The Georgia Southern Eagles come into Las Cruces at 3-3, 2-1 in Sun Belt play. They’re averaging 30.3 points per game while holding their opponents to just 23.5 points per game. While Georgia Southern is trying to pass the ball more this season than in the past, they’re still primarily a running team with just over 75 percent of their play calls resulting in a run compared to 84 percent of their play calls last year being runs. The Eagles are averaging around 266 yards per game on the ground, nearly a 100 yards fewer than last season. However, Georgia Southern is averaging just over 155 yards per game through the air which is nearly 100 yards per game more than they were last year. Defensively the Eagles are allowing just 364 yards per game, 153 on the ground and 211 through the air.
A couple of numbers really stick out with Georgia Southern. First, they’re converting 50 percent of their third down situations which leads the Sun Belt. Second, they’ve converted 87.5 percent of their red zone trips into points (21 of 24) and lest you think that it’s just good fortune, they converted 87.5 percent of their red zone trips last season and just a shade over 88 percent of their trips in 2014.
Let’s take a closer look at Georgia Southern in our weekly deep dive. It’s not going to be too complicated to figure out what Georgia Southern is going to do based on our above observation of their play calling. On first down the Eagles will run the ball the majority of the time. They’ve run the ball 165 times on first down while gaining 843 yards, an average of 5.11 yards per carry. When they have decided to pass the ball on first down, they’ve only completed 18-of-37 passes (48.6 percent) for 174 yards, an average of 9.67 yards per completion.
As we mentioned, the Eagles are highly efficient on third down converting right at 50 percent. As one would expect, Georgia Southern is deadly on third and short (1 to 3 yards to gain) converting 20 of their 25 third and short situations with 19 of those conversions coming on the ground. When it’s third and short, expect the Eagles to run the ball and if you get a stop, consider it a huge win for the defense.
On third and intermediate (4 to 6 yards to gain) it’s a little dicier for the Eagles. They’ve faced that situation 24 times but converted just nine times, five times on the ground and four times through the air. They’ve run the ball 13 times while throwing it 11 times (completing five of those passes).
On third and long (7+ yards to gain) the Eagles have attempted to pick it up on the ground 21 times but have come away with just three first downs. They’ve had a bit more success through the air attempting 22 passes and converting 11 of the third and long situations. If the Aggies can get Georgia Southern into third and long situations, they should be able to get off the field more often than not.
Defensively on first down teams have tried to run the ball on the Eagles 65 percent of the time (111 attempts). Their defense is allowing 4.51 yards per carry on first down while allowing opponents to complete 35-of-61 pass attempts for an average of 16.8 yards per completion.
On third down, teams have not had as much success against the Eagles converting just 31 percent of the time (22-of-69) and it’s even worse if you’re a Sun Belt team. The Eagles have held Sun Belt foes to just a 24.3 percent conversion rate (9-of-37) in three games.
On third and short (1 to 3 yards to gain), teams have attempted 13 runs, they’ve picked up seven first downs. Surprisingly nobody has attempted to throw on Georgia Southern on third and short.
Third and intermediate (4 to 6 yards) is absolute death if you’re an opponent. Teams have tried to run the ball 12 times and have done so for -25 yards and have only picked up one first down. You’re not much better off throwing the ball either as teams have thrown on third and intermediate nine times completing five passes but picking up just four first downs. It would appear that the Eagles send extra defenders on third and intermediate based on the rushing numbers, although they’ve only recorded seven sacks on the season.
On third and long (7+ yards to gain) teams have basically avoided running against Georgia Southern. Just four rush attempts and no first down pickups. Teams have throws the ball 31 times completing 15 pass attempts while picking up just seven first downs, six of those first downs coming on third and between 7 and 9 yards to gain.
One final note. As bad as the Aggie defense has been they’ve not given up a run of more than 30 yards in conference play and just one of 20+ yards, although against Georgia Southern’s defense that will be tested. Georgia Southern on the other hand has given up six runs of 20+ yards and one each of 30+, 40+ and 50+ yards. There is the possibility that Larry Rose III could break a long run, something he has yet to do since his return to the Aggies.
The bottom line for today’s game, the Aggie offense is going to have to do some work. They’re going to have to sustain drives, try to stay out of third down situations when possible and try to get some explosion plays. For as good as Georgia Southern’s defense has been this season, they have been susceptible to giving up the big play. In Sun Belt play they’ve given up 14 pass completions of 20+ yards, seven completions of 30+ yards, two completions of 40+ yards, two completions of 50+ yards and one pass completion of 60+ yards. Compare that with the Aggies who have given up 12 completions of 20+ yards, six of 30+ yards, four of 40 plus yards, three of 50+ yards, two of 60+ yards and one of 70+ yards. The big difference is that the Aggies have given up a few more of the longer pass plays than has Georgia Southern. We know the defense will give up points, the question is, can the offense keep up?