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LendingTree Bowl Preview

WKU vs Southern Miss
WKU vs Southern Miss(WBKO)
Published: Dec. 26, 2020 at 2:40 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -Western Kentucky faces Georgia State in the 22nd annual LendingTree Bowl today at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN. This will be the third meeting of all-time between the two teams. The Panthers bested the WKU back in the 2017 Cure Bowl 27-17. Let’s take a look at what the Tops need to do to close out 2020 with a bowl win.

On the offensive side of the ball, WKU needs to air it out. The teams that have had the most success against Georgia State have done it by throwing the football. The Panthers’ pass defense is one of the worst in the country, currently ranked 117. Down the stretch of the regular season, Tyrrell Pigrome has looked more comfortable and more aggressive in the passing game for the Tops. Pigrome will need to do more of the same for WKU in order to move the chains in this one.

Another reason why WKU will need to throw it against Georgia State is yards on the ground will be hard to come by. The Panthers’ run defense is 38th in the country. Appalachians State, a top 10 rushing team, was held to over 130 fewer yards than their season average when they faced Georgia State. WKU offense coordinator Bryan Ellis said they’ll need to run the ball to keep the defense honest, but he’s not going to bang his head against the wall if the run game isn’t working.

Defensively, the Tops are ranked 21st in total defense. Georgia State is just 1-3 against top 35 defenses this season. Panthers’ quarterback Cornelious Brown IV has thrown 14 touchdowns but nine interceptions. WKU will need to force a few more turnovers to come away with a win. Defensive coordinator Clayton White and his staff have emphasized turnovers all year and they’ve started to come in bunches over the final stretch of the season.

“That’s our mindset,” White said. “We definitely want to get the football every single chance we have an opportunity to.”

Turnovers can not only shift the momentum of the game but provide the offense with extra possessions.

WKU and Georgia State have had similar seasons in 2020. Both played top-heavy schedules featuring multiple top 25 teams but finished the season strong. The Tops and Panthers won three out of their last four games.

This is WKU’s seventh bowl game in the last nine seasons. A win would give Tyson Helton back-to-back bowl wins in his first two seasons leading the Tops.

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