Georgia Southern, Not State!
Georgia Southern @ Georgia State (-2.5) O/U 67 (per Action Network)
City: Atlanta, Georgia
Coach: Shawn Elliott (31-34, 6th Season)
Stadium: Center Parc Stadium
After three consecutive bowl appearances from 2019-2021, Head Coach Shawn Elliott is off to a rocky start in 2022. The Panthers have struggled to a 1-4 start, but to be fair, they are a much better team than the record shows. After opening the season with a 21-point loss to South Carolina, the Panthers took North Carolina down to the wire, only to get beat by Charlotte at home the next week. After losing to Charlotte, Coastal Carolina came to town and beat the Panthers by 17 points at Center Parc Stadium. However, the Panthers got back on track last week and beat a solid Army team handily. The Georgia State Panthers are much better than their record indicates - especially on offense.
The Panthers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to scoring as they are averaging 27.6 points per game. Offensively, Georgia State has thrown the ball just 124 times compared to 228 rushing attempts. The offense runs through senior quarterback, Darren Grainger. In 2022, he has completed 67 passes for just over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns (2 rushing TDs). He has thrown 4 interceptions through the first five games. On the ground, the Panthers have four players with 35 carries or more including RB Tucker Gregg, former UofSC DB turned RB Jaymest Williams, RB Marcus Carroll, and QB Darren Grainger. Just like the Eagles of Georgia Southern, the offensive coaching staff tends to play to the hot hand when it comes to running the ball. The number one receiver for Grainger is WR Jamari Thrash who has caught 25 passes for 428 yards and a score through five games. The homerun threat for the Panther offense seems to be WR Robert Lewis who has caught 14 passes for 288 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2022. The Georgia Southern defense will have its hands full with so much talent all over the field for Georgia State.
Much like Georgia Southern's, the Georgia State defense leaves much to be desired. With great athletes at most positions, both groups have underperformed this season. So far, Georgia State has surrendered nearly 200 rushing yards, nearly 240 passing yards, and 33.4 points per game. The group is lead by LB Jordan Veneziale who leads the team with 49 total tackles. LB Jontrey Hunter has 4.5 tackles for loss through five games, so he is someone to keep an eye on as well. CB Quavian White leads the Panthers with 3 of the team's 6 interceptions so far. Like most FBS football teams, Georgia State has plenty of athleticism and skill to be a great defense, but they just have not gelled yet. Look for QB Kyle Vantrease of the Georgia Southern Eagles to take full advantage and get the ball out to playmakers in space.
Georgia State has only attempted 6 field goals so far this season. K Michael Hayes is 4-6 with a long FG of 46 yards. Hayes also handles the kickoff and punting duties for the Panthers as well. He is currently averaging just shy of 44.5 yards per punt this season. If the game comes down to special teams - advantage, Georgia Southern.
City: Statesboro, Georgia
Coach: Clay Helton (3-2, 1st Year)
Conference: Sun Belt
Stadium: Allen E. Paulson Stadium
Last week, the Eagles headed to Conway, South Carolina to play the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina University. Like always, Brooks Stadium provided hostile environment and a great learning experience for the Eagles. The Eagles lost 34-30 when a running back from Coastal Carolina hurdled a defender for the game winning score with just under a minute left. This game proved the mental toughness, culture and confidence the Eagles coaching staff has instilled in this group. Coach Clay Helton has coached in some HUGE games throughout his career, so look for him to be calm, cool, and collected even in this "rivalry" game. Many players on the Georgia Southern roster are from the Atlanta area and the Eagle faithful travel well, so expect Center Parc Stadium to sound like a home game this Saturday for the Eagles.
Last week against Coastal Carolina, a couple of Eagles played extremely well offensively. RB Jalen White had 18 carries for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns on the night. QB Kyle Vantrease played a solid game as well as he connected on 26 of 43 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw an interception as well. The most consistent receiver for the Eagles this season has been WR Derwin Burgess Jr. and last week was no different as he caught 7 passes for 68 yards and a score. You should fully expect Offensive Coordinator Bryan Ellis to do whatever it takes to keep getting the ball into the hands of playmakers like RB Jalen White, RB Gerald Green, WR Derwin Burgess Jr., WR Amare Jones, WR Khaleb Hood, and WR Jeremy Singleton. The amount of talent at the skill positions for the Eagles is the best in recent memory. Look for the Eagles to pound the rock early and force the Panthers to come up and play the run and then make plays in the play-action game. Vantrease should have a great day as long as the offensive line can keep him upright. The Panthers have a good group of linebackers, so OL Coach Richard Owens' group will definitely have its hands full.
Defensively, this group leaves so much to be desired. The Eagles are one of the most athletic defenses in the Sun Belt, but it just has not clicked so far. Looking back at the Coastal Carolina game box score, the Eagles four leading tacklers were all defensive backs. That is usually not a good thing... The Georgia Southern defense surrendered nearly 500 yards of offense last week. It is said every week, but something has to give with this group. The defensive line has not controlled the line of scrimmage well enough to let the linebacker group do its job, so offensive linemen are able to get to the second level in a hurry. If defensive backs are consistently the leading tacklers, the Eagles will continue to give up a lot of yards and a lot of points. After seeing Georgia Southern struggle to contain QB Grayson McCall last week in the Coastal Carolina game, I am sure the offensive staff members for the Panthers are game planning around what worked so well for the Chanticleers. Georgia Southern must stop the run early and force QB Darren Grainger to beat them through the air where he has struggled a bit this year.
At Coastal Carolina last week, K Alex Raynor was 3-3 FG and 3-3 PAT. That brings his 2022 total up to 7-7 FG and 24-24 PAT. K Michael Lantz continued to take care of the kickoff duties for the Eagles as he has a little stronger leg. P Anthony Beck II is looking like himself again and has now punted 15 times for an average of 44.5 yards. The Eagles have a clear advantage in the special teams aspect of the game. Georgia Southern will need to take advantage of field position gains by this group and pin Georgia State deep throughout the game.
Georgia Southern, coming off of a heart-breaking defeat at Coastal Carolina last week goes to Atlanta and makes helps get Coach Clay Helton to 1-0 in the Georgia State series.
Eagles - 41
Panthers - 31
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Written by: Logan Colburn