When Georgia Southern and Appalachian State were added to the Sun Belt, the move was generally applauded as being about the best choices you could make in bringing up FCS teams to FBS. Both schools have a history of winning, and both have large fanbases that could inject some excitement into the games.
Both Georgia Southern and App State were picked in pre-season polls to finish either in the middle of the pack or at the bottom of the Sun Belt in their first season of FBS football. As we go into the final weekend of the regular season, the Eagles and the Mountaineers are at or near the top. Good additions? I think so.
Louisiana-Monroe has been one of the top schools in the Sun Belt over the past few seasons and they certainly didn't expect this season to be any different. They have a stingy defense that held Texas A&M's offense to 21 points at Kyle Field. Their offense has been the biggest issue. The Warhawks rank 112th in the nation in scoring offense.
In the preseason I'm sure the Warhawks expected that by the Georgia Southern game they would be fighting for the conference championship and a bowl spot. Instead, they have limped to a 3-4 record in conference and 4-7 overall. The only thing left for them is to play spoiler to Georgia Southern's outright conference championship dreams.
How to Watch, Listen, and Stream
Game Time: 6pm EST
TV / Streaming: The game is only available on ESPN3 / WatchESPN
Live Stats: Here.
The Line: Georgia Southern is a 14.5 point favorite over Louisiana-Monroe. The Eagles are undefeated at home this season and have not really played a close game in Allen E. Paulson Stadium.
Weather: The high on Saturday in Statesboro is 61, with a low of 40. The sun will have set by kickoff, so the game will be entirely under the lights and Louisiana-Monroe will get to miss that wonderful Paulson Stadium environment where the sun is setting directly into the visiting team's sideline's eyes. There is no chance of rain. It's going to be a nice late-November Statesboro night.
Georgia Southern comes in to the game still boasting the #1 rushing attack in the nation. The Eagles are averaging 385 yards per game. They rank near dead last in throwing the football, but it's not because they can't do it. It's because they rarely have the need to do it. They are the 9th best scoring offense in the nation and the 45th ranked scoring defense.
Louisiana-Monroe boasts the 30th best passing attack in the nation, but are pretty much dead last in rushing yards per game. Their scoring offense numbers were mentioned earlier at 112th in the nation, while their scoring defense is ranked 67th.
One of Georgia Southern's weaknesses this season has been bad match-ups in the defensive backfield that allow for big passing plays. Georgia State scored multiple touchdowns of 20+ yards through the air against the Eagles by exploiting this. That match-up of the ULM passing offense and the GS passing defense will be one of the keys for how close this game will be. If ULM is able to score through the air, this could be a very close game.
Georgia Southern will aim to do what it does best: ground and pound. They will feed you a steady does of Doak Walker Semi-Finalist Matt Breida with a good side of LA Ramsby at the running back, and oh by the way QBs Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw are pretty big threats to take it to the house, as well. Breida has been especially dangerous this season with seven touchdown runs of 40+ yards. If he gets to the second level, he is gone.
What's At Stake
For Georgia Southern, a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship has already been locked up. The Louisiana-Lafayette defeat at the hands of the App State Mountaineers assured the Eagles they could finish no worse than tied for first. A victory against the Warhawks will mean solo ownership of the Sun Belt Conference Championship in their very first season of Sun Belt play.
For Louisiana-Monroe, the only thing at stake is pride and the role of spoiler mentioned previously.