Start Time: 6 p.m. EST, Sept. 17
Location: Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Georgia
Records: Georgia Southern (2-0, 1-0 Sun Belt), Louisiana-Monroe (1-1, 0-0)
Weather: 88 degrees at kickoff, partly cloudy, 6 mph winds
Betting Line: Georgia Southern -25.5, Over/Under of 58.5
The Warhawks come into Paulson Stadium as a bit of an enigma. Monroe opened the season with a 38-21 victory over Southern University two weeks ago before getting waxed 59-17 by a frustrated Oklahoma Sooners team.
With the Warhawks having not played anyone of their own caliber, it’s difficult to say what kind of team head coach Matt Viator has on his hands.
So far this season, ULM quarterback Garrett Smith has had to carry the load offensively. Smith has thrown for 459 yards and four TDs through the air thus far, and leads the team in rushing with 155 yards and one score.
For the Warhawks to come out on top in this one, Smith will need help from receiver R.J. Turner, who leads the team in receiving with 166 yards and a touchdown. The defense will need to show up for this one as well, with numerous runners from Georgia Southern coming out of the backfield at all times.
Georgia Southern Outlook
Over the past two games, the Eagles look like a team trying to find an identity under new head coach Tyson Summers. The team has played lights out defense this season, allowing just 9 points in three red zone trips to a South Alabama team that had defeated Mississippi State just a week before.
But offensively, something doesn’t seem to be clicking. Maybe it’s the fact that new offensive coordinators Rance Gillespie and David Dean have implemented more of a quick passing attack to go alongside the potent run game, or maybe it’s the fact that teams are keying on running back Matt Breida and are forcing quarterbacks Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw to beat them either through the air or by other means.
Make no mistake, the passing game is much improved so far from a season ago, when it was largely non-existent. But the big plays just don’t seem to be there as frequently as they have been the last couple of years. With Georgia Southern holding a 3-0 all-time record over the Warhawks at home, look for the offense to get back on track and be more explosive than it was against South Alabama.
Just when I thought the line was too high last week, South Alabama just couldn’t do anything of value in the red zone. I’m going to say Georgia Southern puts on a repeat performance from a year ago, when it put 51 points on the Warhawks in Monroe.