Georgia Southern’s 2018 Raycom Camellia Bowl trophy has been displayed, the 2019 football roster has been updated and the spring game has come and passed. Tickets have gone on sale and promotions for the 2019 home games have been released.
Ask head coach Chad Lunsford which game is most important and he’ll say the next one. Ask him which game he is most excited for, he’ll respond the same.
But certain games carry more weight than others and some matchups are more exciting that others.
Here are the four games GS fans should be circling on their schedule as must watch games.
Most intriguing game: @ Minnesota, September 14
Surprisingly, this is only the second game against a Big 10 school for the Eagles, the first since 2017’s 52-17 route at Indiana. This will be P.J. Fleck’s third season at the helm of the Golden Gophers where he should be looking to use the 34-10 victory against Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl as a launching pad.
The Golden Gophers went 3-6 in Big 10 play, but secured one-sided wins against Purdue and at Wisconsin. While this is a Power 5 game for the Eagles, it’s a winnable game. Fleck is still building a program and there’s a lot of youth scattered around the field.
Player to watch: Senior wide receiver Tyler Johnson
Johnson was named to the All-Big Ten team after a 1,179 yard season. Johnson had 12 touchdowns in 2018, averaging 90 receiving yards per game. He has the size and speed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. Starting quarterback Tanner Morgan and Johnson should be able to link up several times.
Most marquee game: @ LSU, August 31
The daunting task of playing in Tiger Stadium is quite the step up from last season’s home opener against South Carolina State, but it’s the challenge Lunsford and the team wants. The game will likely be on one of the major ESPN networks and could possibly be flexed to a primetime game.
This test against the defending Fiesta Bowl champions is the fourth Power 5 season opener since the Eagles moved to FBS, the first since 2017 against Auburn. The Tigers of Baton Rouge return the majority of their 10-3 roster.
Player to watch: Junior safety Grant Delpit
Delpit was a unanimous All-American in 2018 after his 74 tackle, five interception sophomore season. He is also wearing No. 7 this year, which is an honor for LSU players. GS shouldn’t be expected to pass the ball much against the school that calls itself “DBU”, but on the occasion they do, Werts should try to avoid Delpit’s side of the field.
Most important home game: Louisiana, September 28
GS will have a bye week to prepare for their Sun Belt opener. A sort of revenge game will be in play in this conference opener for both teams. In 2016, the Ragin’ Cajuns visited Statesboro on homecoming and won in heartbreaking fashion, 33-26. The following year, GS earned its second and final win of the season in Lafayette with ease. UL ended the season with a loss in the SB championship game and then a bad loss to Tulane.
This game is the most difficult game in a four game stretch of winnable games. If the Eagles can secure a family weekend victory against the Ragin’ Cajuns, the weight of the next three games against South Alabama, Coastal Carolina and New Mexico State should feel lighter.
Player to watch: Junior running back Elijah Mitchell
Mitchell put up 985 rushing yards for 13 touchdowns last year, but Mitchell also showed his versatility with 349 receiving yards for four touchdowns. He played in all 13 games last season compared to just five his freshman year. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ leading back was named All-Sun Belt Second Team.
Most important road game: @ Troy, November 9
Troy has won the past two meetings between these two pretty handily, but before that GS had a four game win streak against the Trojans. The team will be ushering in a new coaching staff and looking to win its first outright conference title since 2009.
This game ended up being the battle for second place in the East division last season, with Appalachian State beating Troy two weeks later to clinch the division. This late season division battle should be another fight for supremacy in the East.
Player to watch: Junior quarterback Sawyer Smith
Smith became the regular starter midway through the season in 2018 and still put up 1,349 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. Smith went for 287 yards and a score against the Eagles last season. The junior is one of the most fundamentally sound quarterbacks in the league, and had a 360 yard, four touchdown field day against Buffalo in the Dollar General Bowl. Smith will have to step up with a relatively young receiving corps for the Trojans.