The Georgia State Panthers started playing football in 2010 and they are now starting their second year at the FBS level. (While this quick path to the FBS is unusual it is worth noting that fellow Sun Belt program South Alabama has a very similar history).
It is difficult to find a reference to Georgia State football that doesn't mention the program's potential. Even Georgia State president Mark Becker referenced "our potential" last week. The potential that people see in Georgia State is perhaps best summed up by Bill Connelly in the 2013 GSU Preview:
The state of Georgia produced more FBS-level players than all but four states. It produced more than Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas combined. But while Texas, California, Florida and Ohio all have a multitude of FBS programs large and small, Georgia has just two. Well, Georgia had just two. Now there are three.
It appears that in the near term Georgia State will just be a program with potential, but it is aggressively trying to transition to something more. That said, despite going 0-12 last year, Georgia State's potential has only grown. This summer the school announced a plan for the soon to be vacant home of the Atlanta Braves, and President Becker has issued statements of confidence that the school will have the proper level of support to handle the $300 million dollar development.
The Turner Field Plan would use the space that is currently used by Turner Field and the parking lots- Green, Gold, Blue, Orange, Delta, Medallion and Hyundai- as a new hub for the university. In the plan the land is mapped out to include a baseball stadium (new construction, not Turner Field), a football stadium, student housing, retail space, and academic buildings.
Also. Georgia State just introduced Charlie Cobb as their new Athletic Director earlier this month. Cobb had been the AD of Appalachian State University for the last ten years. Cobb has at both Appalachian State and NC State increased ticket sales dramatically, something that Georgia State needs if the Turner Field project goes forward.
An AD who can energize fans and new facilities in a large city will help, but without quality players Georgia State will not be able to compete. Luckily for Georgia State they are in a state with a remarkable amount of football talent. A data pull from the Rivals database to see where three star or better prospects for 2015 are located puts Georgia a little better than the quote above.
Only three states had more prospects than Georgia's 131: California - 217, Florida - 213, and Texas -161. Ohio was fifth with 60. While Georgia is a hotly contested football recruiting ground, the fact that this much talent is in the area should eventually lead to better recruiting classes for Georgia State.
The 2014 season will be Georgia State's fifth at football, and honestly, while it should be better than their 2013 campaign, this team is expected to finish near the bottom of the Sun Belt. That said, it is apparent that the school is making a serious effort to support their football program. If they are able to move into their own stadium and continue to build fan support, then perhaps by their 10th they will not just be the potential program.