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2019 Cure Bowl Preview: Georgia Southern vs Liberty

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Georgia Southern’s option attack vs Liberty’s spread offense should result in a lot of points.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 15 Cure Bowl - Tulane v Louisiana Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Georgia Southern and Liberty will meet in the Cure Bowl in Orlando, on Saturday, December 21st. The Cure Bowl is one of the earliest bowls of the season, and generally an AAC vs Sun Belt match-up. This season, it will match Liberty, an Independent in its second season of FBS play, against Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt. The Eagles are in their sixth season of FBS play.

The Cure Bowl is a game for breast cancer research and awareness. It’s been played in Orlando since its inception in 2015. Over that time it has raised $3.7 million for breast cancer research.

This season, the game will be played at Exploria Stadium, home of the Orlando City Soccer Club. It’s making the the move from Camping World Stadium to the smaller venue for a more intimate setting.

The game will will air on CBS Sports Network. Notably, the national radio broadcast crew is set to be an all female crew. That’s the first such of its kind.

As for the teams, Georgia Southern and Liberty represent what can charitably be described as a contrast in styles. On the one side, is Georgia Southern and their unique triple option attack, run from the pistol and spread formations. Across the field will be Hugh Freeze and his tempo-based offense.

Georgia Southern Overview

The Eagles’ season started on a sour note, with a 55-3 loss. That was against LSU, though, making it a bit more palatable. By the time Sun Belt play got going, so did Georgia Southern. At 5-3 in the Sun Belt, Georgia Southern finished second in their division, only behind Appalachian State.

The Eagles also beat Appalachian State on a cold, rainy, night in Boone, North Carolina. By beating their biggest rival for the second time in two seasons they became the only team to beat Appalachian State in their last 25 games, and ended the Mountaineers’ Cotton Bowl hopes.

In the end, Georgia Southern finished the season at 7-5. They did so on the back of their spread-triple option offense, and 3-4 base defense.

Shai Werts leads the offense. He hasn’t thrown an interception since 2017. In 2019, Werts threw for 704 yards, and 9 touchdowns. In 2019 those numbers seem insanely low, but that’s by design. He also ran for 722 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. That’s down from 2018’s 908 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.

Georgia State v Georgia Southern Photo by Chris Thelen/Getty Images

It will be Werts’ job to read the Liberty defense, and distribute the ball between himself and their other weapons.

Georgia Southern has had some issues on the offensive line this season, where they’ve been snake bit with injuries. Through 12 games the Eagles have used 7 different offensive line combinations. They’ll need a good day to run the ball on Liberty.

On the defensive side of the ball they have an excellent corner in Monquavion Brinson. Brinson is just one pass break up away from the school’s career record for pass break-ups. He’s currently sitting at 36.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Georgia Southern at LSU Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brinson needs help, though. As a team Georgia Southern is 91st in passing defense, while Liberty’s passing offense is 21st. Perhaps if Georgia Southern can put some pressure on the Flames they’ll be able to force mistakes in the Liberty passing attack.

The Eagles defense has been good at forcing turnovers lately as well. In 24 of their last 28 games Georgia Southern has forced at least one turnover. They’ll need a couple of turnovers to break their way on Saturday.

Liberty Overview

The Liberty Flames are in their second FBS season, and they haven’t had a losing one yet. This will be their first trip to a bowl game, though. Like Georgia Southern, Liberty finished the regular season at 7-5.

The season began with a 24-0 loss against Syracuse, and the comical image of Hugh Freeze coaching from a hospital bed. They went on two play two FCS schools, New Mexico, New Mexico State twice, and UMass. Their two toughest games were Virginia and BYU. Both losses.

So, maybe it wasn’t the toughest strength of schedule, but we all know scheduling is difficult when you’re an Independent. Cut the Flames some slack there.

The good for Liberty is on the offensive side of the ball, where they averaged over 33 points per game, and 290 yards passing. Their 152 rushing yards a game is respectable, but has room for improvement.

In Stephen Calvert, the Flames have a veteran quarterback. He’s started in 43 straight games, and is currently working on a record passing season. He’s not their best offensive player, thought. That honor goes to Antonio Gandy-Golden. His 1,333 receiving yards earned him a spot as a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist.

Liberty v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Their defense has been explosive, for better or worse. They have 11 interceptions and 32 sacks against 422.5 yards and 29 points per game. Again, room for improvement.

Look for safety Elijah Benton to play a big role. He’s a safety who excels at tackling, and will need to have a big day in run defense. The strong Liberty pass rush will need to readjust and play disciplined, assignment sound football to shut down the triple option.

Prediction

Liberty 34 Georgia Southern 21