• Eastern Michigan fields one of the nation's best pass defenses, but that won't do them much good against Georgia Southern's potent option attack.
By Sam Chase
December 06, 2018

Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (+1)

Sat., December 15, 5:30 p.m. ET

Four things to know before betting on Georgia Southern-Eastern Michigan:

1. Of the five games scheduled for the opening Saturday of bowl play, the Camellia Bowl is the tightest matchup. The game between Georgia Southern and Eastern Michigan opened as a pick 'em before action shifted the line to Georgia Southern -1. Georgia Southern went 9-3 this season both straight up and against the spread. Thep program finished 6-2 in the Sun Belt East, picking up wins over conference powers Arkansas State and Appalachian State along the way. Eastern Michigan was 7-5 straight up and ATS and were on the bubble for a bowl bid. But EMU's 20-19 win at Purdue as a 15-point underdog stands out as one of college football's bigger upsets this season.

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2. Eastern Michigan's tendency to play in low-scoring games won't help it here. Teams with a winning percentage between .510 and .600 that have gone under the total by at least 35 combined points over their last three games are just 6-26 against spreads between +3 and -3 over the last 10 seasons. Georgia Southern's chances are also helped by the fact that teams with a winning percentage between .600 and .800 on the season that are coming off a double-digit road win are 26-8 against spreads between +3 and -3 when playing an opponent with a winning record over the last 10 seasons.

3. Eastern Michigan's defense allowed only 22 points per game this season (32nd in FBS). Its pass D surrendered only 5.7 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks, the seventh-best number in the country. But Eastern Michigan won't get to flex its pass defense muscles much against a Georgia Southern option offense that passes on a lower percentage of snaps (18.6%) than all but three other FBS teams. Led by quarterback Shai Werts and running back Wesley Fields, Georgia Southern averages 5.35 yards per carry (18th in FBS). For an Eastern Michigan defense that is far less effective against the run than the pass—allowing rushes of five-plus yards on 51.5% of carries (114th in FBS)—this is a terrible matchup that figures to swing the game significantly.

4. Close games often come down to field goals, which gives Georgia Southern a tremendous advantage. Its kicker Tyler Bass has made 16 of 18 field goals this season, including a perfect 7-of-7 from 40-49 yards and one of two from 50-plus. Eastern Michigan's freshman kicker Chad Ryland, meanwhile, is only 12 of 20 on field-goal attempts this year and is zero for three from 30-39 yards out in his last three games. In a contest expected to be as tight as this one, Bass gives Georgia Southern a big leg up.

Pick: Georgia Southern -1

Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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