Georgia State University
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Enrollment: 50,972 (25,160 undergraduates)
Home Stadium: Georgia State Stadium (Capacity 23,000)
Head Coach: Shawn Elliot (1st year, 0-1; 0.00 overall)
Conference: Sun Belt Conference
This year is the first time that Georgia State and Penn State have played.
Last Season (3-9 overall, 2-6 conference)
2016 was the seventh year of the Georgia State football program, the fourth year that the Panthers were a member of the Sun Belt Conference, and the sixth time out of seven years that the program had a losing season.
Last year, fourth-year coach Trent Miles led the Panthers until he was fired in mid-November after an abysmal 2-8 record, after which Tim Lappano took the helm as the interim head coach. The Panthers’ only wins last year came against Texas State, Tennessee-Martin and Georgia Southern. Of note was a very close 6 point loss against a ranked Wisconsin team in September.
Offseason and Recruiting
Shawn Elliot, who had been a co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at South Carolina and held other positions there since 2010, was hired as the new head football coach for Georgia State in December. Georgia State’s 2017 class ranked as the nation’s 104th recruiting class (4th in the Sun Belt Conference) as compared to PSU’s 2017 class ranked at 15th in the nation and 3rd in the Big10.
Georgia State had a bye last weekend but in their first game of the season on August 31, they fell to Tennessee State 17-10 in the inaugural game at the new Georgia State Stadium. Georgia State struggled offensively, with four turnovers, and only rushed for 49 yards. Even so, the Panthers’ quarterback Conner Manning completed 14 of 17 passes in the game to set a school record for completion percentage in a game. Taz Bateman caught six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown, and rushed 11 times for 31 yards.
Ranking 119th in total offense in 2016, Georgia State looks to improve upon their performance this year. Quarterback Conner Manning, a Utah graduate transfer, last year led the Sun Belt Conference with 268 passing yards per game, finishing with 2,684 yards and 16 touchdowns, and unfortunately 13 interceptions. He’s already pulled out a solid performance in 2017 and looks to continue that momentum this week.
Georgia State has a few talented running backs and receivers, but their rushing game wasn’t stellar last year, with the team ranked 127th in FBS in rushing yards per game at 80.5 yards per game.
Kyler Neal led the Panthers in rushing in 2016, where he carried the ball 75 times for two touchdowns and just 314 yards. Backup running back Glenn Smith had 5 total touchdowns for the Panthers last year (2 rushing and 3 receiving), running for 150 yards on 41 carries and second on the team in receiving with 547 yards in 2016.
Running back Taz Bateman also returns after an ACL injury last year and a broken arm in 2015. In 2015 Bateman finished the season with 270 yards rushing and 11 receptions for 118 yards, and two total touchdowns.
Last year, the Georgia State defense gave up more than 200 rushing yards per game. One bright spot was linebacker Michael Shaw, who returns after a strong 2016 where he racked up 76 total tackles (third on the team) and led the Panthers with three sacks. Other players to watch are Panthers defensive end Mackendy Cheridor who is currently tied for the Georgia State school record with 22 tackles for loss, and safety Bobby Baker who nailed 82 tackles last year.
Penn State will need to keep an eye on returning defensive backs Chandon Sullivan, B. J. Clay and Jerome Smith who collectively snagged nine interceptions in 2016. Their secondary unit played well in 2016, with the Panthers ending the season with the 18th-best passing defense in S&P+ Rankings.
Well, Georgia State’s special teams aren’t that special, ranked 121st in FBS in field goal conversion (50%) and listed dead last in S&P+ Rankings. Ouch.
You can read more about Georgia State football at the Sun Belt Conference SB Nation Blog, Underdog Dynasty.