The 2020 LendingTree Bowl matches up the 5-6 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers against the 5-4 Georgia State Panthers. Formerly known as the Dollar General Bowl, the LendingTree Bowl pits an at-large team from Conference USA against an at-large team from the Sun Belt Conference.
While both teams have just five wins, this game is meaningful for both programs. Georgia State has been a team on the rise in the Sun Belt the past few seasons. For Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers finished third in the eastern division of Conference USA.
2020 LendingTree Bowl Preview
WKU is 3-0 in its last three games, scoring 37, 38, and 10 points in those wins. Georgia State is 2-1 in its last three games with the one loss coming to Appalachian State.
Georgia State enters the game as a three-and-a-half point favorite, but the Hilltoppers are looking to get to 6-6 on the season and gain momentum into 2021. The Panthers average 32 points per game and allow 32 on defense. However, Georgia State racks up 417 yards of offense per game on average. Panthers quarterback Cornelious Brown IV could be the key in this game under center.
How Western Kentucky Wins
For the Hilltoppers, the offense has to consistently drive down the field. Gaej Walker will be key in the rushing attack as he has 614 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 135 carries this season. Western Kentucky has to establish the running game early to open up the ability in the passing game for quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome to throw efficient passes to get the team close to the end zone.
Defensively, the Hilltoppers have to contain Brown IV in the pocket and get pressure on key downs. WKU allows 170 passing yards per game and Brown IV is averaging 227 per game. If the Hilltoppers can take away Georgia State’s ability to throw the ball down the field, the defense could help get the team to an even record.
How Georgia State wins
On the other side, Georgia State just has to continue being consistent on offense. This is a Panthers offense that thrives when Brown IV is consistent in the pocket. This season, he has a completion percentage of 59%, up from 39% in 2019.
In the rushing game, Destin Coates has 652 total yards on 143 carries with six touchdowns for the year. If the Panthers can find a way to balance their offensive attack and get down the field, this Panthers team can score points and put the game out of reach.
For the Georgia State defense, the unit has to hold Western Kentucky on key downs. While the Hilltoppers aren’t a great offensive team, WKU can move the ball when things get clicking. The Panthers have to adjust early on and force the Hilltoppers into unwanted situations.
The 2020 LendingTree Bowl could get out of hand early if Georgia State gets going early on offense. Although Western Kentucky gives up 24 points per game, the Panthers have been a solid offense this season in the Sun Belt.
Western Kentucky can keep it close from a defensive standpoint, but the Hilltoppers’ offense won’t have enough gas in the tank at the end to get their sixth win of the year. Though they are a three-and-a-half point favorite, Georgia State wins the 2020 LendingTree Bowl 27-24.
Photo courtesy of the LendingTree Bowl.