Georgia State at Memphis
September 12, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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Matchup: Georgia State at Memphis
Venue: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
TV/Time: ESPN, 7:00 p.m. ET
When I was on the Chris Vernon Show in Memphis (he’s with Grind City Media these days) in August, I said “there’s not a game on the schedule that isn’t winnable” for the Tigers. This was a true statement but as we head into Week 3, Mike Norvell’s squad is already in bounce-back mode and its hopes of being the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Day bowl game have almost certainly been dashed.
Memphis (1-1 straight up, 1-1 against the spread) will look to get back in the win column when it hosts Georgia State on Friday night. As of Wednesday afternoon, most betting shops had the Tigers installed as 27 or 27.5-point home ‘chalk’ with a total of 58.5.
Norvell’s team came up on the wrong end of a 22-21 decision last week at Navy in a driving rainstorm, falling to the Midshipmen for the third time in four seasons they joined the AAC. Ken Niumatalolo’s team has been listed as an underdog in each meeting with the Tigers, going 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS.
Memphis took a 21-9 lead into the fourth quarter at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. However, three fumbles in the wet conditions proved to be the Tigers’ undoing, with Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry orchestrating a pair of TD drives at winning time. Perry’s 19-yard TD run sliced the deficit to 21-16 with 11:06 remaining.
Then with 2:37 left, Zach Abey’s three-yard scamper into the end zone put the Midshipmen in front by merely one point after the two-point conversion attempt failed. Memphis’s last-ditch effort to rally was stymied on a fourth-and-four play when QB Brady White couldn’t find an open receiver and his scramble for a first down came up short of the marker.
The weather obviously had an impact on Memphis’s potent offense that produced 752 yards and 56 points in the first half alone vs. Mercer in Week 1. The Tigers had a 378-316 advantage in total offense at Navy, but they were minus three in the turnover department.
White, the grad transfer from Arizona State, threw for 358 yards and five TDs without an interception in the 66-14 win over Mercer as a 30-point home ‘chalk.’ White connected on 15-of-25 throws for only 145 yards and one interception at Navy.
Junior RB Darrell Henderson, a first-team All-AAC selection last year when he averaged 8.9 yards per carry, busted long TD runs of 78 and 59 yards against the Midshipmen. He finished the night with 212 rushing yards and three TDs on just 13 carries.
Anytime you can limit Navy to 3.6 YPC, you have acquitted yourself quite well defensively. That’s what the Tigers’ defense did, giving up 264 rushing yards on 73 totes. This unit brought back eight starters from a group that gave up 32.5 points per game in 2017.
Sophomore CB T.J. Carter is one of the Tigers’ defensive standouts. He garnered second-team All-AAC honors as a freshman by recording 69 tackles, 11 passes broken up, five interceptions for 74 return yards, one tackle for loss, one QB hurry and one forced fumble. Carter has produced eight tackles, one interception for a pick-six, two PBU, one TFL and one forced fumble through two games.
Senior LB Curtis Akins had a team-best 88 tackles last year. He’s pacing his team in stops currently with 13 and has one forced fumble. Sophomore LB J.J. Russell has been making his presence felt with 10 tackles, two forced fumbles, one sack and 0.5 TFL’s.
Henderson is fifth in the nation in rushing yards per game (144.0 YPG), sixth in rushing yards (288), in a fourth-place tie for rushing TDs with four and second in average yards per carry (13.1 YPC). Junior WR Damonte Coxie has been White’s favorite target to date, hauling in nine receptions for 117 yards and one TD.
Georgia State (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) is in its ninth season since the program started under former Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky head coach Bill Curry back in 2010. The Panthers play out of the Sun Belt Conference and are coached by Shawn Elliott, the former long-time South Carolina assistant who replaced Steve Spurrier as interim head coach in 2015.
After serving as an assistant for one more season at USC under Will Muschamp, Elliott scored the Georgia State job and promptly led it to just the second winning season and postseason appearance in program history last year. The Panthers finished 7-5 SU and 5-6-1 ATS, capturing their first bowl-game win over Western Ky. (27-17) as 6.5-point underdogs at the Cure Bowl.
Elliott’s bunch returned six starters on offense and five on defense. Georgia State captured a 24-20 win over Kennesaw State as a 2.5-point home favorite in Week 1. Dan Ellington, a juco transfer who enrolled early for spring practice, won the QB job in camp and enjoyed a successful debut against the Owls. Ellington hit on 20-of-28 passes for 187 yards and three TDs without an interception, in addition to rushing for a team-high 77 yards on 18 carries.
