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Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Western Michigan Broncos Preview and Prediction

P.J. Fleck

P.J. Fleck

Two Group of Five programs on the rise do battle in a matchup of undefeated teams Saturday night in Kalamazoo. Western Michigan has been battle-tested with a pair of victories in Big Ten stadiums. The Broncos have earned each in hard-fought fashion and look to be playing like a legitimate MAC championship favorite. This week they take on Georgia Southern from the Sun Belt Conference. The Eagles are not easily intimidated and will look to use a well-balanced rushing attack to wear down Western Michigan’s defense. Doing so may be easier said than done, but this one could be a secretly entertaining gem Saturday night.

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Georgia Southern at Western Michigan

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Western Michigan -7.0

Three Things to Watch

1. Top 10 rushing offenses take the field  

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With three games in the books, it is clear that both Georgia Southern and Western Michigan like to do damage on the ground with their running games. Georgia Southern brings the nation’s third-ranked rushing offense to Kalamazoo, averaging 356.3 rushing yards per game. Sophomore running back Wesley Fields leads the team but the option style of the Eagles has seen senior quarterback Favian Upshaw produce as well. In fact, the two are separated by just one rushing yard and one rushing touchdown so far. The Eagles also have distributed the ball well to running back Matt Breida and quarterback Kevin Ellison has come through too. It seems that no matter who carries the football, Georgia Southern thrives.

Western Michigan has been led by sophomore Jamauri Bogan, and having junior Jarvion Franklin has been an asset as well. Last week, Western Michigan rushed for 287 yards and four touchdowns at Illinois in a 34-10 victory. Look for the Broncos to take control on the ground once again.

2. Revenge game for Western Michigan
Western Michigan may have finished its 2015 season with a flurry, but it did not get off to a great start last season. The Broncos took a big loss on the road against Georgia Southern last September, losing 43-17. That is all the fuel that head coach P.J. Fleck should need to get this year’s team focused and ready. The Broncos get home-field advantage this time around and they look to be continuing the wave of momentum that ended last season. With two road wins against Big Ten opponents under their belts, Western Michigan looks primed and ready to make a run this season, and picking up revenge against the Eagles is a part of that plan.

3. Coaching is a young man’s game this week
With Georgia Southern and Western Michigan, two of college football’s youngest head coaches will match wits. Western Michigan’s Fleck is the nation’s second-youngest FBS head coach at 35 years of age. On the other side of the field, Georgia Southern’s Tyson Summers is one year older and the third-youngest in the FBS. That tends to mean more of a predisposition to try some new things and the play-calling will keep you on your toes as a fan, so you never know what you might see.

In case you were curious: the youngest coach in the FBS is Memphis head coach Mike Norvell, at 34 years of age.

Final Analysis

This game does carry some significant importance in the larger Group of Five picture, although it will be easy to overlook considering what is happening at Houston and in the Mountain West Conference with Boise State and San Diego State. But should any of those three teams, or all three, stumble, this game continues to help Western Michigan’s possible New Year's Six hopes with a win. The Broncos look like the best team in the MAC, which enters them into the bigger conversation at the end of the season, but first they must take care of Georgia Southern, perhaps one of the best teams from the Sun Belt Conference. A win helps the MAC’s standing in the Group of Five pecking order and Western Michigan has the roster to prevail. A stronger running game proves to be the difference as the Broncos go 4-0 ahead of MAC play.

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Prediction: Western Michigan 34, Georgia Southern 31

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook