Start Time: 7:00 pm ET
Location: Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, MI
Series: Georgia Southern leads 1-0
Line: Western Michigan -7, FPI: Western Michigan, 87.5%
For the first time this season, Georgia Southern goes into a game as the underdog. That’s understandable since the Broncos of Western Michigan are currently 2-0 in the Big 10 with victories over Northwestern and Illinois. Granted, those aren’t exactly P5 powerhouses, but two P5 wins are still two P5 wins. Adding to the odds in favor of the Broncos is the fact that – while still racking up yards – Georgia Southern’s offense has looked questionable at breaking big plays and finishing drives.
Last year’s game in Statesboro featured the Eagles’ rushing attack breaking big runs and dominating the line of scrimmage while the defense picked off quarterback Zach Terrell three times and limited WMU to 14 points. That was last year, though. This year, Georgia Southern doesn’t have the experienced secondary and the offensive line hasn’t been as effective at getting 2nd level blocks and penalties have plagued them in the first three games.
The atmosphere at Waldo Stadium is sure to be electric, as you can bet WMU is looking for revenge and their fans are going to be riding a high from their P5 victories. Defeating one of the pre-season Sun Belt favorites would be another big boost to propel them into the MAC schedule and towards bowl season.
When The Eagles Have The Ball
First and foremost, Georgia Southern has to limit penalties. Getting behind the chains will put the Eagles into a position where they have to get out of their comfort zone. The passing attack has improved, but it hasn’t faced a defense like the Broncos’, yet. The rushing attack is 3rd in the nation, but the rushing defenses they’ve faced haven’t exactly been stellar.
Second, the offensive line blocking has to get to the second level and open up holes for Matt Breida & Company. Breida has yet to break one of his signature big runs all season long and doing so in this game – particularly early – against one of the better run defenses in the nation so far would be a big boost of confidence for the whole team. It would also quiet the crowd a bit, which is another key for the Eagles.
Western Michigan’s defense is led by two stout junior linebackers in Robert Spillane and Asantay Brown. They lead the team in tackles and also each has tallied at least one sack. The Broncos’ defense has 19 tackles for loss with 8 sacks, so far. They’re ranked 11th in the nation in rush defense, allowing only 76 yards per game. That looks like a great match-up for the Broncos.
The two B1G teams WMU has played are ranked 118th and 83rd in the nation in rushing. That changes the stat line a bit, but you also have to take into account that with only 3 games in the books, one of the reasons those teams’ rushing stats are so poor is because they both faced this Bronco defense. It will be tough sledding for the Eagles to get something consistent going on the ground.
When The Broncos Have The Ball
Western Michigan is no slouch in the running game, themselves. They’re currently ranked 10th in the nation and have a powerful 1-2 punch in sophomore Jamauri Bogan and junior Jarvion Franklin. Quarterback Zach Terrell is a threat to keep and run, as well.
The Broncos are currently 84th in the nation in passing, but they do have a big weapon in senior Corey Davis. He’s currently averaging 17.61 yards per reception. Georgia Southern kept him in check last year, but with the inexperienced and relatively unbloodied secondary the Eagles are taking to Kalamazoo this year, it will likely be a lot tougher to contain him.
For Georgia Southern, the front 7 will be the key. The Eagles’ run defense is currently 3rd in the nation, but they haven’t exactly faced a team with a stalwart rushing attack. This will be a big time test for them to plug the gaps and force the Broncos to throw the football. Then, the defensive line and linebackers will have to get to the QB and force errant throws.
How Georgia Southern Wins The Game
- Eliminate Penalties
- Break big runs
- Silence the crowd
- Avoid turnovers
- Finish drives
- Win time of possession
How Western Michigan Wins The Game
- Stop the run and force Georgia Southern to pass
- Attack the Eagles’ young secondary
- Get the crowd into the game
- Wear down Georgia Southern’s defensive front
With the troubles Georgia Southern has had on offense with big plays, penalties, and lack of finishing drives, it’s really hard to see them going into Kalamazoo and knocking off a Western Michigan team that has started the season with two P5 victories. This may be the game that Georgia Southern cleans everything up, gets their act together, and goes on a rampage, but I just don’t really see it happening.
If Georgia Southern is able to fix some of its mistakes from last week, then this will probably be a very close game that could swing either way. If they don’t fix them, then there’s a chance that the Tyson Summers honeymoon period that began with 3 straight victories comes to a screeching halt and Western Michigan returns the favor from last year’s blowout in Paulson Stadium.