Junior WR Penny Hart is a two-time All-Sun-Belt first-team choice and was a preseason fourth-team All-American in Phil Steele’s magazine. Hart came into the year with 2,281 career receiving yards to already rank third in school history. He had five receptions for 46 yards and one TD vs. Kennesaw State, while Christian Owens, a transfer from South Carolina, had six grabs for 70 yards and one TD.
Georgia State went to Raleigh last week and lost by a 41-7 count as a 25.5-point road underdog. The Panthers drew first blood on their opening drive that was capped by an eight-yard TD scamper by true freshman RB Destin Coates, a 3-star recruit out of Tallahassee Rickards High School.
The final score was a bit misleading, as the Wolfpack only had a 20-7 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter. Georgia State had 349 yards of total offense, but a lost fumble and two failed fourth-down conversions prevented it from scoring more points.
Ellington connected on 15-of-28 throws for 194 yards at N.C. State. Coates ran for 43 yards and one TD on six carries, while Hart had three catches for 53 yards. Devin Gentry brought down five receptions for 83 yards.
Elliott had to be happy with his run defense that limited the Wolfpack to 117 yards on the ground and a meager 3.8 YPC average. Junior LB Ed Curney has produced a team-high 18 tackles and one TFL, while junior DE Terry Thomas has 16 tackles, one TFL and one forced fumble. If the Panthers want to stay close with Memphis, they’ll have to get pressure on White and improve on their sack total (only one!) through two games.
Georgia State is only 1-2 ATS in three games as a road underdog on Elliott’s watch after failing to cover last week in Raleigh. However, the Panthers are 20-7 ATS as road ‘dogs since 2012. Meanwhile, Memphis has compiled a 6-7 spread record in 13 games as a home favorite since Norvell took over, but the Tigers have covered the spread in six straight games as double-digit ‘chalk’ (home or away).
As of Wednesday, the weather forecast was calling for nearly perfect conditions Friday night at the Liberty Bowl.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- The Ohio-Virginia game has been moved to Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville due to Hurricane Florence. This game will kick at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Most spots had UVA listed as a six-point home favorite and adjusted the number down to three after the venue relocation was announced Tuesday.
-- The following games have been postponed because of Florence: UCF at North Carolina, West Virginia at North Carolina State and East Carolina at Va. Tech. The time of Thursday’s game between Wake Forest and Boston College in Winston Salem has been moved up to a 5:30 p.m. Eastern kick on ESPN. Finally, Coastal Carolina will take on Campbell on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
-- This is the second straight season that UCF has lost a game scheduled against an ACC opponent. The Knights were scheduled to take on Georgia Tech last year before a hurricane cancelled the game. The aforementioned contests can only be made up – since none share the same open date – on Dec. 1 when the conference-championship games are played. -- Georgia Tech RB KirVante Benson is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Benson was a second-team All-ACC choice in 2017 when he rushed for 1,053 yards and six TDs with a 5.2 YPC average.
-- Despite ending its 46-game road losing streak with a 31-7 win at Central Michigan last week, Kansas fourth-year head coach David Beaty remains the +400 ‘chalk’ to be the first head coach removed from his position. This proposition wager at BetDSI is for Power 5 Conference schools and Notre Dame only with Maryland excluded. The next-shortest odds to take a pink slip are for Illinois’ Lovie Smith (5/1), LSU’s Ed Orgeron (6/1), Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly (+750), Rutgers’ Chris Ash (8/1), Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury (10/1), Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre (12/1), Missouri’s Barry Odom (15/1), Washington State’s Mike Leach (20/1) and Syracuse’s Dino Babers (20/1).
-- Sportsbook.ag’s latest odds to win the College Football Playoff have Alabama as the +170 favorite (risk $100 to win $170). The next-shortest odds belong to Clemson (+450), Ohio State (+650), Georgia (8/1), Auburn (12/1), Wisconsin (12/1), Notre Dame (15/1), Oklahoma (15/1) and Washington (20/1).
-- Stanford RB Bryce Love is ‘out’ (rest) for Saturday’s home game vs. UC Davis. The Cardinal is unbeaten with home wins over San Diego State (31-10) and Southern Cal (17-3). They have 40/1 odds to win the CFP at Sportsbook, and I believe David Shaw’s club has the best current value for this future bet.
-- Brian Shoemaker of GameCockCentral.com informed me via e-mail on Wednesday morning that there was a good chance that the Marshall at South Carolina game could get postponed.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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