Entering Saturday the burning question for the Georgia State Panthers is, “Can we win on the road and become bowl eligible?” Alternatively Texas State has one of their own: “Can we put together another complete game in 2017?”
Georgia State (5-3, 4-1 Sun Belt) has vastly improved under first year coach Shawn Elliott after a paltry 3-9 2016 season, and are currently tied for second place in Sun Belt play.
Texas State (2-7, 1-4 Sun Belt) themselves have matched their 2016 win total with three games left and despite questionable roster rotations and iffy second-half play calling Head Coach Everett Withers’ young squad have shown growth as 2017 has gone on.
Kickoff: November 11th, 3 pm CST
Location: Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, Texas
Watch: ESPN3, CW35
Radio: AM1300/AM930/89.9 FM
Series Record: 2-2
Betting Line: Georgia State -5 1⁄2 , O/U: 47
Last Meeting: 2016 (41-21, Georgia State)
Texas State Outlook
Offensive line troubles. For TxSt fans it’s nothing new. The ‘Cats o-line thrives when the bootleg or quick slats are involved or when there is minimal need for premier pass blocking, but most of the time if quarterback Damian Williams is in the pocket for more than two seconds the pocket traditionally collapses and it has led to a lot of blindsided hits, fumbles and ill-fated throws.
But what has saved the Bobcats from total domination in the trenches has been the offensive scheme’s new found trickery. When asked about the surge of trick plays at this week’s presser head coach Everett Withers exclaimed, “We just call them part of the offense.” That’s fine with me. The offense has shined and given some hope of what the play calling can do even with such young players. Last week we saw utility man extraordinaire Hutch White throw a touchdown pass and receiver Tyler Watts slice up the Aggie defense with the Bobcat play of the year in a 76-yard run that electrified the paltry homecoming crowd.
Defensively we’ve seen the usual suspects step up. Bryan London and Gabe Loyd have been consistent, giving the defense some validity but my goodness the secondary still looks like Swiss cheese.
New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers looked more like Aaron Rodgers throwing for 474 yards and having his way tossing bomb after bomb. Unfortunately, defensive linemen Dean Taylor and Caeveon Patton and cornerbacks JaShon Waddy and Greg Peace II will be out against Georgia State so the defense will be spread even thinner.
Keys to victory:
*Offense needs to keep up the fast pace to keep defense on their toes and off balance.
*Pressure Conner Manning into making mistakes.
Georgia State Outlook
The Panthers are looking to go bowling and with a win Saturday they can also keep their Sun Belt championship hopes alive. Last week the Panthers staged a come from behind victory over rival Georgia Southern and won 21-17.
The Panther defense which ranks in the top three in total defense in the Sun Belt, is led by senior safety Bryan Williams who leads the Sun Belts in interceptions with four and is GSU’s leading tackler. Their comeback last Saturday was spearheaded by a three fumble performance against the Eagles including the game changing fumble recovery to set up the game winning Penny Hart touchdown catch.
Quarterback Conner Manning has been having an efficient 2017 season, completing 64.7 percent of his passes. He’s passed for 11 touchdowns and six interceptions with most of his passes going to his phenomenal wideout Penny Hart. Hart leads the Sun Belt in receiving with 61 receptions and 876 yards, while ranking 5th in the nation with 109.5 yards a game helping to bolster this Panther offense.
Keys to victory:
*Expose weak secondary.
*Expose weak offensive line.
This is Georgia State’s game to lose. The Panthers have all the momentum, winning four of their last five games and are looking to stay in the Sun Belt championship hunt.
But beware of the new found confidence the Bobcats have gained as they have utilized their opportunities to score on offense by any means necessary these past two games since their bye week. Texas State wins surprisingly in a shootout on Senior Day, 43-41.