September 28, 2016
Georgia Southern and Georgia State have only played twice in football, but it feels like a rivalry that goes back much further—probably because it has.
The Eagles and Panthers have been longtime rivals not only in other sports—most notably basketball—but also in other ways. One school is smack dab in the middle of a large, urban city while the other is in a smaller college town in rural Georgia. Personally, I prefer the slower-paced, friendly college town to the overcrowded city with almost-hourly traffic gridlock nightmares.
And then there’s the whole “Real GSU” debate. Quite honestly, I think that’s a dumb argument. Both schools are GSU. So is Grambling State University. You don’t hear much of Ohio State and Oregon State arguing over OSU. Or Arizona State and Appalachian State fussing over ASU. Then again, those schools are across the country from each other and seldom play each other. Southern and State are in-state rivals, rural vs. urban, campus vs. commuter, and now Sun Belt conference foes.
There is zero love lost between these two schools. Two years ago, Georgia Southern overwhelmingly outnumbered Georgia State fans in what was technically a home game for State at the Georgia Dome. After a dominating 69-31 win, Eagle cheerleaders whipped out a huge banner that read “Paulson Stadium North”. I can’t imagine that sat well with the dozens of State folks in the building. But Eagle Nation sure loved it.
Last season, while Willie Fritz spent the week leading up to the game interviewing for other jobs, the Panthers came to Statesboro and embarrassed Georgia Southern 34-7 at Paulson Stadium. They then proceeded to embarrass themselves as the entire Georgia State sideline spent much of the game taunting the Southern student section, flipping birds to the entire stadium and generally acting in a way that would make me ashamed to have them represent my university.
As I noted last year, I heard worse stories of things that happened on the Georgia State sideline and locker room, but I only mentioned the things I witnessed with my own eyes. But, if true, none of the other things would really surprise me based on what I saw. I’m just glad that wasn’t my team and I hope nobody representing Georgia Southern in any capacity ever conducts themselves that way. It was atrocious.
I’ll get off my soapbox and get back to this week’s contest. There isn’t a whole lot of hype this time around because both teams have really struggled this season. Georgia State is 2-8 overall, 1-5 in Sun Belt play, and just fired head coach Trent Miles. More or less, the Panthers are right back where they have always been. But unfortunately for Miles, apparently, one six-win season in Atlanta sends expectations through the roof.
Georgia Southern (4-6, 3-3) has not lived up to its potential at all this season, but can still become bowl-eligible with wins in its last two games. It is worth noting that the Eagles are pretty banged up. Third string quarterback and true freshman Seth Shuman played the entire game against UL Lafayette while running back Wesley Fields also sat out.
Injuries or not, the natives are getting restless in Eagle Nation. A program who was 18-7 overall and 14-2 in conference play over the last two seasons has not looked like itself in 2016. I hate to call this a must-win game, but it may be. Losing to a train wreck of a program like Georgia State would not be good at all for Georgia Southern.
Tattler Prediction: I’ve heard rumors some of the injured guys will be ready to suit up this week, plus I’m sure the Eagles haven’t forgotten last season’s game. It remains to be seen if firing the head coach will cause State to completely fall apart or rally together and finish the season strong.
I think Southern wins this one to take a 2-1 all-time series lead.
Eagles 27, Panthers 13