Start Time: 6 p.m. EST, Nov. 30
Location: Allen E. Paulson Stadium; Statesboro, GA
Records: Georgia Southern (6-5, 4-3 Sun Belt), Georgia State (7-4, 4-3 Sun Belt)
Weather: 61 degrees at kickoff, sunny
Betting Line: Georgia Southern -7, O/U 58
Georgia Southern Outlook
Before I jump into breaking down these two teams, I’m here to share a (probably) unpopular opinion among fans of these two schools: I don’t really consider this a rivalry.
It just doesn’t have the juice and the smack talk that a game like Georgia Southern-Appalachian State has, and it does not have the history of a rivalry like Georgia Southern and Furman. Since the inception of this game with Southern’s ascension to the Sun Belt in 2014, this rivalry has felt as organic and all-natural to me as a bottle of Coca-Cola.
With that out of the way, Georgia Southern is still licking its wounds from last week’s comeback bid against Arkansas State coming up short. The outcome of this game for the Eagles all comes down to which GS defense shows up in this one.
Will this be the same defense that allowed 35 first-half points against the Red Wolves? Or will this team show up and play like it did in the third and fourth quarters when it held ASU to just 3 points the rest of the game?
Time will tell, but defensively the number one priority has to be shutting down the passing attack of the Panthers and keeping Georgia State one-dimensional on offense.
On the flip side of things, the Eagles need to get some momentum going on the ground early. We’ve seen that this team does not do well playing catch-up, and it would be nice to see offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse step outside his comfort zone on the opening offensive series of the game. Will it happen? Probably not.
Quarterback Shai Werts nearly put the entire team on his back last week in Jonesboro, throwing for three scores and running for over 150 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The status of J.D. King is unknown as of yet, but the Eagles missed the power running he provided in the loss last week.
Wesley Kennedy III needs to be more involved in the offense in the remaining games of this season, with a conference championship berth firmly out of reach.
Georgia State Outlook
It has been a disappointing season for the Panthers in the last few weeks, largely due to the injury to dynamic quarterback Dan Ellington.
Ellington left the game against UL-Monroe a few weeks back with a knee issue that was later diagnosed as a torn ACL. The signal-caller has fought through the injury to play against Appalachian State and South Alabama, but clearly does not look as if he is 100 percent.
Since the game against the Warhawks, Ellington has combined to go 33-54 through the air for just 296 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. This clearly has not been the same quarterback who shined all throughout this season, but the fact he is fighting through the injury is extremely commendable.
Outside of Ellington, the focal point of the offense has been running back Tra Barnett, who has compiled over 1,300 yards on the ground to go along with 11 rushing scores. Barnett has been the load-bearer on offense with Ellington limited, and should see a heavy dose of carries in this one.
Defensively, the Panthers have been bad numbers-wise all season, but without Ellington covering up those warts, the team has been worse as of late, surrendering 590 and 553 yards in losses against ULM and App State, respectively.
The only hope for Georgia State here is that the offense gets up by multiple scores on the Eagles and it takes the onus off the defense from having to make too many plays.
If I’m being honest here, if Ellington was uninjured I would probably pick State to win this game. The Panthers offense was explosive during the earlier part of the season, but has faltered in its last few contests, even with a win over South Alabama last week.
I think the combination of playing at Paulson and Ellington’s knee are the main reasons the Eagles are able to secure a win in this one. I’d bet the over and lay the 7 with Georgia Southern.
Final Score: Georgia Southern 38, Georgia State 28