Cajun Opponents’ Preview – Game 10 – Georgia State
(This is the tenth in a series previewing the 2018 opponents of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. Today: Georgia State. The Panthers travel to Cajun Field on November 10th.)
2017 didn't start very well for Georgia State.
The Panthers opened up their new stadium at the former Turner Field and had a great crowd, then laid an egg in a 17-10 loss to 15 point underdog Tennessee State of the FCS. A blowout loss at Penn State followed and things weren't looking so good for first year head coach Shawn Elliott. With the record 0-2 and Georgia State facing three in a row on the road, the Panthers became road warriors and won all three on the way to a 6-3 record. After losses to App State and Idaho, GSU got a bid to the Cure Bowl and beat WKU 27-17.
The catalyst for the solid season was the departed quarterback Connor Manning, who threw for 3,146 yards and 14 scores. Manning has departed, however and the Panthers had a spirited competition at quarterback during spring and fall. Elliott has decided on JUCO transfer Dan Ellington, who beat out Aaron Winchester for the starting job. Ellington will have a prime target in the SBC's best receiver. Penny Hart, who had 1,121 yards and 15 scores a year ago. Transfers from South Carolina and Florida (TE) will make the receiving corps a potent group.
There are some questions at running back, as Demarcus Cook is the leading returning rusher, but highly touted freshman Dustin Coates is in the mix. Whoever gets the job will have four returning linemen to block for him.
Deffensively,, Georgia State returns just five starters, but the front seven should be solid, led by senior linebacker Chase Middleton. The question is in the secondary, where the Panthers have three newcomers. Special teams were an issue last year. Brandon Wright hit just 12-23 field goals a season ago and their return game wasn't much to speak of. That's an area where Georgia State has to improve.
Georgia State does not play South Alabama this year. Their road conference schedule is brutal, with trips to Troy, App State, Arkansas State and Louisiana. They'll get rival Georgia Southern at home on the final weekend, looking for their third straight win in the series. They open with #5 FCS Kennesaw State at home. Trips to North Carolina State, Memphis and a home game with Western Michigan make up a rugged non conference schedule.
OUTLOOK: Georgia State was stingy defensively a year ago. Only Penn State rolled up more than 40 points against them. Six of their opponents were held under 30 points. That, along with Manning's ability, was the reason Georgia State had a solid first year under Elliott. The Panthers have some firepower at wide receiver, with Hart perhaps being the best overall offensive player in the league. Obviously, Ellington is going to be the key, here. Georgia State may not be quite as good defensively and that means the offense and kicking game will have to pick up the slack. That early schedule is brutal, however and GSU needs to make sure the first seven games don't break their spirit.