Rhode Island at Georgia State
Date/Time: Thursday, Aug. 31, 7:00 p.m. EST
Location: Center Parc Stadium, (Atlanta, Georgia)
2022 record: URI 7-4 (5-3) GSU 4-8 (3-5)
Previous meetings: Georgia State leads all-time series 1-0; beat Rhode Island 41-7
Common sense dictates that FBS team Georgia State should have no issue dismantling FCS school Rhode Island...But college football doesn’t care about common sense.
Since becoming an FBS team in 2013, the Panthers have lost five times to FCS teams, most recently in 2017. That was HC Shawn Elliott’s first season with the reins. They have not lost to an FCS team since.
Rhode Island doesn’t quite have a storied history of FBS upsets, having played spoiler only thrice since the DI-A and DI-AA division in 1978. The most recent was 2021 when the Rams beat UMass 35-22.
A Quick Look at Georgia State
Two years ago, Georgia State looked like the team on the rise. They won eight games and finished second in the Sun Belt East. They made their third bowl appearance in as many years and routed Ball State during it.
...But, things happen fast in the FBS. Last season the Panthers finished 4-8, and Elliott’s position is far from secure.
The roster has seen plenty of turnover over the past seasons, and will rely on tenured players to shepard GSU away from a spiral.
Third-year-starter Darren Grainger retains his role as the quick-footed quarterback with a knack for deep throws on play action. Marcus Carroll spent much of last season as the number two back, but in GSU’s strong rushing attack he was able to run for 600+ yards even as the backup.
Jamari Thrash’s transfer to Louisville left a 1,122 yard, 61 catch hole that will need to be made up by Robert Lewis and Ja’Cyais Credle, both of which had over 350 receiving yards last season.
The defense was good but not spectacular last season, and the departure of 2022’s three highest sack-getters puts pressure on sophomore defensive linemen Henry Bryant and Tylon Dunlap, who will play alongside senior Javon Denis.
Two-time team tackle leader Jordan Veneziale has been demoted to co-starter at inside linebacker alongside Justin Abraham.
They hold all the advantages in this matchup, and should be a good tune-up for the old faces in new roles to properly acclimate before conference play.
A Quick Look at Rhode Island
Rhode Island enters their first game of the year ranked 23rd in the FCS Coaches Poll, but have not been to the playoffs since 1985.
Jim Fleming, entering his 10th season with URI, has finally found his footing. The program is trending up after back-to-back 7-4 seasons. In Fleming’s first six years, the Rams won a total of 17 games.
Seventh-year QB Kasim Hill commands the offense for a third consecutive year, having previously played for Maryland and being rostered by (but never appeared for) Tennessee. Hill’s offense was fourth-best in the Colonial Athletic Conference last season, scoring over 30 a game.
Kahtero Summers is expected to command most of the targets after finishing 10th in receiving yards last year, but there is no clear replacement for running back Marques DeShields. DeShields was the second-best rusher in the CAA, beat only by Jaden Shirden, who averaged over 150 yards per game.
The defense is formidable. The Rams finished top-five in most defensive statistics in the CAA last season, but at times can get handsy – the Rams had the second-most penalty yards in the conference last year.
Georgia State has the advantage. They are expected to dominate the Rams and anything short of a rout will accelerate how quickly Elliott’s hot seat warms up.
The home field advantage for the Panthers is not much to speak of (they won only two games in Atlanta last season) but the distance between the two teams will certainly play a factor; GSU is Rhode Island’s furthest opponent, tripling the next highest distance.
While an easier matchup than Rhode Island’s FBS game against Pitt last season, it is hard to expect a URI win.