Saturday College Football Odds & Picks for Army vs. Georgia State: Bet on Panthers vs. Knights’ Triple Option (Sept. 4)
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Cornelius McCoy.
- The first full Saturday of the college football season kicks off with a triple-option Army team taking on Georgia State.
- This was the matchup built for Stuckey to bet, and he explains his thought process from a betting perspective.
- Check out Stuckey's full betting guide with odds, picks, and predictions for the game.
Army vs. Georgia State Odds
I know Georgia-Clemson is the game of the day, but I can’t wait for this noon ET kick to get things started on our first full Saturday slate of the season.
I’m expecting a very competitive game between Army and Georgia State from start to finish, but let’s take a closer look at the state of each team headed into the season before diving into the matchup and where I think the betting value lies.
Army comes off an odd 9-3 campaign during which it had to find a number of replacement opponents to fill out its schedule due to COVID-19. The relatively easy schedule contained three FCS opponents (Abilene Christian, Mercer and The Citadel) in addition to two of the worst FBS programs (Middle Tennessee State and UL Monroe).
However, the Black Knights held their own (especially on defense) in a competitive road loss to Cincinnati and a 28-12 road victory over UTSA, while sweeping the other two service academies.
Black Knights Offense
The biggest mystery surrounding the Army offense remains who will start at quarterback. With 11 QBs on the roster, there is no shortage of options.
On the initial depth chart, Army lists Tyhier Tyler (four career starts) or Christian Anderson (six) at QB1. Three others are also realistically in the mix:
- Jabari Laws (missed last year due to injury after making five starts in 2019)
- Cade Ballard (rotated with Tyler in a road win at UTSA last season)
- Jemel Jones (made two starts last year in two wins over FCS opponents)
I wouldn’t be surprised if head coach Jeff Monken uses some of them in other roles on the offense throughout the season.
The backfield has an abundance of experience with seven players who rushed for more than 200 yards last season returning to West Point. It’s a group that only lost bruising short-yardage specialist Sandy McCoy.
Keep your eye out for the uber-versatile Tyrell Robinson, who can take one to the house whenever he touches the ball. It appears that sophomore Tyson Riley has the starting fullback job, but Army will use five or six per game.
The position group with the most question marks is the offensive line, which must replace four starters. Only center Connor Bishop returns up front, but the Black Knights do have some pieces with game experience to fill out the rest of the line.
Plus, replacing offensive linemen is nothing new for a service academy. There is usually much less of a drop in production than other schools when replacing linemen at Army, Navy and Air Force.
Still, how this new group performs is obviously very important for a triple-option attack that will likely lead the country in rushing attempts once again.
Black Knights Defense
Army’s defense actually allowed the fewest yards per game in 2020 and finished second in points per game.
Now, the Black Knights did benefit from a relatively easy schedule, so those numbers are a bit misleading, but they undoubtedly had an above-average defense when adjusted for opponent. Army also has the luxury of an offense that chews clock for a living, so fatigue never really becomes an issue.
They will miss defensive end Amadeo West and All-American linebacker Jon Rhattigan (now with the Seahawks), but leading tackler Arik Smith returns inside at linebacker. He will make plays all over the field playing behind nose tackle Nolan Cockrill.
Army isn’t generally known for having a strong secondary, but it might have one of its better defensive backfields this year with Julian McDuffie and Jabari Moore back at cornerback and Cedrick Cunningham Jr. at safety.
Plus, defensive coordinator Nate Woody enters his second year and should expand the playbook with more preparation time heading into 2021. Army plays an aggressive 3-4 base that attacks the gaps from all over.
Head coach Shawn Elliott certainly has things headed in the right direction. Less than 10 years after joining FBS, Elliott just led the Panthers to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in program history. Last year, a dominant bowl victory over Western Kentucky capped off a 5-4 regular season that included a pair of losses against Appalachian State and Louisiana by a combined seven points.
Georgia State will have a good shot of making it three straight bowl appearances, despite a vicious non-conference schedule with road games against UNC and Auburn. But first, it will open the season at home against Army.
The Panthers offense, which set a school record in points per game last season, returns every starter.
The group is led by quarterback Cornelius Brown IV, running back Destin Coates and a pair of ultra-talented All-Conference caliber receivers in Sam Pinckney and Cornelius McCoy, as well as very capable tight end Roger Carter. Additionally, they bring back all five starters along the offensive line, led by star guard Shamarious Gilmore.
