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September 3, 2021
Army vs Georgia Southern free pick 9/4/2021

The 2021 college football season gets underway with its first full week of action this weekend. Bettors looking for value should be drawn to this Army-Georgia State matchup on Saturday. Both the Black Knights and Panthers had successful 2020 campaigns. Georgia State went 6-4 last season for its second straight winning season under head coach Shawn Elliott. That’s actually quite an accomplishment for a program that is in just its 12th season of existence.

Army, on the other hand, goes way back. Over the last five seasons under head coach Jeff Monken, the Black Knights have won at least eight games four times. Last year, Army went 9-3 and lost in the Liberty Bowl 24-21 to West Virginia.

If you have ever watched an Army football game, it does like this. The Knights utilize their ground-oriented, triple option offense to maintain control of the football and then play outstanding defense to keep themselves in games. The formula has worked. 

In 2020, Army was fourth in the nation in rushing averaging 273 yards per game. That helped Monken’s team finish third in time of possession. Army had the ball an average of nearly 35 minutes per game. The result was a defense that finished second against the pass and first in total defense (275.3 ypg) in the country. The Knights gave up just 14.8 points per game, which was second nationally. 

Monken returns seven starters to that defense. Plus, he has another eight players that started at least one game in 2020. The Knights defense should rival what it did a year ago. They will need to in Week 1 to slow down a pretty good Panthers offense.

Elliott actually returns all 11 of his starters from last year’s offense. That includes QB Quad Brown who was the Sun Belt’s second-most productive passer last season with 2,278 yards. Georgia State averaged 424.3 yards and 33.3 points per game last season. Both ranked in the top 40 in the country. 

Where the Panthers must improve is on defense where eight starters return. Elliott’s defense got gashed for 50-plus points twice and gave up over 30 three more times. The Panthers gave up 34 points twice but won both games. Putting up 30-plus on Army will be difficult. It happened just once last season when the Knights played miserably in a trip to Tulane. The task will be made even more difficult if the Army offense owns the time of possession battle. 

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Georgia State has typically started slow over the last few seasons. The Panthers are just 4-16 in their last 20 games played in September. Army is 7-2 in its last nine games and has covered the spread in five of their last seven. Monken’s teams normally keep games close. Since 2016, Army is 34-28-2 against the spread. 

The total heading into Saturday’s game is 49.5, which may be a bit low for two teams that have proven the ability to score. Both teams return plenty of starters on offense, including both quarterbacks. Army actually has four players returning that started at least one game at quarterback. Tyhier Tyler, who led Army with 578 yards rushing last year, is the most experienced of the quarterbacks and will start. 

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Despite their reliance on the running game, Army has been known to put up points. They hit the 30-point mark four times last season, went over 40 three times, and scored a season-high 55 in a win over FCS Abilene Christian. Four of the last six Army games have gone Over the posted total. It’s similar circumstances for the Panthers who have an offense that can score and also have a defense that has been known to give up points by the bunches. The Over has cashed in eight of the Panthers last 11 games, including four of the last five they played at home. 

Army opened as a 3.5-point underdog, but bettors immediately recognized the value on the Knights and that spread has been bid down to +2. The Knights style of play is conducive to keeping games close. Georgia State does see the triple option every year when they play Georgia Southern, however Army runs most of their offense from under center. It’s a different look that will likely give the Panthers a hard time. Take Army.