Georgia State (6–6) vs. San Jose State (5–7)
Dec. 19, 7 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Reason to watch
The matchup at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl pits the No. 9 team in passing yards nationally against the No. 2 team in pass defense. Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle and his reliable arm accounted for all 4,159 of the Panthers’ passing yards this season, but the San Jose State secondary limited its opponents to just 1,842 passing yards.
The Spartans, with their losing record, only earned their way into this bowl because of their Academic Progress Rate (APR), but their defense should provide a stiff challenge for Georgia State in the first ever meeting between these two teams.
Keep an eye on: Arbuckle, San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin
These two will likely be involved in most of the game’s scoring plays. Ervin, the Spartans’ MVP, led the San Jose State ground force, accounting for 1,515 of the Spartans’ 2,551 rushing yards and 15 of their 45 touchdowns. Because the Panthers aren’t big on the running game, they leaned just as heavily on Arbuckle to move them down the field.
However, Arbuckle’s average of 346.6 passing yards per game is more than double the number of yards the stingy Spartans pass defense has allowed on average (153.6). This discrepancy could force Arbuckle to adjust or Georgia State to focus more on the run game, as well as require the Panthers defense and linebacker Joseph Patterson, who led the team with 106 total tackles, to concentrate more intensely on keeping Ervin out of the end zone.
Did you know…?
The inaugural Cure Bowl will also be the first bowl appearance in Georgia State program history. The Panthers didn’t move to the FBS until 2013 and thus weren’t eligible for a bowl until last year, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway—they went winless in 2013 and won just one game in 2014. (This is Georgia State’s first six-win season since 2010.) Compared to the newbie Panthers, the Spartans seem like crusty veterans in terms of bowl appearances, despite playing in just 10 over the last 70 years. San Jose State won its two most recent bowl appearances, beating Bowling Green in the Military Bowl in 2012 and New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl in 2006.
The San Jose State defense has the potential to limit the Georgia State offense and prevent Arbuckle from slinging the ball all over the field with his usual degree of success. However, Georgia State is coming off a four-game winning streak (three of which were upsets) and is looking to make a splash in its first bowl appearance.
Meanwhile, San Jose State slumped through the end of its season, losing three of its final four games. The team’s average game scores are essentially identical, with Georgia State putting up 27.8 points per game and San Jose putting up 28.0. The contest should be a close one, but assuming Arbuckle stays steady, Georgia State will ultimately come out on top.