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Georgia State vs. ULM Preview

Can the Warhawks get to 4-0 in conference play?

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Memphis
Can ULM pick up their fourth consecutive win?
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Start Time: Saturday, October 14th, 5:00 PM ET



Announcers: David Saltzman (play-by-play) and Brian Kinchen (analyst)

Location: Malone Stadium

Series: ULM leads 2-0

Odds: ULM (-7) 59 total

Georgia State Outlook

The Panthers went on the road last week and picked up their first conference win of the season as they knocked off Coastal Carolina in Conway. After a horrid start, Shawn Elliott has his squad back to .500 and now the Panthers will have a really good shot at starting 2-0 in conference play.

This rushing attack remains one of the worst in the FBS, but it’s not for lack of trying by the coaching staff. Both Taz Bateman and Glenn Smith have recorded over 40 carries in just two games and both are averaging right around three yards per carry. Bateman missed the win against Coastal Carolina game and in their two victories, Smith has received the lion’s share of touches. The ground game has not made a real impact but it’s obvious that offensive coordinator Travis Trickett is going to eventually get this running game going.

Penny Hart is the best wide receiver in the Sun Belt.
Georgia State Athletics

After a slow start, quarterback Conner Manning has played really well in the last two games as he’s completing over 60% of his attempts as he’s tossed for over 250 yards in wins over Charlotte and Coastal Carolina. Penny Hart is a big reason why this passing attack has found its groove. He has helped pace a really efficient passing attack as the sophomore has 31 grabs for 365 yards and two scores. Hart’s 44 targets are 26 more than the next closest receiver. The Panthers ride or die with their star receiver.

After being torched by both Tennessee State and Penn State on the ground, this GSU front seven has really answered the bell. In their two wins, Georgia State did not allow more than 130 rushing yards as the Panthers have shown progress under first year defensive coordinator Nate Fuqua. The passing defense still has some major holes and S&P+ has them as one of the worst in the country. However, that secondary is still super talented and has the potential to improve as the season moves on. So far, defensive tackle Julie Laurent and safety Bryan Williams have been this unit’s best players.

The special teams have been brutal for the Panthers as they are leaving a ton of points on the field as Brandon Wright is 1-for-5 on field goals. GSU has used three different punters and has yet to produce a touchback on kickoffs. Outside of Glenn Smith being a dynamic kick returner, this group does little well.

ULM Outlook

The Warhawks have it rolling and there is now palpable buzz for Matt Viator’s program. The offense is playing at a high level in coordinator Matt Kubik’s second season and the defense is doing just enough to win games. The schedule is there for the Warhawks to make an unlikely run at a conference crown.

Caleb Evans has been absolutely outstanding at quarterback and he has a legit shot to bring home Sun Belt player of the year honors. The sophomore from Texas has thrown for over 300 yards twice and has ran for 90 yards or more on two other occasions. He’s been a true difference maker and has made the Warhawks a legit bowl contender.

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Auburn
Marcus Green has accounted for three touchdowns in 2017.
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The passing game with Evans has been very effective and ULM has plenty of options on the outside. The Warhawks have four receivers that have already pulled in at least 11 receptions and each is averaging at least 12 yards per catch. Marcus Green is excellent out of the slot while Brian Williams and RJ Turner man the outside spots.

Evans has really bolstered this rushing attack as now the Warhawks have a legit dual-threat option for their zone read looks. The offensive line has been excellent and this offense has a nice three back rotation. Alabama transfer Derrick Gore has logged the most carries but junior Ben Luckett has been the team’s most effective runner. This offense is extremely balanced and will put points on each team remaining on their schedule.

The defense still has a long way to go as the Warhawks are getting shredded on the ground and are consistently giving up large plays in the passing game. This group is improved, but this still may be the worst defense in the Sun Belt. Linebacker David Griffith has been a stud and he’s a likely first team all-conference selection. The junior has 36 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks on the season. As the season moves on, this group will be dependent on takeaways and they really need to start producing turnovers at a higher rate.

The special teams haven’t been great for ULM, but kicker Craig Ford has hit on five of six field goals and sophomore punter Harrison Helm is averaging over 40 yards per attempt. The Warhawks have lost two fumbles on kick returns and outside of Marcus Green’s kick return touchdown against Coastal Carolina, this unit has been a non-factor.

This is a pretty big spot for both teams as each program is looking to continue their current winning streaks.

A win for Georgia State would get them over .500 and off to a 2-0 start in Sun Belt play. After not playing in Atlanta since the opener, Georgia State returns next weekend and will be hosting Troy. A victory on Saturday could result in a crazy atmosphere at Georgia State Stadium.

ULM, meanwhile, will be looking to go 4-0 in conference play with a manageable schedule remaining. The Warhawks have winnable games at South Alabama and Idaho the next two weeks before getting both Appalachian State and Arkansas State in Monroe come November.

When looking at this match-up, I believe Georgia State is going to have a pretty difficult time stopping this productive ULM passing attack and Caleb Evans is going to have some big plays through the air. Georgia State will score some points and Penny Hart will make some plays, but the lack of a running game will prevent them from keeping up with the Warhawks.

ULM wins again and we might as well mail that Sun Belt coach of the year trophy to Matt Viator right now.

Prediction: ULM 34, Georgia State 26