Date/time: Thursday, Oct. 26, 7:30 PM ET
Location: Allen E. Paulson Stadium - Statesboro, Georgia
2023 record: GSU 6-1 (3-1 SBC), Georgia Southern 5-2 (2-1 SBC)
Previous meetings: Georgia State is 6-3 against Georgia Southern all-time; it most recently beat GASO 41-33 in 2022.
Georgia State is making a historic run towards a Sun Belt Championship Game appearance, but Georgia Southern is still in the race. A win for State puts the Panthers clear and all but clinches, but a Southern win narrows the gap for second place in the East.
While this rivalry is often hyped beyond what it can deliver, the implications are real for both of these hot teams.
A Quick Look at Georgia State
Georgia State has blown away all preseason expectations. By this time last season, GSU was 2-5, but this year the Panthers have already clinched a bowl game.
Running back Marcus Carroll is the statistical superstar of the team. He’s had three of GSU’s ten best individual rushing games all-time this season and is fifth in the FBS for ground yards per game. He’s a relative non-factor in the passing game, though. Carroll gets less than two catches per game.
Quarterback Darren Grainger took a big hit and missed a couple of drives last week against Louisiana, but is expected to be ready to go. Grainger needs 15 yards of total offense to supplant Nick Arbuckle as GSU’s all-time leader. He’s the best dual-threat quarterback in the Sun Belt and has thrown only two interceptions all season.
Grainger has spread the targets as of late. Last week, Ahmon Green caught his first two scores of the season, and Tailique Williams has had an emergence in recent weeks. They, in conjunction with leading receiver Robert Lewis, as well as occasionally Jacari Carter and Ja’Cyais Credle, make one of the scariest passing games in the conference.
Defensively, the Panthers tend to get sliced through the air. Cornerback Gavin Pringle came up with a game-winning interception against Louisiana and made a similar momentum-altering pick-six against Rhode Island, but he has as many interceptions as the rest of the entire team.
A Quick Look at Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern made one the biggest offensive scheme changes in NCAA history when it moved from an option scheme to a pass-heavy system. From 2020 to 2022, the Eagles went from leading the Sun Belt in rushing attempts by almost 100 to leading the conference in passing yards by almost 1,000.
First-year Tulsa transfer Davis Brin has been tasked with running this new-look Southern team and has been a mixed bag. The Eagles lead the conference in passing yards once again, but Brin has thrown the joint-most interceptions in the FBS.
Brin abuses Khaleb Hood and Derwin Burgess Jr, whose 14.4 combined catches per game is the highest among any teammates in the country. Other guys do show up in the box score. 18 players have caught a pass for Georgia Southern this year, but Hood and Burgess are the true playmakers.
The Eagles play a really good rush defense and are pretty bang-on average in passing yards allowed, but where Southern shines defensively is on third down. They’ve allowed opponents to convert just 30.8% of third downs, second-best in the conference.
They’re also second in the Sun Belt for interceptions forced, but have no single player with more than two picks.
Vegas has found a way to make Georgia Southern favorites in this game. Being at home helps, as Paulson Stadium can be dangerous, but there is, theoretically, no aspect of the game that Georgia Southern is better at than GSU.
Brin is a check-down merchant compared to Grainger, there is no Georgia Southern rushing game to speak of, and the defenses are honestly roughly equal. The only edge Southern may have is the duo of Hood and Burgess Jr, but Lewis and Williams are right on their coattails.
Georgia Southern will get their sixth win and become bowl-eligible this season, just not against the Panthers.