Georgia Southern put together one of the true darling Cinderella seasons last year. But despite winning the Sun Belt Conference crown, Willie Fritz' Eagles were not allowed to participate in the bowl season. A year later, the same program is on the cusp of becoming a bowl-eligible team, and all that stands in the way is Texas State on Thursday night. The high-powered Georgia Southern offense should be in a good position to shake off the pain of a conference loss last week against Appalachian State. Do that, and Georgia Southern fans can start to explore their bowl plans without much hesitation.
Texas State vs. Georgia Southern
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Georgia Southern -20.5
Three Things To Watch
1. Meet the Sun Belt Conference's leading rusher
The year of the running back has been a particularly strong one with players like LSU's Leonard Fournette and Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliot living up to expectations. Flying under the radar is the Sun Belt Conference's leading rusher, Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida. Breida has rushed for 953 yards, ranking him in the nation's top 10 in rushing yards and tied with Stanford's Christian McCaffrey. His 11 touchdowns are also comparable against some of the nation's leading rushers (Fournette and Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. each lead the nation with 15 rushing touchdowns). In seven games, Breida has rushed for at least 130 yards five times, and he will be looking to shake off a relatively disappointing outing last week against Appalachian State (78 yards, no touchdowns). It will help that Breida is going up against the Sun Belt's 10th-ranked rushing defense. The Bobcats are allowing an average of 258.5 rushing yards per game (124th in the nation).
2. Antonio Glover can make things happen
On the defensive side of the football, Georgia Southern has a senior defensive back in Antonio Glover more than capable of coming up with a big play. Entering the week, Glover is tied for the Sun Belt lead in interceptions with five (Appalachian State's Latrell Gibbs), although three of those picks came back in Week 2 in a 43-17 win against Western Michigan. Glover has picked off a pass in two of the past three games though, so Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones will have to be careful. Jones has been fairly careful with the football in his six games, with just three interceptions on 185 pass attempts. Two of those interceptions have come on the road, both against Houston in late September. He was also picked off last week by South Alabama.
3. Georgia Southern can become bowl eligible
Despite winning the Sun Belt Conference championship last year, its first season as a member of the conference and as an FBS program, the Eagles were banned from postseason eligibility due to NCAA rules regarding programs switching between FCS and FBS ranks. That is no longer a hurdle for the Eagles. A win Thursday night against Texas State will make the program bowl eligible in just its second season in the FBS. That would be quite a feat in itself with a more challenging schedule this season, but the question will still be just how many bowl spots will be available for Georgia Southern in the end. For now, simply focus on becoming bowl eligible and worry about the fallout later on.
Georgia Southern should thrive running the football against Texas State. The Bobcats will have to go all out in containing Breida running the football, but it may not be enough. The Eagles have scored at least 40 points in five of their last six games and will be looking to get back to that type of offensive output after taking a blowout loss on the road at Appalachian State last week. Look for a big night from Breida as Georgia Southern clinches their anticipated bowl eligibility status.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 46, Texas State 27
— 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 writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.