Start Time: 6 p.m. EST, Sept. 8
Location: Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Ga.
Records: Georgia Southern (1-0), UMass (1-1)
Weather: 85 degrees at kickoff, 35 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms
Betting Line: Georgia Southern -2
Georgia Southern Outlook
Being optimistic about this game is easy for a Georgia Southern fan, because it would be hard pressed to top how pitiful its performance was in 2017 when the Eagles dropped to 0-6 behind a 55-20 loss to the Minutemen, a beating so bad that GS showed former head coach Tyson Summers the door the very next day.
But there’s reason to be hopeful going into the 2018 matchup between these teams as an Eagle fan. Georgia Southern’s defense looks much improved from last season’s poor form, and if the offense can get to clicking, Southern may have a solid but still young team on its hands.
Quarterback Shai Werts wasn’t asked to do too much with his arm in last week’s 37-6 defeat of fodder South Carolina State, as the signal caller threw the ball just seven times but ran for a team-best 163 times and three scores as the Eagles trounced the Bulldogs.
If the Georgia Southern offense is to be successful, this will be the recipe for success: Limit the amount of turnovers it could possibly commit by grounding down other teams in the running game and cut down on the amount of passing attempts as a result.
If the Eagles’ secondary can make sure UMass can’t just wind up and throw it deep as it did against Southern last season, I like Georgia Southern’s chances in this one.
Last year, UMass had to sit for two full off weeks (one bye, and one cancellation thanks to Hurricane Irma) to stew over an 0-6 start.
And then Georgia Southern came to town.
The Minutemen exploded for 28 first quarter points that propelled to not only a decisive win over the Eagles, but a turning point for their entire season. They got dual 100-yard rushing performances (Marquis Young and Bilal Ally) and solid performances from both Ross Comis and Andrew Ford under center. Just about the entire UMass cast of characters returns this season.
Road wins, however, have been hard to come by for the Minutemen. They only one road victory since 2015. If they want No. 2, UMass must contain Werts, who did not play in last year’s matchup. They will need a healthy dose of discipline when the Eagles attempt option-style football.
Last week’s stinker against Boston College means UMass needs short memories. WIth a blowout win on their resume as well, the Minutemen need to get back to basics and spread the ball to their play-makers.
Brian: I think the defense for Georgia Southern shows up unlike last season and allows less than 48 points before halftime (a bold take, I know). The Eagles rectify its loss to UMass from last season and gets its offense rolling in the process, defeating the Minutemen by a score of 31-21.
Josh: It seems the Eagles always bring out the best in UMass. With expectations high for UMass this season, I see a win Saturday as yet another turning point for this program. The 2018 campaign also marks the 20th anniversary of UMass winning their first and only 1-AA NCAA football championship. Who did they beat in the title game? Georgia Southern. Marcel Shipp may not be in the backfield any more, but I see the current version moving the ball better this week and the defense making just enough plays to hold on. UMass 34, Georgia Southern 31.