The Georgia Southern Eagles (8-4, 6-2) will do battle with the Mid-American Conference champion Bowling Green Falcons (10-3, 7-1) in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Wednesday, December 23. This marks the first meeting between the two programs with Georgia Southern coming out of the Sun Belt and Bowling Green playing in the MAC.
Georgia Southern lost two of their last three after falling 34-7 at home to a hot Georgia State team on December 5. Bowling Green won two straight and nine of ten to close the season after routing Northern Illinois 34-14 in the MAC Championship Game on December 4. Kickoff from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama is scheduled for 8:00 pm ET and will be televised on ESPN. Bowling Green is currently a 7.5 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 66 points.
Free Pick on the Bowling Green Falcons -7.5
Georgia Southern stumbled a bit down the stretch but they still can be devastating on the ground when given the opportunity. The Eagles were tied at 7 at halftime against the Panthers but were outscored 27-0 in the second half. Georgia Southern was outgained 489-203 and gave up 23 first downs while recording just 14 of their own. The Eagles lost the time of possession battle 31:49 to 28:11 and committed a pair of turnovers while forcing just one takeaway in the game.
The Eagles are a full bore run-oriented offense as they are last in the FBS when it comes to throwing the ball (61.8 yards) and they lead the nation on the ground with 355.6 yards per contest. Georgia Southern is currently 16th in the nation in scoring offense as they average 37.8 points while ranking tied for 41st in scoring defense as they give up 23.3 points per contest. Georgia Southern has run the ball 660 times while throwing it just 129 times: Kevin Ellison (37 of 84, 532 yards, 3 TD, 5 INT, 642 rushing yards, 8 TD) is the starter at quarterback with Favian Upshaw (18 of 45, 210 yards, 5 INT, 384 rushing yards, 2 TD) is the backup. The Eagles average a staggering 6.5 yards per rush and have scored 47 touchdowns on the ground; Matt Breida leads FBS running backs with a 8.3 yard per carry average as he has 188 carries for 1,540 yards and 16 scores. Wesley Fields (92 carries, 607 yards, 6 TD) and LA Ramsby (153 carries, 772 yards, 12 TD) are doing their part when they get the rock as well. Bj Johnson is currently the receptions leader on the Eagles with 15 receptions for 243 yards while Ryan Longoria is second on the team with 12 catches for 121 yards. Alex Hanks has kicked 31 of 32 extra points and eight of 10 field goal attempts this season. Younghoe Koo is 20 of 20 on extra points and has hit seven of nine field goal attempts with a long of 48 yards.
Bowling Green put together a solid performance on both sides of the ball as they crushed Northern Illinois and won the MAC title. The Falcons will be playing with a new coach in this one as Dino Babers took the job at Syracuse the day after winning the MAC title. Mike Jinks is taking over as the new head coach of the program. Bowling Green outgained Northern Illinois 501-259 and racked up 25 first downs while allowing 17 in the game. In addition, the Falcons forced five turnovers while committing two and ran to a 28-0 lead before Northern Illinois managed to get on the board.
The Falcons are currently standing 3rd in the nation as they light up opposing defenses to the tune of 376.1 yards per game through the air; they average 184.9 yards (currently 50th in the nation) a contest on the ground. Bowling Green is currently 5th in the nation as they score 43.4 points per game. That kind of performance makes up for a poor defensive performance as Bowling Green stands 62nd in the nation in scoring defense at the moment by giving up 26.7 points per game. Matt Johnson, the senior, has been brilliant running the offense as he’s hit 68.8 percent of his throws (368 of 535) for 4,700 yards with 43 touchdowns against eight interceptions plus 157 yards and four scores on the ground. James Knapke (14 of 20, 173 yards, TD) is the backup should Johnson get knocked out. Travis Greene is the main man on the ground with 212 carries for 1,219 yards and 14 scores; Fred Coppet chips in 136 carries for 797 yards plus five scores. Four players have reeled in at least 56 passes this season and six have caught at least 18 passes: Roger Lewis leads the team with 82 grabs for 1,476 yards and 15 scores while Ronnie Moore (67 receptions, 871 yards, 5 TD), Ryan Burbrink (56 grabs, 627 yards, 4 TD) and Gehrig Dieter (89 catches, 957 yards, 9 TD) all can move the sticks as well. Tyler Tate has hit 72 of 77 extra points but is only 8 of 15 on field goal attempts with a long of 40 yards.
This is a major contrast of styles as Georgia Southern brings the nation’s top run game to the contest while Bowling Green is 3rd in the nation in passing offense. This will be a major test for the Eagles, who aren’t used to seeing teams that will fling the ball all over the field at a moment’s notice. Johnson and Bowling Green have so many weapons to work with, it may be too much to ask the Georgia Southern offense to hang with the Falcons. Give the points as Bowling Green wins this one comfortably thanks to their aerial assault.
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