Georgia State Panthers (Sun Belt East Conference) vs Charlotte 49ers (American Athletic Conference)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 16, 6:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN+ (Play-By-Play: Alex Perlman/Analyst: Reggie Walker/Sideline: Smacker Miles)
Radio: Learfield/Charlotte Sport Network (Play-By-Play: Matt Swierad/Analyst: Al Wallace/ Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Spread: Georgia State -8, Over/Under: 54
All-Time Series Record: Tied 2-2, Most Recent Matchup: Charlotte W, 42-41 Atlanta, GA
Setting The Stage
Week 3’s matchup will feature the Charlotte 49ers hosting the Georgia State Panthers. Charlotte will celebrate Niner Nation Week, as they look to bounce back after last week’s loss to Maryland. These two teams have similar offensive philosophies. This game will be won/lost in the trenches, as both sides look to establish the run game early and control time of possession. The series record is tied at two, with Charlotte winning the most recent matchup on the road last season (42-41). The Georgia State Panthers come into this game with an undefeated record, looking to take the series lead and grab first place in the Sun Belt (East) Conference.
Charlotte turned heads around the nation last week, jumping out to a 14-point lead against the heavily favored Maryland Terrapins. The Niners punched first, catching the Terps off guard in College Park. Despite their fast start, Coach Poggi felt like the team let their foot off the gas, saying “I think we came out and played 45 minutes with a sense of urgency, but we have to play that way the whole game.” Charlotte may have won the first-half battle, but Maryland won the war. The Niners hang their hat on the defensive side of the ball, but fatigue caught up with them.
Coach Poggi on the defense: “I think our defense is playing really well, but you can’t play 74 snaps. I don’t care who you are, if you run that many snaps you’re going to get tired.”
Georgia State will look to replicate Maryland’s game plan, aiming to tire out the Niners by establishing the run game early. Charlotte has an array of game-breaking players that can pressure the quarterback. However, stopping the run is not a strong suit for this defensive line. The Niners gave up 243 yards on the ground to the Terps, with 162 yards coming from sophomore runningback Roman Hemby.
Georgia State had two players rush for over 100 yards in last week’s win over UConn (Darren Grainger - 142 yards, Marcus Carroll - 107 yards). The Niners know that stifling the run should be priority No.1, with Charlotte cornerback Donte Balfour saying, “We have to focus on doing our job, and not the next man’s job…that’s when mistakes happen. We have to stay disciplined, let our front do what they do, let our linebackers do what they do, and stay in our zone and we should be good”. Charlotte will have their hands full, especially after losing redshirt junior defensive end Jalar Holley for the season.
This game will be dictated on the ground, but the Niners must capitalize on the “Gotta Have It Moments” through the air. Charlotte quarterback Jalon Jones got off to a scorching hot start in last week’s matchup, finding redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jairus Mack on a 48-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter. The Niners will need to see an increase in production from the wide receiver room, in order to take advantage of play-action opportunities down the field.
Starting field position will be a big factor in this matchup. The unsung hero responsible for Charlotte’s fast start versus the Terps was the special teams unit. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Stone Handy delivered a big hit on Maryland’s kick returner, pinning the Terps inside their own 15-yard line to start the game. Two plays later, linebacker Demetrius Knight caught and returned a “pick-six”.
Charlotte’s schedule does not get easier. The Niners will travel to The Swamp next week, before starting conference play against SMU on the 30th. Coach Poggi views this game as a must-win, saying “We talk about complimentary football a lot with the players. You got to win in three phases…We got to win, we want to win, we’re preparing to win. That’s how we approach everything, every week is the precipice. There’s got to be a sense of urgency.”
Georgia State Preview
Georgia State looks to deploy the same offensive game plan as the Niners. The Panthers take pride in their ability to run the ball, averaging 240 yards on the ground in their first two games. Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger is a dangerous dual-threat QB. Grainger scrambled for a 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter versus the Huskies, continuing the Panthers streak of fast starts.
Georgia State prefers to run the ball, but they are more than capable of beating opponents through the air. Darren Grainger finished last week’s game with 15/26 ATT, 144-yards and 1 passing touchdown.
Coach Poggi on Darren Grainger:
“[Darren Grainger] is exceptional. He’s accounting for an absurd amount of yards per game…it’s going to be a difficult test on defense because he can throw it and run it.”
Despite winning the rushing battle in each of their first two games, the Panthers never lead in time of possession. Georgia State’s “bend, don’t break” mentality allows the Panthers to continually make big stops in the red zone.
Georgia State heads into this game with an undefeated record. The Panthers have an opportunity to seize early control of first place in the Sun Belt (East) Conference with a win on Saturday Night.
This matchup will be a stark contrast from the style of play in the AAC. Both teams have similar offensive identities, including dual-threat quarterbacks. Georgia State is known for their fast starts, seizing control early and weathering the game for the remaining three quarters. Charlotte will have their hands full as they focus on alignment and wrap-up tackling to stop big plays from happening.
The Niners have yet to show they can put up points in a shootout. This matchup should remain close for the duration of the game, but Georgia State will be seeking revenge for last year’s loss.
Final Score: Georgia State 31, Charlotte 27