Georgia State Panthers (4-3, 3-1) vs. Georgia Southern Eagles (0-7, 0-3)
Location: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA (25,000)
Time: Saturday November 4, 3:00 EST/2:00 CT
Series: Georgia State leads 2-1 (’16 State 30-24)
Odds: Georgia State -3.5 O/U 51
It’s that week. Georgia Southern vs. Georgia State week. Eagles vs. Panthers. Two fanbases/alumni that flat out dislike one another. I’m a Georgia Southern alumnus living in Atlanta; I am surrounded by Panthers on a daily basis. I’ve heard a steady stream of trash talk from their fans for the past two years.
UGA vs. Georgia Tech is “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.” Well, this might as well be “Dirty, New-School Hate.” The “Battle for GSU” kinda fizzled out once Georgia Southern staked their claim as “GS” with the help of country singer Cole Swindell.
But #SouthernNotState and #StateNotSouthern are still a thing on Twitter and Instagram. It even comes with a nifty new trophy. (Not real popular among Eagles fans)
Setting aside the basketball and Olympic sports rivalry, which has existed for decades, the football rivalry is only four years old. Georgia State leads the series 2-1 after winning the last two matchups.
I can’t shake the feeling that hubris is to blame for the malady that has befallen the Eagles these past two years. Some dingus had the bright idea to haul out the infamous “Paulson Stadium North” after the Eagles won the first meeting 69-31 in Atlanta.
The motivated Panthers returned the favor the following season with a 34-7 beatdown of the Eagles in Paulson Stadium. Who could blame them? Still the worst home loss in Georgia Southern history. Willie Fritz’s biggest sin during his two-year stint in Statesboro.
I’m not going to get into the merits of whether creating a fancy trophy and a points system for a rivalry is dorky or not. But for those interested in that sort of thing, Georgia State has dominated the first two years of the series.
2015-16: Georgia State 14-7
2016-17: Georgia State 18-4
This Year’s Matchup
Chad “Triple Option” Lunsford did it. Despite the doubters, the naysayers, on the second play from scrimmage the offense lined up, under center, in the fabled flexbone formation. I almost fainted. It’s hard to understand how much this means to a large segment of Eagles fans, but it did. Tossing a bone to the upset fanbase was a savvy move by Lunsford.
Triple Option Chad didn’t want to tip his hand to the media, but we’ll be seeing more and more of it in the coming weeks. The offense was equally effective out of both shotgun and under-center. The speed at which the play develops is different in flex vs. shotgun.
The result wasn’t much different from previous results for Georgia Southern this season, however.
Georgia Southern scored 16 points last week. For the year they average 17.71 PPG.
Georgia Southern allowed 38 points while they are allowing 40.86 PPG this season.
Despite the change in scheme and rotating Kado Brown/Shai Werts at QB, there is only so much you could accomplish after a tumultuous week in Statesboro following the firing of Tyson Summers. Traveling to Troy to play one of the best teams in the conference on a rainy Saturday afternoon was not going to work out no matter what changes Lunsford could make in the short time frame.
But now Georgia State comes to town. The prospect of losing three in a row to Georgia State is staring the Eagles directly in the face. Weird things happen in rivalry games. The emotions are rawer. The cliche “throw the records out” springs to mind.
But there’s a reason Georgia State is a 3.5 road favorite. There’s a reason they are 3-1 in conference. Shawn Elliott is turning Georgia State into a real threat in the Sun Belt Conference. The Panthers are in line for a bowl bid if they can win just two more games.
The Georgia State Panthers are led by QB Conner Manning and WR Penny Hart. Manning leads the conference in completion percentage at 64.8% (142/219 for 1,711 yards with 9 TDs, 5 INTs). Hart leads the SBC in receiving yards and receptions (53 catches, 658 yards, and 7 TDs).
Along with Manning and Hart, the Panthers have three running backs that can beat you on the ground and through the air. Glenn Smith, Taz Bateman, and Kyler Neal have combined for 229 touches, 1,002 all-purpose yards, and 7 TDs this season.
Georgia State is still a pass-oriented offense, 259 yards per game through the air vs. 114 yards rushing. But Shawn Elliott has demonstrated a more significant commitment to the running game this season than in seasons past to relieve pressure off of Conner Manning and the defense. Georgia State utilizes the short passing game as an extension of their running game.
Georgia State is middle of the pack in FBS in total defense, 61st out of 130, 25.4 PPG allowed. If you take out the outlier, the 56-0 drubbing at the hands of Penn State in mid-September, it ranks even higher.
As much as it pains me, as much as I would like to believe in Triple Option Chad, Georgia State is just a better team than Georgia Southern at the moment. I believe in Lunsford, but I do not believe in Costantini and the defense, however. I’m already having nightmares about our secondary chasing Penny Hart up and down the field all day Saturday.
Maybe the emotion of the rivalry, plus what’s expected to be a decent crowd in Statesboro Saturday, will help propel the Eagles past their hated rival for the first time since 2014. But let’s face it, the Eagles are 0-7 for a reason. They aren’t any good.
Eagles lost by 35 to UMass, they lost to Troy by 22, by the transitive property of football, I predict they only lose by 9 points this week. Lunsford wants this bad. But I just don’t see the Eagles secondary slowing down Manning, Hart, & Company. Georgia State is 3-1 in road games vs. 1-2 at home. Prove me wrong, Eagles.
Georgia State Panthers – 31
Georgia Southern Eagles – 22