Georgia State Panthers (6-6 SU, 8-3-1 ATS) vs. San Jose State Spartans (5-7 SU, 7-5 ATS)
Auto Nation Cure Bowl
Date/Time: Saturday, December 19, 2015 at 7PM EST
Where: Orlando Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
TV: CBS Sports Network
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GSU +3.5/SJSU -3.5
Over/Under Total: 57
The Georgia State Panthers meet the San Jose Spartans in Orlando in the Auto Nation Cure Bowl, a game that will raise awareness for breast cancer. It is the inaugural season for this particular bowl game. Georgia State was 6-6 this season, a pretty good season for the Sun Belt team that has only had 3 years in the FBS, with their first two seasons combining for a 1-23 record. So this was a highly successful season for the Panthers and they would love to cap it off by winning their first bowl game. To do so, they will have to beat a San Jose team that benefitted from the ever-broadening bowl landscape, getting into this game despite a 5-7 record. Losing 4 of their last 6 games, the Spartans didnít exactly sail into this spot, but they should still be able to give Georgia State a heck of a game and are favored to win.
Georgia State really turned things around this season. In the big picture, they didnít register a ripple, but itís all relative. And for a new team to go to 6-6 after winning once in two years really says a lot about this bunch and their future prospects. They began the season at 2-6, before rallying with 4 straight wins to end the season, all against conference opposition. Their last win, against 8-3 Georgia Southern, had them beating a good team on the road to get into this spot. They carry some momentum into this game and are showing urgency. The Cure Bowl is no teamís ultimate destination, but for a team like Georgia State, it counts for a lot and they should be expected to play accordingly.
The Panthersí offense is led by second-year starter Nick Arbuckle, a California product that has been at least partially responsible for the turnaround of this program in such quick order. He has thrown 26 touchdown passes on 4160 yards passing. The Georgia State run game is pretty negligible, but they can air it out very well. Leading the pass-catching unit is a pair of fine receivers in Penny Hart and Robert Davis, who have combined for over 2000 yards. Throw in difference-makers like Donovan Harden and Keith Rucker and this is one of the more potent aerial offenses in the Sun Belt. Itís not a balanced offense, but when coming off a 1-23 run the previous two seasons, you donít want to get too picky. They at least were able to get this offense moving this season.
The Georgia State defense has taken its share of knocks this season and through the first 7-8 games, they werenít able to stop much. But in the last month of the regular season, they played much better, albeit against some dicey opposition. After giving up oodles of points at times this season, the last 4 games has seen the Panthers hold opponents to 57 combined points. Their pass-rush is almost non-existent and they donít make a ton of positive plays. But when reviewing this Georgia State team, itís important to remember this is a work-in-progress, a team that just climbed from the ranks of laughingstock and is still trying to figure some things out. Say what you will, but between the two teams, Georgia State might be the happier team to be in this game. This is easily the biggest game in the history of the program.
San Jose State has certainly played the better teams this year, playing solid squads like Air Force, Auburn, San Diego State, BYU, and Boise State. They lost all those games, but were competitive in spots, losing to BYU by just one point and easily covering the spread against Auburn on the road. But all told, it hasnít been a particularly good season for the Spartans and they sagged to the finish line at 5-7 on the heels of some tough losses.
The San Jose State offense is a pretty iffy bunch, not particularly sharp or consistent. They are led by Kenny Potter, a talented quarterback who doesnít make a ton of mistakes. And to his credit, he ended the season with a pair of good games, throwing for 648 yards and 5 TDS in his last two games. Their best offensive player is Tyler Erwin, one of the best backs in the Mountain West, with 1469 yards and 15 touchdowns. They have a useful receiving corps, led by Billy Freeman, Hansel Wilson, and Tim Crawley. Itís an offense thatís good for 28 points a game on average. They havenít looked great at times this season, but that was against some good teams from a tougher conference, Against a Sun Belt team still working things out, could they see a little spike in production in the Cure Bowl?
As a whole, the San Jose defense isnít terribly effective. They can barely stop the run and give up over 28 points a game on average. But their pass-defense is ranked 2nd in the country in giving up just 153 yards per game. That has a lot to do with the run-heavy teams theyíve faced and the fact that opponents have such an easy time running the ball against this team. But Georgia State has no substantive ground game and this ďDĒ could match up well with Georgia State and their pass-happy ways. But at the same time, the San Jose State defense is often times just filling up space. They barely ever rush the passer with any kind of effectiveness. And theyíve secured a paltry 11 turnovers on the season.
This is not an easy pick. The one thing that comes to mind is San Jose Stateís tougher schedule and conference, in addition to a higher-caliber of athlete in an overall sense . But when watching San Jose State and Georgia State late this season, there is a higher urgency on the part of Georgia State. The Cure Bowl means more to them. And in a game like this, that could make a lot of difference. Iím taking the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Georgia State Panthers plus 3.5 points.
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