On paper, Georgia Southern is still a much better team and program than State. Much better. Plus, this year’s game has the revenge factor.
    I hate to say any game Georgia Southern ever plays looks like a loss on paper. But I try to be as realistic as possible — and the Sun Belt and other G-5 conferences historically don’t fare well against Power 5 opponents. Georgia Southern has two such opponents on its schedule this season in Georgia Tech and Ole Miss. Unbiased experts will say Georgia Southern should not win either game. But they don’t play games on paper.
    As for the toss-up games, I’d put Western Michigan, Arkansas State, Appalachian State and UL-Lafayette in this category. Sure, the Eagles pounded Western Michigan last year and UL-Lafayette isn’t predicted to do much this year, but neither of those will be cakewalks. Arkansas State and Appalachian State finished first and second in the conference last year and are picked to finish there again this year. Those games will be tough to say the least.
    Here’s my probably-slightly-biased prediction for the 2016 season. Southern will handle the on-paper wins for the most part, but will stumble in one or two games. I’m predicting (and hoping) in this case, “stumble” means escaping with a win in a game that’s closer than it should be. Prediction: The Eagles go 6-0 in these games.
    In the on-paper losses, I think the Eagles hang tough in both games, but don’t pull off an upset in either Power 5 game. I’d love to be proven wrong, but… Prediction: Eagles go 0-2 in these games.
    As for the toss-up games, I feel like I would be taking the easy way out if I said the Eagles would go 2-2 in games I categorize as toss-ups. So I’ll say the Eagles will go 1-1 against Arkansas State and App State, and will beat both Western Michigan and ULL. Prediction: Eagles go 3-1 in toss-up games.

    Season Prediction: Georgia Southern finishes the regular season with a 9-3 record and earns a second consecutive bowl berth.

    And let’s go ahead and predict that too. I think the New Orleans Bowl will select Georgia Southern this year. I honestly don’t have any reason behind that pick other than it’s something different from last year.
    With a new coaching staff, it’s hard to know exactly what we’re going to get. In my mind, the Eagles could realistically finish anywhere from 6-6 to 10-2. And some games could certainly jump categories as the season progresses.
    I’ll be making weekly predictions that will likely be different from my preseason picks, but I’m optimistic going in. Hopefully I have reason to stay that way as the weeks pass.
    Either way, I couldn’t be happier that toe meets leather in just a matter of days. Football season is here, Eagle Nation!


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