2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl Preview
The 2017 bowl season begins on Saturday with a whopping six games on the docket. One of the more intriguing match-ups is between Western Kentucky and Georgia State in third annual AutoNation Cure Bowl. The game begins at 2:30 and will be televised by the CBS Sports Network. We are going to take a look at the history and meaning behind the game and a look at both teams seasons. With that in mind let’s begin the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl Preview.
More Than Just A Bowl Game
Launched in 2015 the AutoNation Cure Bowl is a way for football to help in the fight against breast cancer. Funds raised from the game go directly to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation whose mission is to fund cancer research.
In addition to raising money for cancer research the Cure Bowl invites special guests to serve as honorary captains for each team. This year Hall of Fame Coach and former Heisman winner Steve Spurrier serves as team captain for the Hilltoppers. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will serve as captain for the Panthers.
Cure Bowl History
As mentioned earlier this is the third annual Cure Bowl and the second to feature Georgia State. In the inaugural game in 2015 the Panthers lost to San Jose State 27-16. Last season Arkansas State whipped Central Florida 31-13.
Despite the loss the extra month of practice helped the Knights jump start their memorable 2017 season in which they went 12-0 capped with a Peach Bowl battle with Auburn. This year’s game features teams from Conference USA and the Sun Belt and is a battle of first year coaches.
Scouting The Hilltoppers
Western Kentucky is making their fourth straight bowl appearance and the first under new head coach Mike Sanford. The Hilltoppers had to replace a number of key players from 2016 and coach Jeff Brohm, who left for Purdue. They completed the regular season with a 6-6 record and 4-4 mark in Conference USA.
The Western offense is led by senior quarterback Mike White. While his stats were down from 2016 he still managed to throw for 3,800 yards and 24 touchdowns. His favorite target is wide receiver Nacarius Fant who caught 67 passes for 634 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to Fant Deon Yelder caught 47 passes with five touchdowns.
While the Western offense has been good through the air, they have struggled with the ground game. Averaging only 66 yards per game the Hilltoppers rank last in college football. Due to the poor running game White is second in the nation in passing attempts with 521.
On the other side of the ball the Western defense has been really good in 2017 especially against the pass. In six of twelve games this season Western has held opponents to under 200 yards passing. The defense is led by All-Conference USA linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe.
— WKU Football (@WKUFootball) December 5, 2017
Iyiegbuniwe ranks fifth in Conference USA in tackles and is tied for 36th in the nation. He improved from honorable mention last season and made the all-freshmen team in 2014.
Looking At The Panthers
As we continue previewing the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl Preview it’s time to look at Georgia State. In only their eighth year as a program they are playing in their second bowl both of which has been the Cure Bowl.
Under first year coach Shawn Elliott the Panthers come into Orlando with a 6-5 record and 5-3 mark in the Sun Belt. Elliott served as interim coach at South Carolina after Steve Spurrier‘s retirement in 2015 and was the Gamecocks offensive line coach in 2016.
The Panther offense is headed by the Sun Belt’s leading receiver Penny Hart.
— GSU Football (@GeorgiaStateFB) December 10, 2017
In addition to Hart the Panthers also have a good quarterback in Conner Manning. He is third in the Sun Belt with 260 yards per game with 13 touchdowns. Furthermore he leads the league in completion percentage at 64.
Cornerback and Senior Bowl invitee Chandon Sullivan heads the defense for GSU. For the season Sullivan has 42 tackles, one interception and five pass deflections. In addition to Sullivan safety Bryan Williams leads the team with four interceptions.
Who Wins The Cure Bowl?
The game on Saturday is the second time in history the two schools have met. Back in 2013 Western defeated Georgia State 44-28 in a game played at the old Georgia Dome. Both of these teams love to throw the football and this could turn into a shoot-out.
The game will more than likely come down to which team can stop the others’ passing attack. Watching each team’s secondary try to stop the strong receiving corps is going to be interesting to see.
The Hilltoppers struggled down the stretch losing four or their last five games. Even so Western is about a six point favorite in this game. Both coaches want to use this contest to jump start the 2018 season. Western will put points on the board, the question is can Georgia State match them. The answer is no in a very close game.
Western Kentucky 31 Georgia State 27
Thanks for checking out the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl Preview here at Last Word On College Football. As a reminder we will preview every bowl game leading up to the National Championship game on January 8th.