Eagles Travel to Monarchs - GS @ ODU Preview
Georgia Southern @ Old Dominion (-2.5) O/U 67 (per Action Network)
City: Norfolk, Virginia
Coach: Ricky Rahne (9-10, 2nd Season)
Stadium: S.B. Ballard Stadium
Old Dominion University joined the Sun Belt Conference in the 2022-2023 Academic Year. The Monarchs, led by Ricky Rahne, have opened the season with a 3-3 record including a win over Virginia Tech at home in the season opener and a win over then undefeated Coastal Carolina on the road. The Monarchs are not dominant on either side of the ball, but they are good enough at both to hang with just about anyone. Both teams in this matchup are coming off of huge wins, so it will come down to which coaching staff can get their men grounded and prepared the fastest.
Offensively, the Monarchs run a balanced offense as shown by the 171 rushing attempts and 196 passing attempts. Old Dominion averages just over 113 rushing yards per game while averaging nearly 243 yards in the air. The offensive unit is led by QB Hayden Wolff who has accumulated over 1,400 passing yards and 11 touchdowns through six games this season. His favorite target is WR Ali Jennings III who has caught 38 passes for 775 yards and 7 touchdowns. No other player on the roster has over 145 receiving yards. Stopping Jennings III will be a tall task for the defense, but after watching the adjustments Coach Harris and company made last week in the JMU game, it can be done. On the ground, RB Blake Watson is seemingly a one man crew. He's netted 514 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns on 79 carries in the five games he's seen action in. No one else on the team has over 100 yards rushing. The offense runs through Wolff, Jennings III, and Watson and Georgia Southern will have its hands full trying to stop it on Saturday.
The defense has given up just over 26 points per game through the first six games of the year. They surrender over 170 yards rushing and nearly 280 yards passing per game. LB Jason Henderson is undoubtedly the leader of the defense. The sophomore from Delaware Valley HS has already accumulated 90 tackles on the season including 5.5 TFL and 1 sack. The Monarchs also have seven players on the defense who have recorded an interception and five who have forced a fumble. The defense is fast, active, and loves to make plays, so Georgia Southern will need to put an emphasis on ball security to ensure as few turnovers as possible. Anticipate Georgia Southern running the ball a little more this week as the weak spot of the ODU defense seems to be stopping the run.
The Monarchs have not used their kicker too much this season. K Ethan Sanchez is just 3-4 on field goals this season with a long of 34 yards. P Ethan Duane is averaging 42 yards per punt on 39 punts this season which is solid. In the return game, do not expect the Monarchs to return the ball very much as they have just six returned punts for a 7 yard average this season. The group does not have much experience this season, so the advantage for special teams has to go to Georgia Southern.
City: Statesboro, Georgia
Coach: Clay Helton (4-3, 1st Year)
Conference: Sun Belt
Stadium: Allen E. Paulson Stadium
After a devastating loss to Georgia State, Coach Helton led the Eagles through a great week of practice and into battle against the #25 James Madison University Dukes. On a beautiful fall Statesboro Saturday, the Eagles upset the Dukes 45-38 in the biggest win of the Clay Helton era. QB Kyle Vantrease had the bounce back game of all bounce back games as he accumulated 578 passing yards and 4 touchdowns on the afternoon. The defense did what they had to do, forced turnovers, and allowed the offense to win the shootout late.
Offensively, the Georgia Southern Eagles remain extremely pass heavy with 208 rushing attempts and 348 pass attempts on the season. QB Kyle Vantrease leads the show as he has accumulated over 2,500 passing yards and 17 touchdowns through his seven games at the helm. The Eagles have four receivers with over 400 receiving yards: WR Khaleb Hood (562), WR Derwin Burgess Jr. (537), WR Jeremy Singleton (453), and WR Amare Jones (429). That core group has combined for 14 receiving touchdowns as well. Look for Offensive Coordinator Bryan Ellis to keep using quick hitters and screens as an extension of the run game to get those guys the ball in space while setting up downfield shots. RB Jalen White and RB Gerald Green continue to share the load of rushing attempts for the offense as they are both averaging over 5 yards per carry and have combined for 12 touchdowns this season. With the ODU defense showing weakness in run defense, expect Ellis to use these backs to pound the rock early and set up some big plays.
Last week, the Eagles defense gave up 675 yards of offense including 207 yards on the ground and 468 through the air, but were able to force four turnovers by the Dukes to get the offense some extra possessions. DB Tyler Bride played the best game of his career as he recorded an interception and a fumble recovery. Look for the secondary to keep improving as Defensive Coordinator Will Harris continues to move pieces around. DB Derrick Canteen played a lot of nickel last game and had the best game of his season so far. The Eagles defense is going to give up a ton of yards to most of the Sun Belt offenses, but hopefully they continue to bend and not break. The GS offense has the firepower to win shootouts with a few stops or turnovers here and there. I expect a big play out of one of the DBs - Bride, Canteen, Wilson - in the form of an interception this week!
K Alex Raynor is missed his first field goal on the season and is now 12-13 with a long of 45 yards. P Anthony Beck was arguably the best player on the field last week as he hit clutch punt after clutch punt to win field position battles against JMU. He's now averaging just shy of 45 yards a punt with nearly half of his 23 attempts ending up inside of the opponents 20-yard line. In the return game, WR Amare Jones or WR Khaleb Hood have what it takes to make a difference with just a crease, so look for one of them to make a big play. Special teams advantage definitely goes to the Eagles this week.
Georgia Southern, fresh off of an upset of #25 James Madison gets refocused and wins in Norfolk.
Eagles - 41
ODU - 35
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Written by: Logan Colburn