Date/time: Saturday, Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m. EST
Location: Albertsons Stadium - Boise, Idaho
2023 record: GSU 6-6 (3-5 SBC), USU 6-6 (4-4 MWC)
Bowl history: GSU 3-2 (won 2021 Camellia Bowl), USU 6-10 (lost 2022 First Responder Bowl)
Previous meetings: Georgia State and Utah State have never played each other.’
A Quick Look at Georgia State
Two months ago, this situation would have been unfathomable for the Panthers. They started the season a program-best 6-1, but absolutely tailspun in the back half of the season.
Perhaps it was a cruel joke at the expense of a team whose ceiling was six wins, or maybe it was emblematic of a larger issue. Either way, a sixth consecutive loss would put Georgia State alongside Louisiana Tech and Colorado for the fourth-longest active losing streak in the FBS.
Unfortunately, things look grim early for GSU.
The Panthers averaged 189 rushing yards in wins this season, but the team’s leading rusher Marcus Carroll, transferring to Missouri, is not playing in the bowl game.
Carroll was the nation’s sixth-leading rusher this year and was GSU’s third-leading receiver.
In his place on the depth chart are Freddie Brock and Jaylen Foster.
Brock averaged over five yards per carry over three seasons at FCS program Maine but recorded just six carries this season for the Panthers.
Foster is a true freshman and did not get any touches this season.
Georgia State is also starting an almost entirely new offensive line save for left guard Jonathan Brown.
Also not playing for Georgia State are All-Sun Belt First Team offensive lineman Travis Glover (preparing for the NFL Draft), Second Team receiver Robert Lewis (transferring to Auburn), and team tackle leader Jontrey Hunter (draft).
It is hard to project success for a team that is missing its most crucial pieces on either side of the ball. Quarterback Darren Grainger, defensive lineman Javon Denis, and corner Gavin Pringle are all expected to play, but are they enough to overcome a completely depleted rushing game?
A Quick Look at Utah State
The Aggies did their job this season, winning and losing games as it was supposed to, only once upsetting or upset by an opponent. They finished 6-6 in the regular season for a second consecutive year, and are 9-7 in-conference since 2022.
Quarterback Levi Williams is expected to start and could become the first two-time Famous Idaho Potato Bowl MVP.
Williams won the honor in the 2021 rendition while playing for Wyoming. He completed 9-of-11 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and ran for 200 yards and four scores.
He also won the 2019 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl as Wyoming’s starter against Georgia State.
Williams was listed as the backup to Cooper Legas at the beginning of the season, but true freshman McCae Hillstead got the snaps when Legas struggled early. Legas won the job back and Hillstead appeared sporadically, but injuries to both gave Williams the starting job ahead of the Aggies' regular-season finale.
He gets the luxury of All-Mountain West First Team receiver Jalen Royals and Second Team receiver Terrell Vaughn. Royals and Vaughn finished fourth and seventh in the Moutain West for receiving yards and were the fourth-best pass-catching duo in the nation.
Also expected to play are linebacker MJ Tafisi and safety Ike Larsen, both named to the All-Mountain West First Team. Tafisi finished with the eighth-most tackles in the country this year and Larsen jointly led the MWC in interceptions.
As far as public knowledge knows, Georgia State is transfer portal-plundered and draft-preparing while Utah State is intact and the same team it was in November.
A full-strength matchup between these two teams would be fun. It would be a classic run vs pass battle featuring two middling defenses.
But without superstar Marcus Carroll or their strong offensive line, the Panthers offer little offensively and will get diced by the top-tier Utah State passing game.
It is tough to project anything other than a Utah State win.