Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green
Dec. 23, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch
This will be one of the most aesthetically interesting games of the bowl schedule, matching two highly productive offenses that go about it in very different ways.
Bowling Green’s Art Briles-inspired attack is fifth in the country in scoring offense (43.4 points per game), fourth in total offense (561 yards per game) and eighth in adjusted pace. Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson led the country in passing yards (4,700) entering bowl season and ranks second with 43 passing touchdowns.
On the other side, Georgia Southern runs the triple option out of both shotgun and pistol formations and finished first nationally in rushing yards per game (355.58) and yards per rush (6.47). This one will provide plenty of entertainment to casual fans and play-design nerds alike.
Keep an eye on: Bowling Green sophomore wide receiver Roger Lewis
Here’s a trivia question: Who leads the FBS in receiving yards? It’s Lewis, whose 1,476 yards were 25 more than Tulsa’s Keyarris Garrett and 87 more than USC’s Juju Smith-Schuster, the top finisher from the Power 5.
Any offense that comes from the Briles coaching tree is sure to have an ultra-productive receiver, and the 6’2”, 199-pound Lewis fills that role perfectly for the Falcons. Named a second-team All-America by the FWAA and a third-teamer by the AP, Lewis is the best player you’ve likely never heard of. He could put on a show against a Georgia Southern defense that ‘s 82nd in the country in yards allowed per pass.
Did you know…?
This is the only bowl in which both teams have lost their head coach, whether due to firing, retirement or departure for another job. It’s the latter case for each GoDaddy Bowl combatant. Bowling Green’s Dino Babers left to become Syracuse’s coach, while Georgia Southern’s Willie Fritz took the Tulane job. Interim coach/defensive coordinator Brian Ward will lead Bowling Green in this game (even though the Falcons have already hired Mike Jinks as Babers’s replacement and Ward is set to join Babers’s Syracuse staff). Dell McGee, named interim coach after Fritz departed, will head up the Eagles.
That both teams are playing without their head coach throws a wrench into this one. Will they come out flat and apathetic after seeing their respective leaders leave? Will they come out firing on all cylinders, feeling like they have nothing to lose? It’s difficult to say, and it’s almost as difficult to foresee which contrasting offensive style will win out. However, the fact that this is the Eagles’ first bowl game in program history—they moved up from the FCS before last season, and this was the first year they were eligible—should prove enough motivation. Bowling Green won’t be ready to stop such an unfamiliar system, and Georgia Southern will be able to control the game on the ground, limiting the possessions for the Falcons’ up-tempo, explosive attack. The Eagles will put up just enough points to pull the upset in what will be a high-scoring game.