The San Jose State Spartans (5-7, 4-4 in the Mountain West Conference) will meet the Georgia State Panthers (6-6, 5-3 in the Sun Belt Conference) in the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl on Saturday, December 19th, at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. Kickoff time is 7 PM EST. It will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. This will be the sixth bowl appearance for the Spartans. The Panthers will be playing in their first bowl game ever. San Jose State has been installed as a 3.5 favorite.
Ron Caragher is 14-22 in his three years as head coach at San Jose State. Trent Miles, the Sun Belt Coach of the Year Award recipient, also just completed his third season as the head man at Georgia State. His record stands at 7-29.
San Jose State
At 5-7, the Spartans garnered this bowl invitation due to their high graduation rate. They scored 975, out of 1,000, on their APR (Academic Progress Rate).
I got a good look at the Spartans, back on October 3rd, as they played Auburn on the Tigers’ homecoming. Their ‘bell cow’ is Tyler Ervin. He carried the ball 27 times for 160 yards and a TD that day. He also returned two kickoffs for 59 yards. He is for real. He toted the rock for 1,469 yards in 2015 and totaled 2,410 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. Ervin was also named to the first-team All-Mountain West team. His biggest games were 330 yards on the ground against Fresno State and 263 against New Mexico.
The Lobos, from Albuquerque, were the victims of a 31-21 defeat at the hands of San Jose State. That was the Spartans most impressive win of the season.
Quarterback Kenny Potter is one to watch, Saturday, as well. He is very accurate, with a 68.5 completion percentage, and he is mobile. He rushed for 346 yards and six TD’s. Potter was named the Outstanding Offensive Player at San Jose State in 2015.
The Outstanding Defensive Player, at San Jose State, went to Cleveland Wallace. Wallace is a defensive back who made three picks and broke up seven passes. He was in on 43 tackles this year.
And, the Spartans have a second-team All-American (Football Writers Association of America) in Michael Carrizosa. Carrizosa averaged 47.7 yards-per-punt and was a Ray Guy Award finalist.
As a side note, their offensive coordinator is Al Borges, who held the same position at Auburn from 2004-’07. As many of you know, Auburn went 13-0 in ’04 and were led by running backs Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Ronnie Brown. They were both top five draft picks and quarterback, Jason Campbell, was also selected in round one of the 2005 NFL draft.
The Georgia State Panthers are only in their sixth season as a football team. Bill Curry was their first head coach and helped build the program to its, now, FBS status. They play their home games in the Georgia Dome and hope to have a stadium of their own in the not-too-distant future.
The Sun Belt Student Athlete of the Year Award went to Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle. The senior, a prolific passer, threw for 4,160 yards and 26 touchdowns. He was sixth in the nation in yards passing per game with a 346.7 average.
Penny Hart, Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Award winner, hauled in 70 passes from Arbuckle. These receptions totaled 1,085 yards. He and fellow Panthers, Robert Davis and Donovan Harden, teamed up to provide the Sun Belt Conference with it’s top three receivers. Davis is a junior and Harden is a senior.
The Panthers defense features senior linebacker Joseph Patterson. Patterson made 106 tackles in 2015 and has 371 career stops.
Tarris Batiste, also a senior, is a safety who has 5 interceptions in his time at Georgia State. He also has 21.5 career tackles-for-loss.
The Sun Belt All-Conference Team features 12 Panther players.
Georgia State got off to a slow start (2-6) but finished as a very hot team. They won their last four games. The Panthers defeated rival Georgia Southern in the last game of the season, 34-7. That was a most impressive accomplishment. You might remember that Georgia Southern took the Georgia Bulldogs to overtime before losing, 23-17.
My sense is that the Cure Bowl will be a hard-fought, exciting affair which could come down to the wire. I think the underdog, Georgia State, could well pull off the upset. They also get the +3.5 points. That looks very good from here.
Prediction. Georgia State 31, San Jose State 27
The AutoNation Cure Bowl’s presenting sponsor is the Florida Hospital with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The sponsor will host a Cure Village where fans can opt to receive mammogram screenings.