The ninth edition of the Camellia Bowl at the legendary Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama will be a contest between teams from the MAC and Sun Belt. This will be the seventh time the two conferences have met in the game, with the Sun Belt holding a 5-2 advantage. The 2022 Camellia Bowl features the Georgia Southern Eagles and the Buffalo Bulls who are both 6-6. For the two programs, this is the second time playing in the capital city of Alabama. Georgia Southern won 23-21 over Eastern Michigan in 2018, and Buffalo was the victor in a 17-10 win in 2020. The Game will be broadcast on ESPN at 11 a.m. CST on December 27th with Drew Carter, Aaron Murray, and Lauren Sisler on the call.
2022 Camellia Bowl Preview: Georgia Southern vs Buffalo
Georgia Southern Eagles
The Passing Attack
The Eagles are led by first-year head coach Clay Helton who previously spent seven years at USC before being fired during the 2021 season. Helton revamped the offense from a run-first team to one that can air it out. Georgia Southern led the Sun Belt in total offense and passing behind the arm of Kyle Vantrease. He passed for 3,901 yards in the year and 25 touchdown passes. He did not get his jersey dirty often either just being sacked six times. The protection up front is led by a couple of All-Sun Belt performers Khalil Crowder (second team) and Caleb Kelly (third team). Vantrease played for Buffalo from 2017-21.
The top playmakers at wide receiver for the Eagles are Khaleb Hood and Jeremy Singleton. Hood led the Sun Belt with 80 receptions and Singleton led the team with seven touchdown receptions. While not a heavy rushing team, running back Jalen White is sixth in the conference with 914 yards and reached the endzone 10 times. The offense will be slim at receiver with Derwin Burgess, Amare Jones, and Sam Kennerson out with injuries.
Defensively it has been a struggle for the Eagles. Georgia Southern ranks last or near last in most of the important statistical categories in the Sun Belt. They allowed 32.3 points per game and allowed most teams to air it out giving up 256.2 yards per game passing. The pass rush was nonexistent only reaching the quarterback 18 times. That side of the ball is not without talent though. They are led at linebacker by Marques Watson-Trent who was third in the conference with 104 tackles. The secondary was led during the year by Derrick Canteen Jr., but he will not play in the game due to entering the transfer portal.
While the Eagles are under a first-year head coach, the Bulls’ head coach Maurice Linguist is in his second year at Buffalo. Linguist guided the Bulls to their fourth bowl-eligible season in five years after missing out on the postseason by going 4-8 last season.
The Bulls’ offense has more of a balanced attack than their opponent does. At quarterback, they are led by Cole Synder who is second in the MAC with 2,765 yards and added in 17 touchdown passes. He did though work under pressure this season and was sacked 30 times. He will look to receivers Justin Marshall and Quian Williams. Marshall leads the team in yards with 710 and eight touchdowns. Williams put the Bulls into bowl season with a touchdown catch with 1:15 left in the season finale against Akron. On the season he led the team with 56 catches. The run game was a three-headed attack with Mike Washington, Ron Cook, and Al-Jay Henderson for a total of 1,507 yards and 14 touchdowns. Cook and Henderson did not play in the last game, so the workload may go to Washington.
Defensively the Bulls are the better team in this match-up. Buffalo ranks fifth in the MAC against the pass giving up 216.2 yards per game. Playing at safety is Marcus Fuqua, and he led the conference with seven interceptions and also totaled 59 tackles. The Bulls did struggle against the run giving up 175.3 yards per game, but the Eagles do not look to run the ball much. Linebacker Shaun Dolac is second in the MAC with 135 tackles and got to the quarterback for 4.5 sacks. Dolac also forced two fumbles this season.
Who wins the 2022 Camellia Bowl?
While the Sun Belt looks to be the healthier conference than the MAC, this game should go to the Bulls. Buffalo has played well against the pass this season and can control the game with their run game. Plus the passing game with Snyder will help keep the Eagles’ offense off the field. Georgia Southern being thin at receiver will make them easier to defend, and they may need to lean more on a running game. Will Helton be patient and do that is a huge question. The Buffalo Bulls win 34-24