The 2015 GoDaddy Bowl is upon us, and this year's match-up features two powerful yet diametrically opposed offenses. It's a game that could make your head spin as you watch the two extremes of modern offensive philosophy.
The Bowling Green Falcons (10-3) run an up-tempo spread offense that was lovingly dubbed #FalconFast when it debuted two seasons ago. The Georgia Southern Eagles (8-4), on the other hand, utilize the option and lead the country with 355.6 rushing yards per game. Don't think they can't score a lot, though. The Eagles average 34.7 points per game.
If the differences in the two offenses are not enough for you, this game will throw you an extra wrinkle in the form of two interim head coaches. Both teams lost their 2015 head coaches to new opportunities this month, as BGSU's Dino Babers left for Syracuse while GSU's Willie Fritz became the new head coach at Tulane. In their place are Brian Ward and Dell McGee.
Ward spent 2015 as BGSU's defensive coordinator. He came to the Falcons after serving in the same position with Western Illinois in 2014. While the Falcons were only 62nd nationally in points allowed and 78th in total yards allowed this season, they were a vastly improved unit compared to what could only be described as an utter disaster in 2014. Of course, it remains to be seen how the Falcon offense will operate with a defensive coach at the helm.
McGee has spent two seasons with Georgia Southern as running backs coach, and he was also assistant head coach in 2015. The Eagles were the nation's best rushing attack in both 2014 and 2015, and their offense should not suffer at all because of the change at the top. However, there is one indisputably interesting fact about McGee that must be shared: he is a veteran of the XFL. He played for the Los Angeles Extreme during the league's only season in 2001.
(If you're not familiar with the XFL, it was a league founded by World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon, and it used a lot of crazy rules. If you want to know more, click HERE.)
For Bowling Green fans, there is certainly some disappointment being expressed at having to play in this game against a third-place Sun Belt team. Many Falcon supporters wanted to see the 2015 MAC champions against a Power 5 team (like Temple). While it's easy to understand that opinion, Georgia Southern is about as unique an opponent as you could get, and they are worth watching.
If you don't believe us, just ask the football teams at Alabama, Florida and Georgia. All three have faced the Eagles in recent years and all three were exposed to just how good the GSU offense can be.
In 2011, Georgia Southern ran up 302 rushing yards (7.7 per carry) against Alabama, the eventual national champions. Although the Crimson Tide won that game 45-21, Nick Saban is still talking about that game four years later.
Two years later, the Eagles became the first FCS team to ever beat Florida. They beat the Gators in the Swamp 26-20, and they rushed for 429 yards in that game. They also did not complete a single pass in that game.
Finally, just one month ago, GSU faced the Georgia Bulldogs. While they only compiled 233 yards on the ground and actually completed four passes, the Eagles took Georgia to overtime before falling 23-17.
Want more scary evidence? Georgia Southern hosted Western Michigan in September. The Eagles won that game by 26 points (43-17) and ran for 413 yards. They attempted just four passes in that game and completed only one. BGSU also beat WMU this year, but they only won by 14 (41-27).
In other words, the Eagles are nothing to be trifled with.
GSU has five players that rushed for at least 380 yards during the regular season. That group is led by the fantastic Matt Breida. He posted 1,540 yards and averaged 8.2 per carry. He also scored 16 touchdowns. Another 12 touchdowns were scored by L.A. Ramsby, who ran for 776 yards. Wesley Fields added 607 yards and six touchdowns, while Favian Upshaw earned 384 of his own.
Quarterback Kevin Ellison 101 times for 638 yards and also scored eight times. In fact, he had more rushing attempts than pass attempts. He threw the ball only 84 times in 10 games and completed just 37. He totaled 532 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions. The leading GSU receiver, B.J. Johnson, had just 14 catches and 232 yards.
Lest we forget, Georgia Southern also has a very stout defense. They rank in the top 25 nationally in total defense (336.1 yards per game), rushing defense (132.2 ypg) and interceptions (17). They're also 39th against the pass (203.9 ypg) and 41st in scoring defense (23.2 points per game). Antwione Williams leads the team in tackles (97), tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (4.0). He also forced four fumbles. Meanwhile, Antonio Glover has created seven turnovers, with six interceptions and a fumble recovery.
The Falcons are representing the MAC in Mobile for the third time overall and first as current MAC champions. They beat Memphis back in 2004 but were humiliated 63-7 by Tulsa following the 2007 season. This year, BGSU will arrive at their fourth straight bowl game with the MAC's leading offense. Bowling Green scored a school-record 564 points and averaged 561 yards per game.
Senior quarterback Matt Johnson broke MAC single-season records for passing yards (4,700) and touchdown passes (43) while completing 68.6 percent of his passes and throwing just eight interceptions. His efforts helped four players surpass 50 catches and 600 yards.
Gehrig Dieter led BGSU receivers with 89 catches, while Roger Lewis led all FBS pass catchers with 1,476 catches. Fifteen of Lewis' 82 receptions were for touchdowns. Ronnie Moore added 871 yards and five scores, and Ryan Burbrink posted 627 yards and four touchdowns.
Of course, BGSU can also run the ball. Travis Greene was second in the MAC in 2015 with 1,220 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. He now has 3.773 career rushing yards, which broke the previous school record by 350. Greene also saved his best for last, as he ran for a career-high 183 in the Falcons' 34-14 win over Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship.
On defense, Bowling Green's best efforts were against the run. The Falcons ranked in the middle of the pack in the MAC by giving up 161.6 yards on the ground and only surrendered a respectable 4.0 per carry. They're also great at the turnover game, with 27 forced turnovers that helped BGSU lead the MAC with a +14 turnover differential. BGSU has back-to-back games with three interceptions and have 20 overall in 2015.
Austin Valdez is the team's leading tackler, with 133, and 10.5 of those were for losses. Terrance Bush and Taylor Royster also loved to live in the backfield, as they each posted six sacks. Alfonso Mack led the team with six interceptions.
The 2015 GoDaddy Bowl should be a fantastic game with two dominant offenses and two underrated defenses. BGSU's seniors are seeking to complete a four-year legacy of winning, while Georgia Southern is playing in its first-ever bowl game. Expect both teams to be amped up and a lot of fireworks.