Date: Saturday December 2, 2017
Kickoff Time: 2 p.m. EST / 1 p.m. CST
Location: Georgia State Stadium, Atlanta GA
Streaming: Watch ESPN
Line: Georgia State -5.5, O/U 46
Series Record: Idaho leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: The Vandals won a 37-12 beatdown last year, their only previous meeting.
Flying under the radar this weekend is an underhyped game between two Sun Belt teams, certainly not rivals, whose fates are already sealed. Surpassing expectations in Shawn Elliott’s first season, the Georgia State Panthers are 6-4 and already bowl eligible. The Idaho Vandals are 3-8 and will be leaving the Sun Belt after this season, to return to the FCS. No matter what the future may hold, they’ve still got one team to go.
Idaho Vandals Outlook
Despite their disparate records, these teams are evenly matched on offense. The Panthers are averaging 20.7 points a game to the Vandals 20.6, and despite a breakout year last season, this Idaho team is averaging 224.6 yards passing this year, compared to the Panthers, their first year head coach, and 270 passing yards a game.
What’s become of the Vandals? Paul Petrino had this place turned around last year, taking the team to a 9-4 record, including a bowl victory over Colorado State. This was only their third bowl appearance since 1998, and the culture seemed to finally be coming around... but unfortunately, Idaho can’t afford a down year because there won’t be another chance. Two bowls in a row would’ve been the right way to go out, to show the Sun Belt they made a mistake in not renewing the contract with the conference.
Now, the Vandals will just have to settle for a win. QB Matt Linehan has 2,056 passing yards this season but he’s doubtful to play after suffering an injury to his hand. With backup QB Mason Petrino also expected to be out, the Vandals will probably start freshman Colton Richardson. Richardson has some options, as Alfonso Onunwor (756 yards) and Jacob Sannon (559 yards) are solid receivers.
The focus for the Vandals, though, will be RB Aaron Duckworth, who needs only 88 more rushing yards to hit 1,000 for the season. It’ll be a nice milestone for the Vandals, as they look to go out with a bang and not a whimper.
Georgia State Panthers Outlook
Everything just sort of fell into place for the Panthers this year.
They renovated Turner Field, former home of the Atlanta Braves, and made it their new football stadium. They hired Shawn Elliott as coach, after his brief stint as interim coach for South Carolina. And then, after initially stumbling in their season debut in a loss to FCS Tennessee State (followed by an expected loss to Penn State), the Panthers have gone 6-2 since and show no signs of slowing down.
After a terrible 2016, the Panthers haven’t exactly notched a signature victory, but a wins are wins and the Panthers have six of them, solidifying that this will be their second bowl season. They had their three-game win streak snapped a week ago by Appalachian State, and this week Conner Manning will look to bounce back in the win column. Manning’s 2,599 passing yards is currently 5th best in the conference.
The Panthers’ running game hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but the passing offense should be fine, as WR Penny Hart, who has amassed 1,022 passing yards and eight TD’s, likely won’t be slowed down this week. Their second leading receiver, Glenn Smith, trails with a distant 303 receiving yards, but that’s okay because he’s also their leading rusher, with 442 yards on 129 carries.
The upside here? Points. The Panthers have beaten all the bad teams they’ve played, and lost to all the good ones, and the Vandals... well, the Vandals are a bad team this year.
Georgia State 37, Idaho 27