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Georgia State vs. Penn State Preview

Shawn Elliott and crew will have their hands full in Happy Valley.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Penn State
Can Georgia State slow down Saquon Barkley and this explosive Penn State offense?
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Start Time: Saturday, September 16th, 7:30 PM ET

TV: Big Ten Network

Streaming: BTN2Go

Announcers: Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), Glen Mason (analyst), and Elise Menaker (sideline)

Location: Beaver Stadium

Series: First ever meeting

Odds: Penn State (-37) 55 total

Georgia State Outlook

After dropping a donut in the grand opening of Georgia State Stadium, Shawn Elliott’s squad received a bye week to get a chance to go back to practice and work on some fundamentals. The Panthers were outclassed by FCS Tennessee State in week one as they were bludgeoned in the ground game on both sides of the ball and were sloppy with ball security. There was a lot to work on.

The rushing issues that plagued GSU in 2016 were still there in the opener. The Panthers posted 49 yards on 29 carries in offensive coordinator Travis Trickett’s debut. It appears that the staff favors junior Taz Bateman in the backfield as he provides a legit receiving option. Moving forward, look for Georgia State to add more wrinkles into the gameplan for backup quarterback Aaaron Winchester as he gives the offense a zone read element.

Quarterback Conner Manning was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter in the opener and that essentially took wide receiver Penny Hart out of the game. Hart is a dynamic player at the wide receiver position and the Panthers must find a way to keep him involved. Look for Trickett to get him involved in some jet sweep actions and in the screen game as the season moves on.

The defense flashed some signs of life in the opener and that secondary appears to be the real deal. Corners Jerome Smith and Chandon Sullivan are a very good tandem and they should lock down most receivers they go up against. After one game, safeties DeAndre Applin and Bryan Williams are leading the team in tackles. This defensive backs is an obvious strength.

The front seven struggled a bit to stop the run against Tennessee State as they gave up 5.7 yards per carry. The Panthers are going to need defensive end Mackendy Cheridor, linebackers Trey Payne and Michael Shaw to really step up their production and produce some negative plays.

Penn State Outlook

The Nittany Lions enter this Big Ten-Sun Belt non-conference tilt as the #5 team in the country and it’s Playoff or bust for the defending Big Ten champions. For Penn State, they have the best running back in the country and the offense evolves around him. Saquon Barkley is coming off back-to-back thousand yard seasons and he’s off to a fast start in 2017 as he’s averaging 9.3 yards per carry. Barkley is becoming a much bigger threat in the passing game as he’s recorded seven catches for 99 yards in the first two games of 2017.

Trace McSorley is back at quarterback after an outstanding season as a sophomore when he threw for 29 touchdowns. McSorely enters this contest completing 62% of his pass attempts as he tossed for five touchdowns in the first two weeks. Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton are his two favorite targets as the two seniors have combined to collect 16 catches for 216 yards.

The best news for this Penn State team has been the improved play of its defense. Behind senior linebacker Jason Cabinda, Brent Pry’s defense is has only given up 14 points in two games and is only allowing 3.4 yards per play. Marcus Allen has joined Cabinda to provide some senior leadership and the two currently lead the team in tackles. Penn State has collected 23 tackles for loss as it’s been a very balanced attack from a lot of different players.

This team is a legit national title contender.

Georgia State does not stand much of a chance on Saturday night as Penn State is simply better at each position. James Franklin’s club is playing for bigger things in 2017 and this contest will be more about them just getting for better.

Shawn Elliott needs his team to go out and play hard to prove that they have gotten better since that embarrassing loss to Tennessee State. The Panthers need to show that they can get some type of running game going and that they can consistently find ways to get Penny Hart touches. The defense will be in bad situations all night, but they still need to prove that they can produce some takeaways.

This one is ugly but it’s a different tale for both sides. Each team enters this contest just wanting to show improvement and we will see if any squad has improved since their last outing.

Prediction: Penn State 48, Georgia State 9