Georgia Southern ready for transition to Sun Belt Conference

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Georgia Southern remains the team to beat in the Southern Conference as it begins its transition to the Sun Belt and Football Bowl Subdivision status.

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Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken's team is in transition to the Sun Belt, of the Football Bowl Subdivision, and won't be eligible for the Southern Conference title or Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2013.  RICHARD BURKHART/MORRIS NEWS SERVICE
RICHARD BURKHART/MORRIS NEWS SERVICE
Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken's team is in transition to the Sun Belt, of the Football Bowl Subdivision, and won't be eligible for the Southern Conference title or Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2013.

That leaves the Eagles with a goal of a perfect 2013 regular season, especially in conference games. Georgia Southern isn’t eligible for the league title or Football Championship Subdivision playoffs this season because it will play with more than the maximum 63 scholarships allowed by FCS standards.

The Eagles will play a Sun Belt schedule in 2014 but won’t be eligible for a bowl until 2015.

Coach Jeff Monken said Georgia Southern must average 76.2 scholarships in 2013 and 2014. Monken says he doesn’t expect many changes in recruiting and says he and his staff will still go after many of the same players.

Georgia Southern wins on the ground with its triple-option attack. It led the nation with its average of 399.4 yards rushing in 2012 and plans more of the same this year.

Monken says quarterback Jerick McKinnon is the perfect example of a player he’d take on either level. McKinnon had 1,817 yards rushing with 20 touchdowns in 2012 in the run-first offense. Running back Dominique Swope added 1,251 yards rushing last year.

Monken said he regrets his team is left somewhat in limbo during its transition. He says no one can deny Georgia Southern is the top Southern Conference team if it goes 8-0 in its last run through the conference.

Conference coaches and media picked Georgia Southern to win the league.

“It would be hard for anyone to argue we aren’t Southern Conference champions if we go 8-0, even though we’re not eligible for the postseason,” Monken said.

The Eagles finished 10-4 overall and 6-2 to win the Southern Conference last year. Georgia Southern lost to North Dakota State in the FCS semifinals.

Ga. Southern

FROM THE SIDELINE

Jeff Monken has won 31 games the previous three seasons and restored Georgia Southern back to national prominence.

ON THE HOT SEAT

There’s no heat on Monken. Instead, he and his coaching staff are probably putting pressure on themselves to sustain their success and carry some momentum into their move next season into Football Bowl Subdivision play.

MUST SEE GAME

At Appalachian State, Oct. 26. The Mountaineers have defeated the Eagles the past two seasons in a pair of close contests.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Jerick McKinnon (Sr.), FB Dominique Swope (Jr.), WR Zach Walker (Jr.), DE Javon Mention (Sr.)

LOCAL PLAYERS

RB Chris Jordan (Thomson), Fr.; K Connor Tierney (Aquinas), Fr.; FB William Banks (Augusta Christian), Sr.; DB William Bussey (Thomson), Fr.; CB Clifford Saggus (Evans), Soph.; DL Bernard Dawson (Thomson), Fr.; TE Dylan Turner (Greenbrier), Jr.; TE Da’Quan Heard (Washington-Wilkes), Fr.

EAGLES WIN IF …

They go undefeated in conference play. Even if the Eagles claim the Southern Division crown, they will be ineligible for postseason play as they transition to Sun Belt Conference play next season.

EAGLES WON’T WIN IF …

The McKinnon-Swope attack gets slowed down. Last season, the pair combined for more than 3,000 rushing yards, 36 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards a carry. McKinnon also threw for 597 yards and seven touchdowns.


SCHEDULE

Aug. 31 Savannah State 6

Sept. 7 St. Francis (Pa.) 6

Sept. 14 at Wofford 7

Sept. 28 Chattanooga 6

Oct. 5 at Samford 3

Oct. 12 The Citadel 1

Oct. 26 at Appalachian St. 3:30

Nov. 2 Furman 2

Nov. 9 Western Carolina 2

Nov. 16 at Elon 3

Nov. 23 at Florida TBA

– From staff and wire reports


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