Start Time: 2:00 p.m. EST, Nov. 28
Location: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Georgia
Radio: Georgia Southern here, South Alabama here
Records: GSU (7-3, 5-1 Sun Belt), USA (5-5, 3-3)
Weather: 70 degrees at kickoff, 3 mph winds, sunny skies
Betting Line: Georgia Southern -21, Over/Under of 57
South Alabama Outlook
South Alabama looks a little better online than on the field. Wins over Troy, ULL, Idaho and Gardner-Webb don't speak much for the program, with a victory over 8-3 San Diego State as the lone quality win.
This will be USA's second-straight Georgia game and second attempt at win number six. Last time out they fell to an improved Georgia State team 24-10. USA led 10-7 at the half, then fell faster than bank vouchers at a cash drop.
Joey Jones is the only coach they've ever known in Mobile. He was hired in 2008 to create the program after spending one year at Birmingham-Southern, which (trivia time) also was that school's first season of modern-era football.
USA is nothing if not consistent. They went 6-6 the last two regular seasons. Now they're 5-5, right on track. Last year ended in a trip to the Camellia Bowl, which I attended and, meh.
After shedding streaky Brandon Bridge at quarterback, the Jags picked up a host of former #freeUAB talent last offseason. UAB transfer Cody Clements lines up under center. He's thrown 13 touchdowns and over 2,100 yards, but completes only 53 percent of his passes and does a great Brett Favre impression with 11 INTs.
Xavier Johnson is the top ground threat with 815 yards and seven touchdowns. Gerald Everett and Josh Magee, also former UABers, lead the receivers with 11 scores. The defense ranks in the middle of the conference at 36 points allowed per game.
Everything will need to go right for South Alabama to turn this one out.
Georgia Southern Outlook
The Georgia game is going to sting for quite a while in Statesboro, just as close losses to NC State and Georgia Tech did last year. Folks, the Eagles led all three of those teams in the fourth quarter and looked every bit an equal. None were a fluke.
The boys from Statesboro have to start winning these games, have to get 10 and 14-point leads that no ill-timed fumble or controversial call can erase.
Georgia Southern is oh so close to climbing above strong mid-major and into the national conversation I can taste the Eagle Creek water as I write this. The confidence this team is building will take them a long way toward getting there.
Also on the Georgia game: I've read and heard many places that Georgia won't schedule Georgia Southern any more became the game was so close. That's pathetic if true, but unless there's inside knowledge floating around I'm unaware of there's no reason to think so.
Southern almost beat Tech last season and was back on the schedule within a couple of months. Yes, Georgia sells more tickets, but Sanford Stadium was packed in a way it would not have been for any other G5er, and that concessions/beer/restaurant/hotel money talks. Also, the College Football Playoff committee has shown it is 100 percent all about strength of schedule, so a solid opponent like GSU will please them.
If UGA does stop playing the Eagles, Southern has earned an eternal rebuttal:
The other big topic of this week was the first of an inevitable series of rumors about Willie Fritz leaving for job X. In this case it was Iowa State but there will be many others until Fritz either leaves or every job gets filled with him still in Statesboro.
natives message boards are restless.
If Fritz leaves for a higher-paying job it'll be because he's earned it, but all of Eagle Nation hopes he looks at a stacked roster and schedule for 2016 and sees the chance to maximize his stock. An 11- or 12-win campaign can open up a truly elite job.
Finally: The game at hand.
The Eagles come in as three-touchdown favorites for good reason. They played well against Georgia, especially on defense, and South Alabama likely doesn't have what it takes to stop the Fritzkreig.
You know the drill. Kevin Ellison, Favian Upshaw, Matt Breida, LA Ramsby and Wesley Fields will run the ball all up and down the field, showing once again why this team leads the nation with 364.3 yards per game. A nice catch from BJ Johnson or Ryan Longoria will keep the defense on their toes.
When USA has the ball, Antonio Glover can set a school record with his seventh interception, Ironhead Gallon et al will keep up the pressure on Jags' quarterback while Matt Dobson lays the hurt on somebody.
This will be a fired up Georgia Southern team looking to take last week's frustration out on somebody. Unfortunately for the boys from Mobile, that means them. The Eagles win and cover and score and do a whole bunch of other stuff to the sad visitors at Paulson.