WHO: Texas State (6-5, 4-3 Sun Belt) at Georgia State (1-10, 0-7 Sun Belt)
WHEN: 2:00 PM EST (1:00 PM CST), ESPN3
WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
LINE: -14, Texas State (opened -11); 62.5 O/U
The Texas State Bobcats roll into Atlanta fresh off an impressive 45-27 drubbing of Arkansas State on national television in San Marcos, and a potential bowl bid is in their sights. Win number seven will be a necessity for the 'Cats as they'll be jockeying with the Red Wolves and South Alabama for the 2nd and 3rd Sun Belt bowl tie-ins.
Standing in their way is a downtrodden Georgia State Panthers team that started out Sun Belt play putting scares into UL-Lafayette and South Alabama, but they've lost their past four games by an average of 33.5 points. GSU is still looking for their first FBS win, so they'll likely be jacked up to score a major Sun Belt upset on Senior Night.
To Beat Georgia State...
Texas State needs to feed the two-headed running back monster. Last season, Texas State had one of their "Tyler Jones Growing Pains" games against GSU as the Bobcats only passed for 47 yards but Robert Lowe and Chris Nutall ran all over the Panthers for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
Georgia State's run defense remains atrocious in 2014 as they surrender an average of 300.1 rushing yards per game. The Panthers' six most leading tacklers are linebackers, corners, and safeties, so that should give you an idea of Texas State's chances of getting to the second level.
Robert Lowe is coming off a career night against A-State and Terrence Franks along with CJ Best remain two of the fastest north-south runners in all of the Sun Belt, so they should be salivating for a chance to get a shot at the GSU front four. Texas State's offensive line also played their best game of the season against the Red Wolves, so they may be hitting their stride at just the right time.
To Beat Texas State...
Georgia State needs to watch New Mexico State's game film. More specifically, they need to use their potent passing attack (19 touchdowns, 272 yards per game) led by quarterback Nick Arbuckle to open up what has been an impotent rushing attack (90.5 ypg, 123rd in FBS).
If they can force Texas State's linebackers to play off the line of scrimmage and be mindful of pass coverage, that could force an improved but still suspect Bobcat defensive line to plug the gaps. As NMSU and Idaho showed, Texas State shutting down an inferior running game is not guaranteed. If they can neutralize David Mayo's ability to blow up plays at the line of scrimmage, they could put the Bobcats in some bad spots.
Does Georgia State have a chance in this game? Absolutely. Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione said that the Panthers are "better than their record indicates" and that they'll eventually topple a Sun Belt foe, but that he'd "like to prolong that another game." The Idaho and New Mexico State games also showed that nothing is guaranteed with this Texas State team.
On the flip side, GSU looks to be left for dead after getting a few too many kicks to the face, and the Bobcats may finally be shifting into a higher gear at the end of the regular season. Robert Lowe's vision and speed against the Red Wolves was nothing short of impressive, and his offensive line finally put together a consistent performance. The Bobcats need style points to stand out against Arkansas State and South Alabama for a Sun Belt bowl tie-in, so they'll want to continue playing with a killer instinct for the second straight week.
If they can continue to execute consistently on offense, and if David Mims II, Craig Mager, Germond Williams, and Aaron Shaw can play well enough against the pass to take pressure off the linebackers and let David Mayo loose, that should be enough to leave Atlanta with a comfortable win. However, if Texas State plays out of position, gives up costly penalties or turnovers, and lets Arbuckle connect consistently with Donovan Harden and Robert Davis, Bobcat fans could be biting their nails yet again.
Texas State 42, Georgia State 21