It’s another Sun Belt vs. MAC showdown in the 2023 Myrtle Beach Bowl as the Georgia Southern Eagles (6-6, 3-5 Sun Belt) face off against the Ohio Bobcats (9-3, 6-2 MAC).
Georgia Southern comes into this game with five wins over FBS foes and only two over bowl-bound teams. The Eagles got off to an impressive 6-2 start and scored over 40 points per game in each of those wins. However, they faltered toward the end of the year and dropped their final four games, each against bowl-bound Sun Belt teams. They hail from, arguably, the top Group of 5 conferences and a conference that sent an FBS-most 12 teams to bowls, including the entire Sun Belt East division.
Ohio came into 2023 hopeful to repeat as MAC East champions and avenge its MAC Championship loss. Unfortunately, the Bobcats did not have the chance as they dropped two MAC games during the year, one of which to eventual champion, Miami (OH). All year, Ohio rode its top-five defense to nine wins. It allowed over 20 points just twice all year. There were five bowl-bound teams on the Bobcats’ schedule and Ohio came out on top just twice.
This will be the first time these two programs will face off. Ohio comes in with a 6-8 record in bowl games whereas Georgia Southern sports a 3-2 record in bowl games.
Georgia Southern vs Ohio in the 2023 Myrtle Beach Bowl
Date: December 16th
Time: 11:00 A.M. EST
Venue: Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC
How to Watch: ESPN
Monitoring Opt-Outs and Transfers
As is the new era of College Football, we have to turn to the Transfer Portal and check for opt-outs to adequately preview the 2023 Myrtle Beach Bowl. With two G5 programs, there will likely be a few players looking to test the waters and get a Power 5 offer.
Ohio has been hit hard by the Portal, unfortunately. Long-time starting quarterback and last year’s MAC MVP Kurtis Rourke is gone. He accounted for 5,464 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air over the last two years. Both leading rushers who have had plenty of success over the years in O’Shaan Allison and Sieh Bangura (2022 MAC Freshman of the Year) joined him. The pair accounted for 1,263 yards and 10 touchdowns this year on the ground. Leading receiver Miles Cross accounted for 617 yards and five touchdowns for the Bobcats but he will be looking elsewhere for the rest of his eligibility. On defense, one of the leaders at linebacker, Keye Thompson, hit the Portal as well.
Thankfully for the Eagles, there have been no major losses via the Portal.
According to 247Sports, Ohio has nine total players transferring out, and Georgia Southern has four.
When Georgia Southern has the Ball
It’s going to be strength-on-strength when the Eagles have the ball. Former Tulsa quarterback Davis Brin came into the year with high expectations and was supposed to be one of the best Group of 5 quarterbacks. While he did manage 3,431 yards and 22 touchdowns, he turned the ball over quite a lot. His 16 interceptions were tied for the most in the FBS.
His favorite receiver this year was Khaleb Hood who turned in an effort of 917 yards and five touchdowns off of 94 receptions. It would be wise to keep an eye on their number-two, Derwin Burgess, Jr. who averaged 10.2 yards per catch on the year. Meanwhile, at running back, Jalen White is a workhorse. This season, despite missing two games, he amassed 891 yards and nine touchdowns off of a whopping 159 carries.
Meanwhile, Ohio has one of the most stout defenses in the nation. The Bobcats finished the year fifth in scoring defense, seventh in passing defense, ninth in rush defense, and fourth in total defense. They did so without forcing an exuberant number of turnovers (48th in the FBS).
Leading the way on this defense was the aforementioned Thompson as well as fellow First-Team All-MAC linebacker, Bryce Houston. A College Football Network Third-Team All-American, Houston was the heart and soul of this Bobcats defense. He totaled a team-leading 119 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, two-and-a-half sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and even added three interceptions for good measure.
When Ohio has the Ball
Last year, Ohio had one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. This year, not so much. The group finished 100th in scoring and could not get back to the MAC Championship. Without Rourke, Allison, Bangura, and Cross, this offense will look very different. Considering how much it struggled to get it going this year, perhaps different is good?
With second-string quarterback C.J. Harris injured, Ohio will turn to Parker Navarro. Oddly enough, with all of the transfers and injuries, Navarro is the team’s leading returning passer (65 yards, two touchdowns) and rusher (107 yards). The graduate transfer quarterback came to Ohio from UCF and, barring a nuclear meltdown, he will set career bests in just this game alone. Where some teams look to button up their 2023 season with a win, Ohio — and, by extension, Ohio’s offense — will be looking toward 2024 with all these new faces.
If there is an opportunity to get off to a solid start, Georgia Southern’s secondary will allow it. This season, the Eagles struggled against the passing attack. They allowed 244.1 yards per game via the pass, good for the 31st worst in college football.
That’s not to say Georgia Southern is without notable players on defense. Linebacker Marques Watson-Trent nearly doubled up the next nearest tackler on the defense with 117. He added 13 TFLs, three-and-a-half sacks, a forced fumble, and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against rival Georgia State. Ohio will also have to contend with defensive lineman, Justin Rhodes, and his 13 tackles for loss
2023 Myrtle Beach Bowl Prediction
Bowl season will be off to a fun start with his matchup. The Bobcats have leaned on an elite defense all season with an anemic offense to the tune of nine wins. Breaking in new faces should not be as much of a task considering the old faces did not produce. Georgia Southern, on the other hand, has a solid offense and weaker defense. Logic may dictate to go with the Eagles, but Ohio’s defense will take advantage of Brin’s mistakes enough to set up Navarro and the new-look offense.
Bobcats win, 24-10.