Georgia Southern has an opportunity to get one step closer to bowl eligibility when the Eagles welcome UL Lafayette to the friendly confines of Allen E. Paulson Stadium for a Thursday Sun Belt tilt.
Georgia Southern (4-5, 3-2 Sun Belt) played Ole Miss close for three quarters last week but ultimately fell 37-27 on the road in a game where Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly suffered a season-ending leg injury. The loss was the Eagles’ second in a row, following a 34-10 defeat to Appalachian State on Oct. 27. Georgia Southern needs to win two of its remaining three games (at Georgia State, vs. Troy follow this one) to be eligible for it second consecutive postseason appearance.
UL Lafayette (3-5, 2-3) enters this game with a little steeper hill to climb regarding the postseason following a 23-13 loss last week to Idaho. The Ragin’ Cajuns managed just 95 yards of offense in the second half against a Vandals defense that entered the game giving up 461 per game.
Thursday’s meeting is the first between the two schools.
UL Lafayette at Georgia Southern
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: UL Lafayette +8
Three Things to Watch
1. Georgia Southern RB Matt Breida
Accolades aren’t anything Breida isn’t used to. He rushed for 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns two seasons ago and added another 1,608 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, finishing 10th in the FBS with 128 rushing yards per game and leading the way at 7.92 yards per carry.
Breida enters tonight’s game with 15 100-yard rushing games, including last week’s 100-yard effort against Ole Miss. For the season, the senior is leads the team with 506 yards and two touchdowns, although he’s averaging just four yards per carry. As a team, the Eagles are 21-1 since 2014 when they outgain their opponents on the ground. UL Lafayette has done a good job limiting teams’ running game, ranking third in the Sun Belt at 126.6 rushing yards per game. But Georgia Southern is among the top 20 teams in the FBS in rushing (242.1 ypg), so you figure something will have to give in this matchup.
2. UL Lafayette QB Anthony Jennings
After playing at LSU for three seasons, Jennings left Baton Rouge and wound up in nearby Lafayette as a graduate transfer. A highly regarded prospect coming out of high school, Jennings has enjoyed some success as his new school in his senior season. He’s fourth in the Sun Belt in completion rate (62.1 percent) and has accounted for 12 total touchdowns (9 passing, 3 rushing) in eight games.
The Ragin’ Cajuns have had issues with consistency on offense, so Jennings will need to be at the top of his game on the road against a Georgia Southern defense that hasn’t exactly shut down the opposition this season. In their five losses, the Golden Eagles have given up an average of 36.4 points and 461.6 yards per game.
3. Georgia Southern QB Kevin Ellison
Much of Breida’s rushing success can be attributed to the threat Eagles quarterback Ellison poses when he lines up behind center. Ellison is a true dual-threat quarterback who is just as dangerous passing as he is throwing. Ellison threw for 101 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 117 rushing yards on Oct. 22 against New Mexico State. Against Arkansas State earlier in October, Ellison threw for 203 yards and a touchdown in a close, one-point loss.
The senior has tallied 713 passing yards and six passing touchdowns this year and has scored four times on the ground.
This matchup should be one of the Sun Belt Conference’s more intriguing ones as both teams stack up fairly even against each other. Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida has yet to have a breakout performance in 2016, but that should change by the time this one ends Thursday night. The Eagles should be able to lean on their productive running game at home and defeat UL Lafayette in a close contest.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 27, UL Lafayette 24
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.