WKU, who finished the regular season 6-6, learned their bowl fate on Sunday. Their opponent will be the 6-5 Georgia State Panthers out of the Sun Belt. The two teams will meet on Saturday, December 16th, in the Auto Nation Cure Bowl in Orlando.
Reaching a postseason game for the 28th time (their time in FCS included) in program history is nothing short of an impressive feat for the Hilltoppers. The 2017 season has brought on some mixed emotions for the WKU faithful, however. In Mike Sanford Jr.’s first season as a head coach, the team finished 5th in C-USA East following two consecutive league championships under Jeff Brohm. While senior quarterback Mike White and the passing attack led the league in total passing yards, passing yards per game, and total completions, the Tops’ rushing offense generated the fewest yards in all of FBS. WKU’s offensive line also allowed White to be sacked 42 times, which was the fifth highest total in FBS this year.
While this is WKU’s first appearance in the Cure Bowl, they have had good fortune playing bowl games in Florida in recent years. This program won both the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl and the 2016 Boca Raton Bowl.
For Georgia State, the Panthers are also wrapping up their first year under the helm of Shawn Elliot. Elliot led his team to a fourth place finish in the Sun Belt Conference. This will be just the second bowl appearance ever for GSU football. Their first appearance came in the 2015 Cure Bowl, which resulted in a 27-16 loss to San Jose State.
Georgia State boasts a solid defense that ranked fifth in total defense in the Sun Belt this year, but eighth in pass defense. Senior defensive backs Chandon Williams and Bryan Williams will need to lead their team to one of their best games of the year to keep White in check. Offensively, quarterback Conner Manning leads the Sun Belt in completion percentage (63.7%) and receiver Penny Hart set a school record 73 catches for 1,094 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017.
The only other time that Georgia State and WKU played was in 2013 when Bobby Petrino’s Tops (still in the Sun Belt at the time) beat the Panthers 44-28 in the old Georgia Dome. * Pours out drink *
Not that it’s a great indicator of anything, but both these teams did have one common opponent this year: Charlotte. GSU beat them 28-0, while WKU won their game 45-14.