The Georgia Southern Eagles will play in their very first post-season bowl game on December 23 when they take on the Bowling Green Falcons in the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. For a little insight into this match-up, we spoke with Haisten Willis (@HaistenWillis), who covers Georgia Southern for the BSN site Underdog Dynasty.
HB: Interesting that both teams are dealing with the loss of their head coach who moved on to a bigger opportunity. Bowling Green faced this in 2013 and lost to Pittsburgh in a bowl game they should have won. I thought the coach not being there for the bowl game impacted them. This time, I think the team has enough veteran leadership to not let it affect them as much. How do you think the Georgia Southern will handle this?
UD: Hard to say for the Eagles. This is the team's first-ever bowl game and first postseason appearance of any kind since 2012 following a two-season transitional ban. While Willie Fritz isn't coaching, both coordinators will be on the sidelines and the interim coach, Dell McGee, is widely recognized as an up-and-comer. That said, Georgia Southern played really poorly in its last game, which was only days before Fritz accepted the Tulane job. You have to wonder if internal turmoil or rumors played a role.
HB: A lot of Bowling Green fans are disappointed that the MAC champs are playing the third-place team from the Sun Belt in this game. No disrespect to the Eagles, but they were hoping for a Power 5 opponent in a bowl game. But believe me when I tell you that you have the full attention of the coaches and players. What you guys did against Western Michigan from our conference, and holding you own with Georgia proves you can play. But there have been games where you haven't played so well. What team do you think will show up in this game for Georgia Southern?
UD: Good point about the bowl matchups. Arkansas State won the Sun Belt and they are playing Louisiana Tech, a Group of 5 team who didn't win its conference. Western Kentucky won C-USA and is also playing a G5 non-champion in South Florida, so the bowl situation could certainly be improved.
This Southern team has been tough to figure out. Defense has been consistently strong, while the offense seems to be either on fire for the entire game or doing nothing for the entire game. You can usually tell by how the first two or three series go which it will be. In our last four, we put up 45 points against Troy, then the offense scored 10 points against Georgia. The Eagles scored 55 points the week after that against South Alabama, then ended the season with seven against Georgia State. Shrugging emoticon.
All I'll say is, hopefully the offense that showed up in the eight wins plays against Bowling Green.
HB: Everyone talks about your offense and how unique it is and how it gives teams that haven't seen it fits. What can you tell me about and what makes it so tough to defend?
UD: Georgia Southern has run the option for almost all of its history, and for 100 percent of its good history. It's tough to defend because it is different, and because defenses have to remain extremely disciplined to stop it.
The current iteration uses lots of different formations and there are always fake handoffs and misdirection. Just one blown defensive assignment on one play out of 10 can have disastrous results, especially because we're able to recruit short(er), extremely fast skill position players that tend to get overlooked by bigger programs.
There's some conventional wisdom about options teams not playing as well in bowls because the defense has much longer to prepare than usual. We will see if that's the case in Mobile.
HB: What players on the offensive and defensive side of the ball for the Eagles should Falcon fans be watching in this one?
UD: Quarterback Kevin Ellison and the running back trio of Matt Breida, LA Ramsby and Wesley Fields are all of the fast skill position player mold I mentioned earlier. On defense, Matt Dobson and Antonio Glover are always a pick threat and defensive line players like Ironhead Gallon pressure the quarterback and hit hard.
HB: Bowling Green has an up-tempo offense that likes throw the ball around. Tell me about the Eagles defense and have they faced the spread much this year?
UD: I don't believe Southern has faced the spread this year, and if they have it's nothing like what Bowling Green runs. I actually attended the Camellia Bowl last year where BGSU faced South Alabama and was extremely impressed with the up-tempo offense. It's no surprise Dino Babers got the call up to Syracuse.
HB: Finally, do you have a prediction for this one?
UD: I have confidence Southern's defense will keep them in the game, though they won't completely shut down the Falcon offense. It's going to depend on what happens when the Eagles have the ball. Call me an optimist â Georgia Southern 42, Bowling Green 28.