The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl is the fifth game of the day, an Eagles vs. Eagles matchup between Georgia Southern (Sun Belt Conference) and Eastern Michigan (Mid-American Conference).
After going 2-10 last year, Georgia Southern is 9-3 this season under first-year head coach Chad Lunsford. The team is looking for its first 10-win season since joining the Sun Belt Conference and the FBS. They will be the Eagles in blue and white.
Eastern Michigan went 7-5 this year, but four of those losses came during an ugly string in the first half of the season. These Eagles, wearing green, white and silver, have won five of their last six games.
Here’s how to watch the game—one of the few games at a good hour for West Coast football fans who like to sleep in on the weekend (the first game of the day, North Carolina A&T against Alcorn State, kicks off at 9 a.m. PT).
If you love the intricacy and choreographed majesty that is the option offense, then Georgia Southern is the team for you.
Unlike the under-center option favored by former head coach Paul Johnson (1997-2001; now at Georgia Tech), first-year head coach Chad Lunsford and offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse have the team running the option mostly out of shotgun and pistol formations. It seems to work just as well.
Georgia Southern averages 261.5 rushing yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. Wesley Fields paces the team with 959 yards, but it’s quarterback Shai Werts who is the one to watch. The sophomore is second on the team with 829 yards and leads the squad with 13 rushing touchdowns.
Georgia Southern mixes in the occasional pass, and this is where things get interesting: Werts hasn’t thrown an interception all year. Sure, he only has 109 attempts, but those 954 passing yards and 10 touchdowns haven’t come at the cost of a turnover (through the air).
Don’t think these guys are reckless when toting the rock: Georgia Southern has coughed up the ball just five times all season. It’s ball control all day for Georgia Southern, done beautifully.
Eastern Michigan boasts a tough, experienced defense, which is one of the better units in the nation. Unfortunately, their calling card is stopping the pass, where they allow just 160 yards per game.
Stopping the run is another matter. Eastern Michigan ranks 93rd in the country in rush defense—192.9 yards per game and 4.43 yards per carry, per NCAA.com. That doesn’t bode well. There are a couple of stalwarts worth watching if you want to get an idea of who might play at the next level.
According to CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso, edge-rusher Maxx Crosby and safety Vince Calhoun are both potential NFL prospects. With so much running from Georgia Southern, Crosby might not impact the game the way he likes to, but it could be a busy day for Calhoun as he comes up in run support and keeps an eye out for the intermittent passing play.
Per Trapasso, Calhoun is accustomed to doing whatever the defense needs from him:
“As another junior, we probably won’t see Calhoun in the 2019 NFL Draft, but he’s been a play-maker for Eastern Michigan this season with 77 tackles, four pass breakups, three interceptions, and two tackles for loss from the rover position in the middle of the field. He’s asked by his coaches to do a lot—lay the lumber in run support, cover the slot, sink deep in zone coverage—and he does it all very well. There could be some questions about his size, but he’s a rather compact 5-11 and 200 pounds.”
On offense, Eastern Michigan will try to counter with a passing attack featuring wide receiver Blake Banham (54 receptions, 714 yards, five touchdowns). Quarterback Tyler Wiegers has been the signal-caller most of the season and is pretty good at taking care of the football in his own right, with 11 touchdowns against three interceptions. The ground game isn’t spectacular, paced by running back Shaq Vann (590 yards, five touchdowns).
This game will be won when Eastern Michigan is on defense. If they can contain Georgia Southern’s dynamic option attack, there is no passing game to turn to. A low-scoring game favors Eastern Michigan. If Georgia Southern gets the offense rolling downhill, it could run away with this one.