SBC Preview: Georgia Southern at Western Michigan
The undefeated current leader of the Sun Belt Conference find themselves in a battle with another unbeaten team this Saturday.
Georgia Southern travels to Kalamazoo this Saturday to play the Western Michigan Broncos on the second part of a home-and-home series. The Eagles won last year’s game 43-17 in Statesboro.
The Eagles are coming off of a 23-21 win over Louisiana Monroe, where they had their wings clipped keeping them grounded. But the ground is where Georgia Southern plays best. They had 345 rushing yards to make up for their 71 passing yards.
Defensively, the Eagles allowed Louisiana Monroe to gain 283 yards and jump out to a 14-0 first quarter lead. They improved the plays later in the game, but they needed the special team to block a field goal late to win the game.
Western Michigan, however. defeated Illinois 34-10 last week, their second win over a Big 10 opponent this season. The thing that should really concern Georgia Southern fans is that the Broncos only allowed Illinois to gain three rushing yards.
The Eagles may be comfortable being grounded in most games, but Western Michigan is one of the few teams on the schedule that can shut down their run game.
GS Offense vs. WMU Defense
The Eagles passing game took a few steps backwards on Saturday. After two solid games against Savannah State and South Alabama, Favian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison only went 5-of-17 with 71 yards.
Fortunately for them, the running game didn’t have those issues. Georgia Southern had four rushers gain at least 50 yards and as a team had 4.9 yards per carry.
On the season, the Eagles have been efficient all around. They already have 1,069 rushing yards as a team. Wesley Fields and Upshaw have 217 and 216 yards respectively. Matt Breida has 195, Ellison has 181 and Demarcus Godfrey has 124.
Passing hasn’t been as potent, but it has been effective enough. Upshaw and Ellison are 24-of-42 with 393 yards, two touchdowns with one interception.
So far in 2016, Western Michigan has only allowed 232 rushing yards. That’s almost a quarter of what the Eagles have gained this year. So something will have to give this Saturday.
Conversely, the Broncos have given up 717 passing yards, which is close to half of what the Eagles have compiled. Once again, something has to give.
Where Georgia Southern thrives offensively, Western Michigan thrives defensively. Where the Eagles struggle offensively, the Broncos struggle defensively. It will be interesting to watch which side will execute themselves upon the other more accurately.
GS Defense vs. WMU Offense
Statistically speaking, the Eagles defense can be misleading. They’ve allowed 634 passing yards to 170 rushing yards. But they are yet to be tested by a good running game, and South Alabama and Louisiana Monroe both have really good passing games. Everyone they’ve played so far is one dimensional by choice.
In three games, only six scoring drives have been given up by Georgia Southern. South Alabama settled for three field goals, but Louisiana Monroe scored three touchdowns. Two of the Warhawks touchdowns came in the first quarter and the Eagles defense dominated from there.
In the moments where they were under the most pressure, Georgia Southern made the stops necessary to win ball games.
But they are yet to see a balanced offense that will test them all around the field.
This is where Western Michigan comes in.
The Broncos passing attack led by Zach Terrell has 623 passing yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Jamauri Bogan leads the team with 423 rushing yards, all together the Broncos have 844 yards on the ground.
They are the balanced team and will be the Eagles biggest early season test. Just like the other match-up, something here has to give. Is the Eagles run defense really as good as its statistics suggest?
This Saturday’s game will answer that.
This game is too close to predict. It should definitely be a closer game than last year’s blow out in Paulson. For the most part, each team matches each other strengths and weaknesses.
Georgia Southern has a bit of an edge because of how unique their option game is, and how the passing game has shown moments of brilliance this season. Upshaw and Ellison may have a break out game against the Broncos pass defense.
Western Michigan will bring the competition to Kalamazoo, almost 1,000 miles away from Statesboro. However the Eagles are in a conference with Idaho and New Mexico State. They are no strangers to long road trips.
Something definitely has to give Saturday.
Location: Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Time: September 24, 7:00 pm ET