2018 Camellia Bowl - Eastern Michigan vs. Georgia Southern
Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-5) vs. Georgia Southern Eagles (9-3) Saturday, Dec. 15 – Birmingham, Alabama (5:30pm ET on ESPN) Camellia Bowl Betting Line: Georgia Southern -2.5 (47.5)The 2018 Camellia Bowl will be the fifth renewal of the event, and just the second bowl for Eastern Michigan since 1987. Eagles fifth-year head coach Chris Creighton has turned the program around from one of the worst in college football and took EMU to a bowl game in 2016. Eastern Michigan went 5-3 in Mid-America Conference play and finished in a multi-way tie for 2nd place in the West division. The Eagles won their final three games against the MAC’s worst teams and all three games went under the total.
Georgia Southern is playing in their second bowl since moving up to the FBS five years ago. The Eagles finished 6-2 in Sun Belt play but in 3rd place in the East division. It has been an impressive turnaround for Georgia Southern under head coach Chad Lunsford, who in his first full season as head coach returned the Eagles to winning ways following just two wins last year.
Georgia Southern started the season 7-1 and beat No. 25 Appalachian State. The only loss was against Clemson. In those seven wins, the Eagles averaged 304 rushing yards per game and finished the season No. 10 in the country averaging 256.3 rushing yards per game versus FBS opponents. Still, Georgia Southern’s offense was held to 66 yards per game less than their opponents allowed. But the Eagles defense held opponents to 30 yards per game under their average and Georgia Southern led the nation in turnover margin (+22).
A key win for Eastern Michigan was at Purdue, as the Eagles (+15) beat the Boilers on the road in a letdown spot for Purdue in Week 2. Eastern Michigan lost their next three games against bowl teams all by one score or less including two in overtime.
Eastern Michigan won five of their final six games with the lone loss to bowl entrant Army, and the Eagles held the Black Knights triple-option attack to a season-low 3.96 yards per rush. But Army still pounded the ball on the ground 73 times. Now EMU faces a similar option offense of Georgia Southern, who runs the ball an average of 47.9 times per game and lost just five fumbles this season, and the Eagles five turnovers overall is a FBS record.
Georgia Southern won the turnover ratio 11 times and one game was even, yet they were still out-gained by an average of 18 yards per game this season. Georgia Southern’s ability to grind away running the option and keep wearing down the Eastern Michigan defense is key in this outcome. But Eastern Michigan is still slightly stronger on offense and defense and gets the nod in a close call.
Key 2018 Camellia Bowl ATS Stat – Eastern Michigan is 18-3-1 ATS in their last 22 games as underdog. But MAC teams are just 1-11 SU in their last 12 bowl games and 18-36 ATS since 2007.
2018 Camellia Bowl Pick – Eastern Michigan
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.