The College bowl season gets underway today and we will see the Georgia State Panthers grapple with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The Panthers come in off a 24-10 home loss against Idaho to finish their regular season at 6-5, while the Hilltoppers lost four of their last five games to finish up at 6-6. These teams met at Georgia State back in 2013 and the Hilltoppers won that game by a score of 44-28.
Panthers Are Looking For First Bowl Win
The Georgia State Panthers have been at the FBS level for just five year and this already their 2nd bowl appearance. That was back in 2015 and they lost in this same bowl game to San Jose State by a score of 27-16. They followed that up but going just 3-9 lays year, but they went 6-5 on the year and have made it back to the Cure Bowl. They have been a bit streaky this year as they started off at 0-2, before rattling off six wins in their next seven games. They then finished the year losing two straight, so they are not coming in with much momentum. The Panthers are led by their passing and Connor Manning has had a solid season as he has hit 63.7% of his passes for 2870 yards with 13 TDs and seven INTs. He will be taking on a Hilltopper defense that has been solid against the pass this year, but he has thrown for 289.9 ypg over his final four games and he will need to have a big game as the Hilltoppers are a team that will get their points. If he struggles, then they will be in trouble and that could mean no first bowl win for them.
The Panthers have been a below average offensive team this year as they come in ranked 87th in the nation in total offense (385.1 ypg), 31st in passing (270.2 ypg), 117th in rushing (114.9 ypg) and 119th in scoring at 19.7 ppg. On defense, they have been rather average as they come in ranked 61st in total yards allowed (391.4 ypg), 92nd against the pass (242.4 ypg) and 46th vs the run (149.0 ypg), while allowing 25.5 ppg, which is 55th in the nation.
Hilltoppers Struggled Down The Stretch
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers had a decent season as they went 7-5 overall and they will be looking for their 4th bowl win in a row. Last year, they topped Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl by a score of 51-31. If they are hoping to get that 4th bowl win in a row, then they will need to play far better than the did down the stretch as they lost four of their final five games. The defense really struggled in the 2nd half of the year as they allowed 35.5 ppg over their final six games, compared to allowing just 18.2 ppg over their first six games of the season. They are not taking on a great offensive team, but the Panthers can throw the ball, so the Hilltoppers will really need their pass defense to step up. The offense was not as explosive as the last few years and it was very inconsistent down the stretch as they averaged just 24.5 ppg in their final four games. It will have to be better in this one. Leading their attack this year has been QB Mike White, who has hit 65.6% of his passes this year for 3836 yards with 24 TDs and just seven INTs. If he is on, then they are a tough offense to slow down and the Panthers have struggled against the pass this year.
The Hilltoppers have been average on offense this year as they come in ranked 65th in the nation in total offense (400.6 ypg), 9th in passing (333.7 ypg), 130th in rushing (66.9 ypg) and 84rd in scoring at 26.2 ppg. On defense, they have been above average as they come in ranked 50th in total yards allowed (373.7 ypg), 36th against the pass (201.1 ypg) and 77th vs the run (172.6 ypg), while allowing 26.8 ppg, which is 69th in the nation.
Georgia State is:
- 2-5 ATS in their last seven games after scoring less than 20 points in their previous game
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games on fieldturf
Western Kentucky is:
- 4-0 ATS in their last four games in December
The Georgia State Panthers had a decent year, but they did lose their final two games down the stretch, while the Hilltoppers had their struggles down the stretch as well as they lost four of their final five games. Western Kentucky still looks like the play in this one as they have the much better offense and a slight edge on defense. They struggled on defense down the stretch, but with the extra prep time, that defense should get back to playing like it did earlier in the year. I just don’t see the Panthers scoring enough in this one to keep the game close. Take the Hilltoppers to win by at least 10 points.
Pick: Western Kentucky -7
Western Kentucky has a strong offense that is led by their passing game, while the Panthers have a very mediocre offense, but will be taking on a Hilltopper defense that has struggled down the stretch. I can see this game being a high scoring one as both offenses will really come to play in this one. I do look for the Hilltopper defense to be a bit better than it was down the stretch, but still, I look for the Panthers to put up enough to get this game over the Total, especially since the Over is 16-5-1 in Western Kentucky’s last 22 vs. a team with a winning record.