Welcome to this year’s lone Christmas day bowl. If the NFL or NBA games aren’t up to snuff, flip over to the Camellia Bowl to watch the Panthers and Cardinals battle in Montgomery, Alabama.
No team got hotter down the stretch than Georgia State. The Panthers started 0-2 but covered in six of their final seven games.
Meanwhile, Ball State backed up their 2020 MAC title with an underwhelming campaign. The Cardinals were a middling MAC team all season, registering a -3.2 per game point differential.
Predictably, the Panthers are laying points in this bowl. This line even got pushed up from the GAST -3.5 opener.
But how many points is too many points for Ball State?
Georgia State vs. Ball State Betting Odds
Georgia State Panthers Odds
As mentioned, no team got hotter down the stretch than the Panthers.
After getting outscored 102-27 during a 0-2 start, Georgia State finished the season with an 8-4 against the spread mark.
That included an amazing, underdog win against Coastal Carolina when catching 13 points. That was the first of a three-game winning streak to end the season and become bowl eligible.
The Panthers rushed the ball at the sixth-highest rate nationally, racking up over 200 yards per game with a top-40 Rush Success Rate. The offensive line wasn’t half-bad either, finishing 37th in Line Yards.
Georgia State finished the season 24th in Standard Downs Success Rate as well, which will be a huge advantage against this Ball State defense.
Moreover, Montgomery is just a two-hour drive from the Georgia State campus, meaning this stadium will be filled with Panthers on Christmas Day.
Ball State Cardinals Odds
Ball State was truly nothing more than a middling MAC team.
Ball State finished 11th in the conference in total yards per game (334.8) and sixth in total yards per play allowed (415.7). The team finished outside the top 70 in every meaningful offensive statistic and outside the top-90 in every meaningful defensive statistic.
That is, except for two: Pass rush and PFF’s tackling grades. The Cardinals finished top-20 in both those stats, speaking to some level of competence in the front seven.
However, the secondary backed it up with a second-to-last Pass Success Rate and a bottom-30 PFF coverage grade.
But for all the efficiency woes, the Ball State defense finished fourth in the MAC in scoring defense (26.5). That likely means some level of regression should come, but there might not be enough time left in the season for that to happen.
Georgia State vs. Ball State Prediction and Pick
My pick: Georgia State -5.5 (-110 at FanDuel)
This is a no-brainer pick.
I’ve seen projections that make this spread as high as Georgia State -9, and I personally believe the Panthers win by double digits.
Georgia State is going to run through a Ball State defense that ranks outside the top-90 in both Rush Success Rate and Line Yards. Moreover, Ball State ranks exactly 126th in defensive Standard Downs Success Rate, so Georgia State’s methodical offense will move the chains with ease.
Moreover, a strong point of Georgia State’s offense is in the Red Zone. When its offense crosses the opponent’s 40-yard line, they convert at the 19th-highest rate in the nation. The Panthers won’t just move the chains with ease, they’ll score with ease.
Georgia State’s defense is nothing special, but the Ball State offense is worse than its defense. The weakest point of the Panther defense is in the secondary, but Drew Plitt and Ball State’s 106th-ranked Passing Success Rate offense can’t take advantage of that.
All-in-all, this is shaping up to be a bloodbath. Unless Georgia State lays an egg, the Panthers will win convincingly.