By Myron Hosea
CSN So South Columnist
College Sporting News
Those two teams – Maine (9-3) and Georgia Southern (10-2) – will meet Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. in Statesboro.
After drawing byes for the first round, Maine and Georgia Southern notched wins in week two. The Black Bears went to Boone, NC, and defeated Appalachian State 34-12. The Mountaineers, by the way, were the only FCS team to beat Georgia Southern this season. The Eagles, meanwhile, got pushed to last moments of their game before knocking off Old Dominion at home 55-48.
This week’s game should be competitive. The Eagles average about eight more points a game than the Black Bears, but the teams are even in scoring defense – Maine at 22.9 and Georgia Southern at 22.7. They’re almost equal in rushing defense, too, with the Eagles having a slight edge of 143.1 to 145.3. That number for Maine is interesting in that they give up 187 fewer rushing yards a game than Georgia Southern’s triple option produces.
The winner of the battle between the Eagles run game and the Bears run defense may be the winner of the game.
Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw throws well enough to keep options open for the running game. Among the many runners, Shaw has two backs that gain chunks of real estate up the middle. Robert Brown leads the team in rushing, but Dominique Swope has been rolling up yards by the bushel the last few weeks, topping 200 yards last week. Having the two of them at the same position means the Eagles can always have a great runner at a key spot in the wingbone.
Maine’s Pushaun Brown gained 111 yards rushing against Appalachian State to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season. The Black Bears have balance with quarterback Warren Smith, who averages 241 yards passing a game, and leading receiver Maurice McDonald (58 catches for 591 yards and five touchdowns).
These programs have faced off twice before in football, both in the playoffs. In 1987, Georgia Southern beat Maine 31-28 in overtime. The Eagles won again in the 2002 playoffs, 31-7. Will Georgia Southern score 31 again? And will it be enough?
The edge, I think, should go to Georgia Southern. At this point in the playoffs, however, anything can happen.