The Georgia Southern Eagles and Bowling Green Falcons meet for the first time on the ol' gridiron. It's interim coach vs. interim coach in the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl.
Start Time: 8 p.m. EST, Wednesday, Dec. 23
Location: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
TV/Streaming: ESPN/WatchESPN.com/WatchESPN App
Radio: Georgia Southern here. Bowling Green here
Records: GSU (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt). BGSU: (10-3, 8-1 MAC)
Weather: Thunderstorms. 71 degrees at kickoff. 17 mph winds.
Betting Line: BGSU -7.5. Over/Under of 64
Bowling Green Outlook
If you're a Georgia Southern fan, know this about the Bowling Green Falcons: They feel your pain. Not only are both teams replacing their head coach this offseason, both also replaced one following the 2013 season. Bowling Green lost Dave Clawson to Wake Forest two years ago, while Georgia Southern lost Jeff Monken to Army. This time around, BGSU's Dino Babers headed for Syracuse, while GSU's Willie Fritz left for Tulane.
When you see one another on the street, Falcons and Eagles, share a hug for your shared sacrifice. Then commence trash talk about how the other team has no shot bruh.
Both teams will start a new era following the final whistle. Tyson Summers will take over in Statesboro and Mike Jinks will take over in northern Ohio.
When Bowling Green has the ball:
The Falcon offense, AKA #FalconFast, isn't a great matchup for Georgia Southern. It's similar in some ways to the looks Georgia State put up in Southern's last game, which didn't go so well for the good guys. Bowling Green likes to throw lots of quick, short passes to try and get the ball into open space. The Eagles only allow 23 points per game, which will be a tough average to match Wednesday night.
Quarterback Matt Johnson slings it all over the place, setting MAC single-season records with 4,700 passing yards and 43 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. Four receivers have at least 50 catches and 600 yards, capped by the nation's leading receiver Roger Lewis. But this isn't a one-dimensional team. Once things get rolling through the air, look for Travis Greene to start moving the run game forward. He's got 1,220 yards and 14 touchdowns of his own.
Bowling Green's defense is a bit hot and cold, pitching a shutout against Kent State while giving up at least 44 points three times this season. They are on the low end of average overall, ranking 62nd nationally in points allowed and 78th in total yards allowed.
The two teams share only one common opponent this season in Western Michigan. Georgia Southern beat the Broncos 43-17 and ran for 413 yards. BGSU beat WMU by the somewhat closer final of 41-27.
Brian Ward will serve as interim coach on the BGSU sideline. He spent the season as the Falcons' defensive coordinator before getting the interim coach nod for the bowl game. He was defensive coordinator at Western Illinois the three previous seasons.
Georgia Southern Outlook
Dell McGee leads the Eagles into battle as interim coach. The former Auburn defensive back and Southern running backs coach is seen as a rising star in the coaching profession and could still get the nod at offensive coordinator under new GS coach Tyson Summers.
If you want to sound smart at the tailgate, mention that McGee played for the Los Angeles Exteme in Vince McMahon's XFL back in 2001 (h/t to our MAC blog, HustleBelt, for the info).
When Georgia Southern has the ball:
In spite of a few offensive duds this season, Georgia Southern continues to lead the nation in rushing at 355.6 rushing yards per game, with 34.7 points scored per contest.
How Georgia Southern's offense performs is crucial. Exhibit A: in the Georgia State game disaster, State's offense scored three more points than in the same matchup the year before. Southern's offense scored 62 less points than the previous year. Cut that in half, where the Eagles only score 31 points less than in 2014, and the Eagles walk out winners.
There's also some conventional wisdom about option teams not faring well in bowl games because the opponent has more time to prepare. There's not a ton of data to support that and we'll see if it holds up in this game.
Matt Breida will look to improve on his 16 touchdowns, 1,540 yards and 8.2 yards per carry average. LA Ramsby and Wesley Fields combined for another 18 touchdowns, with Ramsby rushing for 776 yards and Fields 607. Favian Upshaw added another 384 yards rushing.
Quarterback Kevin Ellison rushed 101 times for 638 yards and also scored eight times this season. Then there's passing. Ellison totaled 532 yards, with three touchdowns and five interceptions. B.J. Johnson remains Southern's top receiver with 14 catches and 232 yards.
Antwione Williams leads the Eagle defense in tackles with 97, tackles for loss with 10.5, and sacks with four. Williams also forced four fumbles. Antonio Glover created seven turnovers, with six interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Interim coaches are more the norm than the exception for this bowl. Prior to last season, six straight editions featured at least one interim coach. Arkansas State played in the GoDaddy Bowl every season from 2011-14. They had an interim coach three of those four years. Coaches who left their teams prior to playing in this bowl include Brady Hoke, Butch Jones, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, John L. Smith and, get this, Dennis Franchione.
Maybe Georgia Southern can play in a different bowl next season.
As a Georgia Southern fan of course the temptation is to pick my Eagles. I'll pick them against the spread but Bowling Green looks to be a dangerous team. We'll see how this one plays out. Also, assuming both offenses bring their A game the over should be an easy play.