This offense will have no issues putting up points this season.
Georgia State’s 3-4 base defense also has plenty of experience in the trenches and on the back end. It returns nine starters, and defensive end Tre Moore returns after missing last regular season with a back injury. Moore played in every game in 2019.
This is an aggressive unit that focuses on shutting down the run and getting to the quarterback. Last year, Georgia State led the Sun Belt in sacks and tackles for loss, while also holding opponents to under 4.0 yards per carry. They also finished in the top-10 nationally in Havoc Rate.
The secondary, led by cornerback Quavian White and safety Antavious Lane, doesn’t have many weaknesses. Meanwhile, the defensive line looks set with every contributor from last year coming back, led by defensive end Hardrick Willis and fourth-year starting nose guard Dontae Wilson (super senior).
However, the linebacker group did lose plenty of production. Trajan Stephens-McQueen, Jordan Strachan (led the nation in sacks last year) and Victor Heyward all have left football. Leading tackler Blake Carroll does return at one of the inside-linebacker spots, and Jontrey Hunter will likely get the nod at one of the outside positions.
The two vacant spots will in all likelihood get filled by redshirt-freshman Justin Abraham on the inside and Jhi’Shawn Taylor on the outside. Taylor, who will try to fill Strachan’s shoes, actually started full-time at outside linebacker two seasons ago.
There’s also some promising depth with two former ACC transfers in Shamar McCollum and Kyle Wright. How this linebacker corps makes up for the offseason losses will go a long way in determining how successful this Georgia State defense will be.
Army vs. Georgia State Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Army and Georgia State match up statistically:
Army Offense vs. Georgia State Defense
Georgia State Offense vs. Army Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Army vs. Georgia State Betting Pick
This is an intriguing matchup of two teams that have finished in the top 20 in rushing attempts per game in each of the past two seasons. But the similarities pretty much stop there on offense.
Georgia State wants to play fast and spread teams out, while Army wants to grind games to a halt with clock-eating drives in its triple-option offense. The Panthers also clearly have a much more competent passing attack.
These teams do utilize two very similar 3-4 defensive schemes, though, so neither offense will be shocked by what they see on the other side this Saturday.
Speaking of familiarity, Georgia State has seen the triple option quite a few times in recent seasons. That’s crucial when facing Army’s unique offense. The Panthers annually play rival Georgia Southern, which runs a triple-option offense. Plus, many players on the current roster played against Army back in 2019.
It also helps to have the entire summer to prepare to face the triple option. That prep will also help for a meeting with the aforementioned Georgia Southern later in the season.
In that 2019 meeting, despite getting dominated in time of possession (as you would expect in this matchup), Georgia Southern pulled out a 28-21 home win by scoring four touchdowns on just six total drives in the game. I think we will see a similar result this year.
The key matchup comes down to the Army offensive line vs. the Georgia State linebackers. If you think Georgia State will suffer from a drop-off at linebacker after losing a few key pieces, you might favor Army in this matchup. I personally think they’ll be just fine at that position and the Army offensive line remains an unknown.
In regards to the over/under, I have it about fair. If you got in earlier, good for you — but most of the value has been sucked out by now. It will likely be decided on a few key fourth down attempts by Army — of which you can expect many. The Black Knights went 6-for-8 on fourth down in that 2019 meeting.
This line has come down below the field goal over the past week. While three is still obviously a key number, it’s not as important in a game involving Army, which wants to go for it on fourth down as often as possible. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see one of these teams go for two in a critical moment. Therefore, I chose to pay a little extra for the Georgia State moneyline instead of betting -2 or -2.5.
And hey, if it does come down to a field goal, I give the edge to Georgia State. Kicker Noel Ruiz was named to the first-team All Sun Belt preseason team.
Admittedly, I’m higher on Georgia State than the market, which is one of the reasons why I wagered on its season win total over. So, I knew I’d likely show value on this side. It won’t be easy against Army in a lower-possession higher-variance game, but I think Georgia State will do enough on offense and benefit enough on defense from the familiarity and preparation time to come up with a few critical stops.
For what it’s worth, per Action Labs, Army is just 5-11 against the spread in season openers since 2005.