Start time: 2:00 p.m. EST, Nov. 27
Location: Center Parc Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Records: TROY 5-6 (3-4 SBC), GSU 6-5 (5-2 SBC)
Spread: GSU -6.5; O/U 49.5
One week after earning bowl eligibility for a third consecutive season, the Georgia State Panthers are looking for a landmark win in their final regular season game. They face the Troy Trojans (who need a win Saturday to become bowl eligible themselves) in a game that, if won, would be a record sixth conference win for GSU.
Who is Troy?
Right now the Trojans are a nebulous, .500-ish team without a head coach. Chip Lindsey was fired last Sunday after an unimpressive three-year, 15-19 tenure that did not include a single bowl appearance nor a former Trojans selected in the NFL Draft.
Defensive coordinator Brandon Hall was named the interim head coach for the game against GSU and, should Troy make one, the ensuing bowl game.
Hall will continue calling plays for the Trojans’ defense, one that has been incredibly strong all season. Troy has allowed the fourth-fewest points in the Sun Belt and rank second and third in passing and rushing defense in the conference.
The Trojans’ defense also ranks first in sacks forced, thanks largely to Javon Solomon and Richard Jibunor. Solomon and Jibunor have contributed 18 of the Trojans’ 36 sacks as ‘bandits,’ Troy’s name for combo d-end/outside linebacker guys. The two have also picked off three passes.
Alongside Troy’s two star bandits is true linebacker Carlton Martial. Martial led the FBS in tackles last season and is five shy of the lead this year. He was keyed as the pre-season favorite for the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and was recently announced to be one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, an award given to the country’s best player who started his career as a walk-on.
The Troy offense, however, lacks the star power and statistical accolades the defense boasts. QB Taylor Powell ranks third-worst in the Sun Belt for passer efficiency, leading rusher Kimani Vidal ranks sixteenth in the conference for yards per carry and the offense as a whole has scored the fourth-fewest points in the conference.
Offensive coordinator Luke Meadows has favored the pass, albeit slightly, but when the ball comes closer to the end zone he shows little preference; 17 of Troy’s touchdowns have been on the ground compared to 15 through the air.
How does GSU win?
The key to beating Troy is cracking its at-time impenetrable defense; four of the Trojans’ six losses came against opponents that scored at least 28 points and their three most recent losses included an average 38.3 points allowed.
Georgia State very much plays ‘run-to-set-up-the-pass’ football; it hasn’t thrown more than 20 times all season. However, the run-until-we’re-bloody mentality has allowed QB Darren Grainger to find deep balls in crucial moments and ultimately has resulted in victory for GSU; in games where Grainger has a completed pass of over 30 yards the Panthers are 6-2.
Success may be found by abiding by a similar game plan to the victory over Coastal Carolina two weeks before this matchup. In it the Panthers passed for 198 yards on just 18 attempts and ran for 175 yards on a blistering 175 carries.
The departure of Chip Lindsey makes Troy a far more intriguing game than it would have been a week ago. The Trojans are no longer a middle-of-the-pack team looking for a bowl game but rather an incomplete program hoping to luck into a postseason appearance. Like last year GSU has found its stride over the back half of the season and should handle the Trojans without terrible issue.
Prediction: Georgia State 34-21 Troy