By, Brent Booher
South Alabama (3-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) at Georgia Southern (3-2, 1-2 Sun Belt)
Spread: Georgia Southern -3.5
Total: O/U 52
Time/TV: 7:30PM ET, ESPN
The ‘Fun Belt’ returns to ESPN on Thursday night with a matchup of two teams with contrasting styles but similar goals to pull themselves back into the chase for the Sun Belt Conference championship.
Georgia Southern boasts the 13th best rushing offense in college football, averaging just under 250 yards rushing per contest, and they’ve also been outstanding at controlling the clock and the tempo as they have held onto the ball for a Sun Belt best 33:42 a game.
That should test a South Alabama defensive unit that’s been surprisingly stingy against the run this season, as the Jaguars have held three of their five opponents to under 100 yards of rushing.
However, in the two games where teams were able to run the football successfully against the South Alabama defense, the Jaguars would ultimate wind up losing each contest (vs. Tulane and at UAB).
While Tulane and UAB have respectable ground games that will keep defenses honest all season, Georgia Southern is a whole different animal.
The Eagles offense is triple-option based and led by senior quarterback Shai Werts. Werts struggled a week ago against Coastal Carolina, at one point even exiting the game due to injury before returning to finish the game. The triple-option based offense is obviously not intended to air the ball out either, and the senior quarterback was pressed into throwing the ball a career high 20 times, completing only seven passes for a measly 94 yards.
Georgia Southern will look to avoid throwing the ball much this evening, and a perfect night for the Eagles would have Werts throwing it only a handful of times.
South Alabama’s offensive philosophy on the other hand, differs a great deal from their opposition this evening. Instead of a triple-option based offense, the Jaguars prefer to attack opponents through a spread-based offense while featuring two quarterbacks in the process.
Sophomore Desmond Trotter will start at quarterback for the Jaguars, and to date he has played very well, completing over 66% of his passes for 744 yards with six touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, both of which came in South Alabama’s season opener against Southern Miss.
South Alabama backup quarterback Chance Lovertich will also see action tonight, as he’s appeared in all five games thus far and posted similar numbers of 607 yards passing with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
While using multiple quarterbacks has had varying levels of success historically, so far the two-headed monster at quarterback has paid dividends for the Jaguars as they find themselves at the top of their division in the Sun Belt Conference and are 4-1 ATS this season.
Despite the tendency to throw the ball, South Alabama does look to have a more balanced attack on offense and will not be shy at running the ball and trying to establish the tempo in their favor.
Ultimately tonight’s game will be determined by which team can establish their style of play the best. I think Georgia Southern’s offense will keep the South Alabama offense off the field, and the triple-option will prevail in a big home win for the Eagles.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 34, South Alabama 28
Best Bet: Georgia Southern (-3.5)
Colorado State (0-0) at Fresno State (0-1, 0-1 MWC)
Spread: Colorado State -3
Total: O/U 58.5
Time/TV: 10:00PM ET, CBS Sports Network
The Mountain West Conference kicks off Week 2 of their abbreviated season with Colorado State traveling to Fresno to meet the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Despite the Mountain West season officially starting last Saturday, Colorado State did not play last week due to their opening matchup against New Mexico being cancelled from COVID-19 concerns, so Saturday will officially mark the debut of new Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio, formerly of Boston College.
Addazio’s teams are notorious for fielding offensive units that love to run the football. While former Colorado State head man Mike Bobo elected to throw the ball nearly 75% of the time a season ago, Addazio will do the complete opposite, as his Boston College teams would roughly 70% of the time during his tenure.
That could spell danger for a Fresno State defense that is coming off a woeful start to their season, as they gave up an eye popping 554 yards of offense in a loss to Hawaii, with 323 of those yards coming on the ground.
While Hawaii is no longer the air raid, throw it 80 times a night team of old, surrendering over 300 rushing yards to Hawaii isn’t exactly an encouraging trend either.
Former Washington Husky quarterback Jake Haener struggled mightily in his first start in Fresno, as he went just 17-of-31 passing for 289 yards with one touchdown pass and three costly interceptions.
All in all, the Bulldogs looked a lot like a team that had not practiced much and was still getting their feet wet with a new coach and quarterback. After a shortened week of practice, it’s anyone’s guess if that will improve this week.
Meanwhile for Addazio’s Rams, he will inherit 2019 starter Patrick O’Brien at quarterback but will lose the best playmaker on the team as wide receiver Warren Jackson opted out of the 2020 season to focus on the NFL Draft. Dante Wright figures to slide into the top wide receiver role, and is coming off a 2019 campaign that saw him post 56 receptions, 802 yards and four touchdowns.
Ultimately the Rams offense will likely lean heavily on the ground game, and Marcus McElroy Jr. is the prototypical 235-pound beefcake workhorse running back that Addazio loves.
This game actually opened up originally as a pick and has since shifted to Colorado State in a sizable way, as 70% of the public is backing Colorado State tonight.
I’m actually going to be contrarian with this one and predict that Fresno State is able to tighten up the defense and will get better play from their new quarterback. I foresee Colorado State running into a lot of the same issues that plagued this same Bulldogs team a week ago and will take the home underdog to win outright.
Prediction: Fresno State 37, Colorado State 27
Best Bet: Fresno State (+3), Fresno State ML (+116)