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AutoNation Cure Bowl

Georgia St

vs.

Western Kentucky

12/16/17

It’s been a slightly disappointing season for Western Kentucky and that all results in a Cure Bowl appearance against Georgia State. Neither one of these teams should instill much confidence with WKU losing four of its last five and GSU dropping its last two. Coming out of the C-USA, the Hilltoppers were early -4.5 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

It hasn’t been a pretty season for the Hilltoppers, mainly because bettors still have the perception that this is a high-flying offensive juggernaut. But without Jeff Brohm as head coach, things have been vastly different with Mike Sanford leading the team as they’re averaging just 26.2 points per game. That’s all led to a 3-9 mark ATS this season. While all of their losses have come against decent or big conference teams, three of their wins came by four points or less with the 15-14 result at winless UTEP standing out. It’s hard to see this team blowing anyone out.

Georgia State wasn’t expecting to go to a bowl game after three wins last season, but managed a 6-5 record with the cancelled game against Memphis never being rescheduled. The Panthers haven’t been much better ATS with a 4-7 mark. It’s hard to put much faith in them as their best wins came against teams with four wins and most recently fell 24-10 at home to Idaho, another four-win team. In like opponents, WKU beat Charlotte 45-14 and GSU beat them 28-0. Of course, Charlotte only had one win this season so those results don’t mean much.

These teams are extremely similar with both wanting to pass because their ground game struggles. The edge goes slightly to WKU only because its pass defense gives up just 200 yards per game. But while Mike White is still slinging passes for the Hilltoppers, his yards per attempt is down by almost three yards and that’s led to 13 less touchdowns on 105 more attempts. This offense isn’t nearly as good with the ground game averaging a paltry 2.1 yards per carry. Guys like Nacarius Fant (67 receptions) and Lucky Jackson (37 receptions) are still around on the receiving end, but this is a different offense from a year ago.

The Panthers don’t have a good defense, but they’ve only been blown out by one team this season (Penn State) and it’s hard to see this ineffective offense doing that. It’s a similar situation on the other side because Georgia State is averaging 3.2 yards per carry. However, they run a much more balanced offense with Glenn Smith leading the way in the backfield. That should keep this game lower scoring and could help win the game because WKU allows 4.5 yards per carry and over 170 rushing yards per contest. Conner Manning will air it out if he needs to, but has just 13 touchdowns this season for a reason. It’s likely wide receiver Penny Hart (1,094 yards, 8 TDs) will be in for a lot of targets, as well.

Both of these teams are middle of the pack in most categories and that should lead to a close game that doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of points. But there’s still plenty of perception around the nation that WKU has a great offense so that’s something to keep in mind for the over/under. The Panthers haven’t covered in their last four games overall, while the Hilltoppers are 1-4 ATS in their last five against the Sun Belt.

Our Pick - Georgia St +7

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