A year ago, the Eagles were making their first playoff appearance in four seasons – a somewhat unexpected twist to a once-common event because a new coaching regime was making wholesale changes.
But after advancing to the final four last season, Georgia Southern isn’t sneaking up on anyone this season.
The Eagles (9-2) began the 2011 campaign ranked in the top four, spent seven weeks at No. 1 and finished a third seed to begin the 20-team playoffs.
Their first opportunity to begin a run to a seventh national championship comes today at 1 p.m. in Paulson Stadium against Colonial Athletic Association runner-up Old Dominion.
“Last year’s team didn’t have anyone who had gone to the playoffs so there was a lot of excitement just being there,” Georgia Southern defensive end Brent Russell said. “It was fun winning each week and surprising people. This year, it wasn’t as big a surprise (to make the playoffs), but it’s the same mentality. You better come out ready to fight for 60 minutes. You either win or go home.”
The Eagles are making their 18th appearance in the playoffs, and their 41 postseason victories and six titles are both FCS records.
Old Dominion halted its football program at the start of World War II and restarted it only three years ago.
In that time, the Monarchs have shot to the elite of the FCS, posting a 27-7 record. This season, Old Dominion moved up to the CAA but continued to win, going 10-2 after defeating Norfolk State 35-18 in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Monarchs don’t seem to be in awe of the situation.
“Every game (this season) has been like a playoff game, that’s how we’ve treated them,” defensive lineman Ronnie Coleman said. “Every game has been our biggest game because that’s how it has come down.”
The Monarchs have won four in a row.