Start Time: 2:00 p.m. EST, Dec. 5
Location: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Georgia
TV/Streaming: ESPN3.com (The Official Channel of the Sun Belt)/WatchESPN App
Records: GSU (8-3, 6-1 Sun Belt), GSU (5-6, 4-3) Figure it out
Weather: 57 degrees at kickoff, partly cloudy, 9 mph winds
Betting Line: Georgia Southern -21. Over/Under of 58.5
Georgia State Outlook
As much as it pains this Southern grad to admit it, State has improved this year. Granted, there wasn't really a way for them to get worse, but still.
The Panthers come into Paulson Stadium riding a three-game win streak and needing an upset victory for a guaranteed bowl birth. Remember, this is a team that went 1-23 during 2013 and 2014.
Coach Trent Miles got the State job based on a reputation for turning around sorry programs, and it appears he may be doing that for the other GSU. The team also got an influx of former UAB players after the Blazers were permanently axed for six months.
Quarterback Nick Arbuckle is the unquestioned leader of the team, and any chance the Panthers have to hang around will hang on on his right arm. Arbuckle has thrown for 23 touchdowns and 3,814 yards, with a 64.2 completion percentage and the Sun Belt's second-highest quarterback rating. They call him "Favrebuckle," and he does have a bit of a Brett Favre habit with 10 interceptions this season.
State burned Southern last year for a lot of yards and will look to do so again this time around. Freshman wide receiver Penny Hart is the squad's most dangerous receiver. The Buford native stands just 5-9 but has seven touchdowns and nearly 1,000 receiving yards.
Robert Davis, Donovan Harden and Keith Rucker all know how to catch a ball as well, combining for 14 scores. By yardage Hart and Davis are the Sun Belt's top two WRs.
State does not run the ball well, however, with nearly 80 percent of its yards coming through the air. This means Georgia Southern will be able to drop several players into coverage or, more likely, hit State with a series of different blitz packages to try and put pressure on the QB. Arbuckle isn't the most mobile guy, "rushing" for -82 yards this year.
The Panthers are seventh in the conference in total defense, and actually fare better against the run than the pass.
While Georgia State has improved, their three-game win streak met a collective "meh" from Vegas. State is a three-touchdown dog, the same spread Southern got against South Alabama last week. The Panthers' conference wins have mostly come against basement dwellers, and they managed to fall to a 4-7 ULL team so weak Mark Hudspeth could bench press it 25 times.
Georgia Southern Outlook
You could say this team is ready for a #PaulsonParty. It's Senior Day in Statesboro for a class that won two conferences titles and beat Florida in between.
The seniors are 21-2 at Paulson Stadium (29-2 for any fifth-year guys) and haven't lost at home in more than two calendar years. Don't look for anything to change Saturday.
Outside of the whole GSU-GSU deal, this game is a battle of opposing philosophies. Southern is the nation's number one rushing offense. State comes in at number 125. The Panthers are number eight nationally in passing. The Eagles rank number 127 — dead last.
The question then is who do you trust? If you know about the famous quote from Erk Russell, or the famous quote from Darrell Royal, you know the answer is rushing. There are less variables for a successful run game and the clock just melts away.
Not only that, the defense has been a major unsung hero for Georgia Southern this season. In the past it seemed like the secondary was always an achilles heel. That could not be farther from the truth in 2015. Arbuckle will be very lucky to not throw at least one interception, with Antonio Glover alone picking off quarterbacks six times this season. Look for Antwione Williams, Bernard Dawson, Jamal Johnson and others to spend a lot of time in the backfield as well.
Running back Matt Breida needs just five yards to pass 3,000 for his career and he's only a junior. Breida also leads the FBS with five runs of 60-plus yards. Quarterback Kevin Ellison is a master at running the Fritzkrieg and averages more than seven yards a carry. Dangerous.
Slightly off-topic rant: If we're going to call this game a rivalry, it should have a better name than "modern hate." That name is a big pet peeve as it contains three major flaws. 1). What kind of rivalry is named after another rivalry? 2.) Georgia and Georgia Tech played last weekend, how is that not modern? 3.) What if the two GSUs are still playing 100 years from now? Doesn't make sense.
Let's get a different name. Leave any good ideas in the comments, although no name might be even better.
When these two teams meet you can throw out the Georgia Southern wins and covers.