Finished Florida Citrus Bowl
AUTONATION CURE BOWL STORYLINES
1. A first-year head coach is going to cap his debut season with a victory when Western Kentucky faces Georgia State in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 16 in Orlando, Fla. Under former Boise State quarterback Mike Sanford, the Hilltoppers went .500 in Conference USA and finished ninth in FBS in passing offense. Directed by former South Carolina offensive coordinator Shawn Elliott, Georgia State won five road games en route to a fourth-place finish in the Sun Belt.
2. Both teams rely on strong passing attacks. Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White is a Senior Bowl invitee who led Conference USA in total offense, passing yards, completion percentage and passing yards per game. Georgia State quarterback Conner Manning paced the Sun Belt in completion percentage and often directed his passes toward Penny Hart, who set a school record with 73 receptions for 1,094 yards and eight touchdowns.
3. Western Kentucky and Georgia State each stumbled to finish the regular season. The Hilltoppers dropped four of their final contests, three of those defeats by 14 or more points. The Panthers mustered only 20 points in back-to-back losses to conclude the regular season, and their defense gave up 28.3 points per game while losing two of their final three contests.
TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: Western Kentucky -5
ABOUT GEORGIA STATE (6-5, 5-3 Sun Belt): Manning finished with 13 passing touchdowns while averaging 260.9 passing yards per game, as the Panthers ranked 31st in the nation in passing offense. Hart missed most of last season with a hamstring injury and broken foot, but the sophomore averaged 99.5 receiving yards per game in 2017 - eighth-most in the nation. Georgia State gave up 30 or more points five times, but won six out of seven games in a midseason stretch to clinch its second Cure Bowl berth in three years.
ABOUT WESTERN KENTUCKY (6-6, 4-4 Conference USA): White directed the Hilltoppers to 333.7 passing yards per game and averaged 300.3 total yards of offense per contest. Western Kentucky did not have much success rushing, averaging just 66.1 yards per contest. Linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe finished fifth in the conference with 105 tackles, including four games of 10 or more, and earned All-C-USA honors to help the Hilltoppers reach a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season.
PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 38, Georgia State 34
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