Who: Georgia Southern (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5)
What: Camellia Bowl
When: 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, December 15
Where: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama
Spread: Georgia Southern -1.5
How to watch: ESPN, WatchESPN
After enduring back-to-back 2-10 and 1-11 seasons in his first two seasons at the helm of Eastern Michigan’s football program, Coach Chris Creighton has led the Eagles to arguably their most prosperous era in program history. He led them to a 7-5 regular season record and a Bahamas Bowl appearance in 2016 and they’ll get another chance at a bowl win and potential eight-win season this year.
Eastern Michigan has only earned three bowl bids in the history of its program and two of them have come in the last three seasons. If the Eagles win the Camellia Bowl, their eight wins this season would be the program’s most since they went 10-2 in 1987.
Georgia Southern, while a much younger FBS program that only joined the highest level of the sport in 2014, won nine games for the third time in five seasons. Former Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz led the Eagles to back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2014 and 2015 before jumping to Tulane, leading to 5-7 and 2-10 records in the last two seasons. But head coach Chad Lunsford, who took over midseason last year after the team’s 0-6 start, has Georgia Southern back on the right track in 2018.
The Eagles finished third in the Sun Belt East despite beating Sun Belt champion Appalachian State, which was ranked at the time, and their only non-conference loss was at Clemson. A bowl win would signify Georgia Southern’s best season since joining the FBS ranks.
Eastern Michigan and Georgia Southern are comparable opponents, even though their respective strengths are on opposite sides of the ball. Football Outsiders’ S&P+ rankings has Georgia Southern ranked No. 59 nationally and Eastern Michigan at No. 63. The former, which runs the triple option, has the nation’s No. 51-ranked offense and the latter is No. 33 on defense.
Georgia Southern scores a touchdown when it’s in the red zone roughly 15 percent more often than Eastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan often struggles to extend and capitalize on drives, as shown by its 32% conversion rate on third down and it’s No. 113 ranking in red zone conversions.
Rushing yards per game: 260 (9th)
Red zone conversion percentage: 92.5% (5th)
Field goal percentage: 88.9% (5th)
Points allowed per game: 21.6 (27th)
Turnover margin: +22 (1st)
Players to watch
RB Wesley Fields — 177 carries, 959 rushing yards, 9 TD, 237 receiving yards
QB Shai Werts — 954 passing yards, 10 passing TD, 829 rushing yards, 13 rushing TD
CB Kindle Vildor — 39 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 4 INT, 12 PD
DE Raymond Johnson III — 35 total tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 PD, 2 FR
Points allowed per game: 22.0 (32nd)
Passing yards allowed per game: 160 (5th)
Turnover margin: +10 (10th)
Opponent fourth down conversion percentage: 39.3% (17th)
Opponent red zone conversion percentage: 71.7% (4th)
Opponent touchdown percentage in the red zone: 45.6% (9th)
Limiting opponent plays of at least 10 yards: 119 (5th)
Players to watch
QB Tyler Wiegers — 1,887 passing yards, 64.8%, 11 TD, 3 INT
WR Blake Banham — 54 receptions, 714 receiving yards, 5 TD
LB Kyle Rachwal — 115 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 2 INT, 4 PD,
DL Maxx Crosby — 62 total tackles, 18.0 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 4 FF