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Georgia State running back Tucker Gregg runs upfield. (Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire)
December 22nd, 2021
Christmas Day will gift college football fans with Georgia State vs. Ball State in Saturday's TaxAct Camellia Bowl.
Let's take a closer look at this matchup, beginning with the latest betting odds.
The Panthers love to run the football. On nearly two-thirds of their plays, quarterback Darren Grainger either hands the ball to someone else or takes off on his own.
He often turns to either Tucker Gregg or Jamyest Williams, two backs who have rushed for more than 800 yards this season.
Gregg is the thunder portion of the duo, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and having found the end zone nine times. He has converted seven fourth-down plays by himself and looks to run over defenders.
Williams is the big-play back, with nearly seven yards per carry and nine touchdowns of his own. Grainger added more than 500 yards on the ground as well.
Tucker Gregg bounces outside for his 3rd TD of the game. #GSUFootball pic.twitter.com/KRooaVRjT4— THERSday Night Podcast (@THERSdayNight) November 13, 2021
Tucker Gregg bounces outside for his 3rd TD of the game. #GSUFootball pic.twitter.com/KRooaVRjT4
Georgia State averages more than 223 yards per game on the ground and averages 45 carries per contest. The offense line is very solid, but unlike many run-heavy offenses, the Panthers don’t control the clock a whole lot. Their style wears teams down, both on the drive and over the course of the game.
While they don’t throw often, Grainger attacks downfield, averaging more than 12 yards per completion, with 1,512 yards and 16 touchdowns, and completes nearly 58% of his throws. He has just four interceptions, as the Panthers turned it over just 14 times all season as a team.
The defense isn’t the best, but it has improved as the season has gone along. The concerning trend is the Panthers' third-down play, however, as four of their last five opponents have converted at higher than a 40% clip. That said, they recorded 34 sacks and 84 tackles for loss this season, which has helped them escape damage at times in the red zone.
No receiver has ever had the career at Ball State that Justin Hall has. The five-time All-MAC selection is the career record holder for catches, receiving yards, and all-purpose yards. He was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, after recording five receiving touchdowns, six rushing touchdowns, and a return score this season.
A reception in the bowl game on Saturday would see Hall set a new NCAA record with a catch in 55 consecutive games. That throw will come courtesy of quarterback Drew Plitt, who threw the third fewest interceptions in the MAC this season, with just five interceptions on 365 attempts.
He has completed better than 60% of his throws while racking up 2,248 yards and 17 touchdowns.
With that last catch, Justin Hall ties Central Michigan's Bryan Anderson (2006-09) for the most consecutive games with a reception (54). Hall's caught a ball in every game of his career.— Robby General (@rgeneraljr) November 24, 2021
With that last catch, Justin Hall ties Central Michigan's Bryan Anderson (2006-09) for the most consecutive games with a reception (54). Hall's caught a ball in every game of his career.
Hall gets the ball in a variety of ways, but wide receiver Jayshon Jackson has more receiving yards this season, despite four fewer catches. The duo have caught nine touchdowns and more than half of Plitt’s passing yardage this season, and are complemented by slot receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler, who leads the team with six touchdown catches.
Freshman back Carson Steele added 829 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, as Ball State was 3-1 this season when rushing for 200 or more yards. However, the Cardinals can win without running, as they gained fewer than 60 yards on the ground in their other three wins.
Ball State is playing in consecutive bowl games for just the third time in program history, but has never won back to back.
The Cardinals went 7-1 last season and needed a 20-3 win over Buffalo in their season finale just to become bowl eligible. They will want this win to salvage what has been a somewhat disappointing season.
Neither of these defenses are particularly great, but Georgia State makes more plays in the backfield than Ball State. Both also are weakest in the areas where these two offenses can hurt them the most.
Georgia State allows nearly 260 yards through the air per game, while Ball State allows 170 on the ground. The Cardinals surrendered nearly 500 combined rushing yards in consecutive defeats to Northern Illinois and Central Michigan prior to beating Buffalo.
It comes down to Georgia State being more battle tested. The Panthers might be 7-5, but they defeated Coastal Carolina and nearly won road games at Auburn and Louisiana. They also finished the season going 6-1 after an abysmal 1-4 start, and have improved as the year went on. Their offense is efficient, doesn’t turn the ball over much, and will put pressure on Ball State to score and keep up.
Ball State has allowed more than 218 rushing yards on average in its six defeats, with every team that topped 200 yards taking it down. The Panthers could hit that number near halftime, which is likely why the line moved on this game quickly after it opened with Georgia State laying a point and a half. Take the Panthers to cover the 5.5-point spread, and pair it with a Georgia State team total over for a Same Game Combo.
Score prediction: Georgia State 35, Ball State 24
Our predictive engine is calling for Georgia State to win outright.
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