Georgia Southern heads to Lincoln coming off a 3-9 season (sound familiar?) where they fired their head coach after a 1-3 start in 2021. They went and hired Clay Helton after he was fired from USC, which means Georgia Southern is going to be trying to switch from a triple option attack the past few years to game 2 of implementing a spread attack. Just like we saw with Callahan here in 2004, this is usually at least a couple season transition and can get very bumpy at times.
The Eagles beat Morgan State 59-7 last week, basically doing to them what we should have done to North Dakota (maybe not that bad, but you get what i’m saying). So they come to town with at least a bit of success under their belt. They did struggle a bit early with Morgan State, but did not allow a defensive touchdown and made the necessary adjustments to score 42 points in the second half.
Last week The Huskers had an FCS opponent, this week we have a Go5 conference team who finished dead last in their division in 2021 and is picked by Phil Steele to finish dead last in their division for 2022 coming to town. Fair or unfair, last week and this week wasn’t going to do anything to move my needle to give me more confidence heading into Oklahoma and our conference run. However, it would provide a situation where it may give me more concerns. I left the North Dakota game really worried, and we have one more “tune-up” game before the Sooners come to play. Things HAVE to go well this weekend.
Georgia Southern Offense:
Georgia Southern returns 8 starters on offense, but as we discussed in our season preview, is returning 8 starters on a shitty team that good? Go further… is returning 8 starters on offense to a team that is completely switching up what they do that good? Georgia Southern will now run typically 4 WRs and 1 RB out there, so their ability to confuse our defense with unbalanced formations should be minimal. The Eagles are going to throw this thing all over the stadium, as VanTrease had 46 attempts against lowly Morgan State last week. This absolutely needs to be a game where Nebraska and their Blackshirts get right. The QB and WRs are still trying to gel and learn the offense, and the OL while they return most of their guys should not be able to handle our edge rushers.
Georgia Southern lost most of their depth at QB once the decision to go with Clay Helton was made and to shift away from the option attack so the Eagles had to hit the portal to get replacements. The QB that Helton brought in to run his offense should sound familiar, Kyle Vantrease transferred from Buffalo down to Georgia Southern, and he competed against Nebraska last year where he was 27/50 for 224 yards and an interception. While that’s not overwhelming, Van Trease does bring some experience to the spot with as he has started 26 games over his college career.
What gets interesting is when you make this switch to a prostyle air raid offense from an option team, typically you will have plenty of RBs to choose from. While they lost their leading rusher from last year Logan Wright (800 yards), they return their next two best players Jerald Green and Jaylen Wright who both averaged over 5.5ypc last year. They also added a freshman RB OJ Wright who had 7.5 ypc their first game and actually impressed many who were unsure about the depth at this spot.
While they don’t use many TEs, Wide Receiver is where things get interesting for Georgia Southern. These guys were primarily blockers last year in an option offense. Their leading WR returns, Kaleb Hood, with 41 receptions and 497 yards. They also brought in a transfer from Houston, Jeremy Singleton who caught 29 balls for 493 yards and 5 touchdowns. While those two are talented, they actually had someone else lead their team against Morgan State. Sam Kenerson caught 7 passes for 99 yards. Beau Johnson is the TE who led the team in touchdowns last year, and he may see more playing time against Nebraska.
Georgia Southern returns 4 starters on the OL and their anchor is Khalil Crowder at right guard who was a third team all-conference player last year. The line just couldn’t push anyone around last year, so again, is 4 of them coming back great? This just needs to be a game where Husker fans overreact and think we all of a sudden have things figured out from kicking their ass and owning the line of scrimmage, because this could potentially be the worst line we’ve seen this year.
Georgia Southern Defense:
While the Eagles return 8 players offensively, they return 5 on defense. Georgia Southern ranked 108th in total defense last year (110th against the run) and 99th in scoring defense. They are in for a rough day this Saturday in my opinion. Georgia Southern runs quite a bit of 4-2-5 but they are also trying to shift to a bit of a 4-3. The backend of their defense is the best part, so we will see how they play us on Saturday.
Leading the defensive line will be defensive end Justin Ellis, who returns after leading the team in sacks with 5 a year ago and is a preseason 2nd team all-conference selection. They return their DE on the other side of the ball Dillon Springer. While they lose their starting NT, they do get North Carolina transfer Kristian Varner in to help. Up front they should be decently solid, but nothing our OL shouldn’t be able to handle. With that said, we’ve struggled the first two games against mediocre at best defensive lines.
Things get good for Nebraska at linebacker, as we are playing the third team in a row that loses basically their entire group here. Eldrick Thompson was the #2 tackler from 2021 and started the final 9 games, he hit the portal in the spring and ended up at Wake Forest. Michael Edwards was the third leading tackler on the team and started the final 9 games last year as well, but he transferred to East Carolina. The other starter, Benz Josue, graduated. They have to figure this out in a hurry, but I have a feeling Nebraska is going to shock them since we are an upgrade talent-wise from Morgan State.
The strength here has to be the secondary for the Eagles. Derrick Canteen was a freshman all-american in 2020, but tore a pectoral muscle to miss most of 2021. He is back for 2022 and should strengthen their secondary. Anthony Wilson is returning at safety, as he was the leading tackler for the Eagles last year (78). Lastly, Justin Birdsong is back for a fifth year who was 4th on the team with 49 tackles. Birdsong may split time with Tyrell Davis, or if they run their 4-2-5 you could see them on the field at the same time. Their major loss is their cornerback Darrell Baker. Georgia Southern also had 3 interceptions this past Saturday against Morgan State.
Georgia State Special Teams:
Georgia Southern had their punter selected as preseason second team all-conference, and they also had Amare Jones as a returned listed at second team all-conference. But our depth and walk-on program should shine here and have this never be in doubt.
Summary and Prediction:
I look at Georgia Southern the same as North Dakota but with 20 more scholarships. They are a team we should have no problem whatsoever with, and we need to put teams like that away. They are shifting to a new offense, and some of the throws their new QB was making while trying to get the timing down with his WRs were all over the place. We should be able to shut the running game down on an offense that couldn’t run the ball last year and force them to be one dimensional and throw. While they like to do that anyway, it should mean that our defense gets at least one interception this game (first of the season), and our pass rush does even better getting 3 or more sacks. Without a power concept and multiple TEs/RBs in at the same time, there is just no way that the Eagles can stop our pass rush and it will create errant throws.
I also expect our offense to come out more like the second half against North Dakota and fire a bit more precisely. Georgia Southern likes to throw and run tempo, so we will get plenty of possessions. We should be able to run all over these guys, but that has been the case every week. At some point you need some confidence in that heading into Oklahoma. I expect to see some Smothers in the game as well.
Let’s be real, Nebraska hasn’t taken care of business at all this year except for the 4th quarter against an FCS team, so this prediction may seem weird. But this game will see a lot more points (as long as the weather stays away). I think Georgia Southern will get theirs offensively, but we will score at ease in my opinion.
Nebraska 48 Georgia Southern 20
Join us tomorrow for our Friday toilet reading that has Nebraska hot takes, funny tweets from the week, and gambling picks that went awful the week prior!
ShortSideOption (Georgia Southern Preview)
Nothing is required, just helps with site fees