The Eastern Michigan Eagles travel down to Montgomery, Alabama where they will face the Georgia Southern Eagles in the Camellia Bowl. This is the first appearance in this bowl for either team. This is the third Division 1A bowl for the Eastern Michigan Eagles and this is their second in three years. They have a 1 and 1 record in those bowl games. They also went to the Pioneer Bowl when they played in the NAIA and they lost that game. This is the second bowl appearance for the Georgia Southern Eagles. Their first bowl game was the GoDaddy Bowl against the Bowling Green Falcons in 2015, they won by a score of 58 to 27.
Georgia Southern is in their first full year Chad Lunsford. He took over as interim coach after the previous coach lost the first six games. His record was 2 and 4 for the rest of that season. Currently, Georgia Southern has nine wins and three losses and is 6 and 2 in the conference. They joined the Sun Belt Conference after jumping up to the FBS level in football. They are 33 and 27 at the FBS Level and in their first year won the Sun Belt Championship by going undefeated in the conference. They had to wait a year before their first bowl game though.
Eastern Michigan is in their fifth year under Chris Creighton. He has put Eastern Michigan in its best position in a long time. He is currently 22 and 39 at Eastern Michigan with seven wins and five losses this year. This is the second time he has reached seven wins at Eastern Michigan.
The Camellia Bowl is in its fifth year in its current iteration and is played at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. Currently, it matches someone from the Mid American Conference against someone from the Sun Belt. The Mid-American Conference is One and Two because it did not send a representative last year. The lone MAC win was by Bowling Green over South Alabama in 2014.
So what can we expect? Georgia Southern typically runs an option offense. I’m not sure if it as good as the offense that Eastern Michigan faced when they played Army but it seems that it gave them fits. The Georgia Southern offense is run by quarterback Shai Werts who has a 59% completion percentage but he only throws for about 80 yards per game. He also averages about 69 yards on the ground. Overall, the passing game averages about 82 yards per game with no interceptions. The rushing attack is a different story, it averages about 260 yards per game which seems low for a typical option game. Their leading rusher is Wesley Fields with about 87 yards per game. On average, they score 31 points per game.
They are facing a very aggressive defense led by Maxx Crosby. The Eastern Michigan defense gives up about 192 yards on the ground but really shines against the pass by only giving up 160 yards in the air. Much of that comes from the 13 interceptions and 26 sacks. They also have a fair number of tackles for loss. Eastern Michigan holds their opponents to an average of 22 points per game. If Eastern Michigan’s defense can stay disciplined, they should be able to neutralize the option.
The Eastern Michigan offense is led by Tyler Wiegers who has about a 64% completion rating. He’s pretty good at throwing the ball but he’s not a particularly good runner. I am not sure if we will see Mike Glass in the game, but if we do, he will add a nice wrinkle that the offense could use. The Eastern Michigan ground game is led by Shaq Vann with 53 yards per game but there is also Ian Eriksen and Willie Parker for different looks. Overall, the ground game nets about 150 yards per game. With an additional 228 yards in the air, Eastern Michigan can be a pretty potent offense and on average will score 27 points per game.
The Georgia Southern offense allows about 144 yards on the ground and 217 in the air. Their leading tackler is Joshua Moon. Their sack leader is Logan Hunt with five and their next sack leader is Raymond Johnson with 4.5. Overall, they have 25 sacks and 15 interceptions. They give up about 21 points per game.
So what does all of this mean? On paper these look like two very evenly matched teams. Georgia Southern has a field goal advantage on offense but both teams are equally stingy on defense. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the games I’ve watched this year, when Eastern Michigan is faced with a team with a predominantly running quarterback, their defense does not match up well. I don’t think the Georgia Southern option is as good as the Army option, so there’s that. So I think this game is going to be won by the team that gets the breaks. If Eastern Michigan can force Georgia Southern to take to the air, I think Eastern Michigan will win. If that doesn’t happen, it might be a long game for the Men from Ypsilanti. But we’ll see. The game will be televised on ESPN.