Georgia State was banged up and unlucky. It has all the experience in the world heading into 2015. Now we have to see if the Panthers actually have any talent.
Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.
1. Not how this was supposed to work
In April 2008, with t’s crossed and i’s dotted, Georgia State University officially launched a football program. In February 2009, it signed its first recruiting class. And in front of more than 30,000 in the Georgia Dome on September 2, 2010, the Panthers won their first game. Sure, it was against Shorter University, an NAIA club. But with a schedule that featured NAIA teams, FCS teams, and Alabama (!), GSU still went 6-5 under veteran coach Bill Curry.
To that point, it seemed that the feasibility study that determined Georgia State was ready for a football program was prescient, that the school could build a program decent enough to affect school perceptions and admissions. If athletics are a window into your school, football is the biggest pane of glass, and it was easy to see how an investment like this could end up worthwhile.
Since going 6-5, Georgia State is 5-41. Curry led GSU to full-fledged FCS status but went 1-10 in 2012 and retired. Trent Miles, overseer of a ferocious rebuild at Indiana State, took over in time for GSU to move up to FBS, and he’s 1-23 in two years. Average attendance in the cavernous Georgia Dome was 15,006 last year, and that’s probably generous.
To add insult to injury, GSU’s move to FBS prompted rival Georgia Southern to do the same, and in the Eagles’ first year, they went 9-3 and won the Sun Belt. In its history, Georgia State has beaten either zero FBS teams or one, depending on whether you count the victory over pre-FBS South Alabama in 2011; Georgia Southern beat eight last year. Hell, Georgia Southern has now beaten more current FBS teams in the Georgia Dome than State has. And Southern fans aren’t shy in reminding State fans of this.
Things have gone astray, in other words, and it has begun at the foundation. This past November, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson wrote a three-part “Fixing Georgia State football” series, and the propositions weren’t in regard to recruiting, coaching, etc. Part 1 was “you need to donate more money.” Part 2 was “you need to lower your admissions standards.” Part 3 was “you need to pay attention” and ended with “Do they want it to become a true FBS program, or do they want it to be FBS in name only?”
You don’t want to reach a crossroads before you’ve won your first Sun Belt game, but that’s where Georgia State finds itself heading into Miles’ third season.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 1-11 | Adj. Record: 2-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 122|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|6-Sep||New Mexico State||124||31-34||L||45%||-2.9||52%|
|18-Oct||at South Alabama||89||27-30||L||60%||5.7||48%|
|1-Nov||at Appalachian State||104||0-44||L||3%||-43.7||0%|
|Points Per Game||22.7||103||43.3||128|
2. That said…
…last year could have been much worse. The Panthers got bitten hard by the injury bug at running back, linebacker, and defensive back, and still managed to craft a decent passing game and play in five games that were decided by 10 or fewer points. They lost to two eventual bowl teams (UL-Lafayette, South Alabama) by three points each on the road, and in terms of percentiles, they played at a 30 percent or higher level on six occasions.
They were unlucky to not win at least one more game. Considering the depth issues at play (not to mention the complete lack of a home crowd advantage), that points to improvement.
On average, the performance dwindled as the season progressed, but with massive depth issues, that is to be expected.
- Average Percentile Performance (September): 35%
- Average Percentile Performance (October): 29%
- Average Percentile Performance (November): 27%
Georgia State returns two quarterbacks with starting experience, its top two receivers, an exciting tight end, seven offensive linemen with starting experience, every defensive lineman, seven of nine linebackers who averaged at least a tackle per game, and every defensive back, not to mention a really good place-kicker.
We’ll see if there’s actually enough talent for the Panthers to take a step forward, but there are options. And there has also been a bit of a talent upgrade coming from Birmingham.
3. A UAB lifeline
This has been a unique offseason in one area: free agents. The (ridiculous, infuriating, pick your adjective) shuttering of the UAB football program meant that an entire team of players was able to transfer without sitting out a year. Underdog Dynasty created a UAB transfer tracker for those wanting to keep up with who ended up where.
While South Alabama benefited the most — thus far, nine Blazers will be Jaguars in 2015 — Georgia State has collected the second most: six. Senior safety Bobby Baker, senior wideout Nyiakki Height, senior center Kelepi Folau, junior linebacker Alonzo McGee, redshirt freshman cornerback Demarco Davis, and redshirt freshman running back Demarcus Kirk will suit up in GSU uniforms.
Of the six, McGee, Height, and Baker (before an injury) played significant minutes for UAB, and Kirk should help fill a position of desperate need. Part of the reason GSU’s recruiting ranking was so low in 2015 (123rd via Rivals, 126th via 247 Composite) was that the Panthers signed a small class due to these transfers. The recruiting was far from amazing, but there was deflation because of that. And I’m guessing Miles is totally okay with that trade-off.
|FIVE FACTORS — OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||39.7%||88||Succ. Rt. +||94.5||86|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||35.1||123||Def. FP+||92.1||125|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.6||47||Redzone S&P+||106.9||46|
|Q1 Rk||102||1st Down Rk||110|
|Q2 Rk||92||2nd Down Rk||96|
|Q3 Rk||108||3rd Down Rk||115|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Nick Arbuckle||6’1, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8233||259||429||3283||23||17||60.4%||30||6.5%||6.8|
|Ronnie Bell||5’11, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||3||11||29||0||0||27.3%||0||0.0%||2.6|
|Aaron Winchester||6’2, 170||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7971|
4. Passing game? Yessir
Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski got a quarterback he could use in JUCO transfer Nick Arbuckle last year. After struggling with more of a run-first guy in Ronnie Bell in 2013, GSU turned into the pass-first, pro-style(ish) unit Jagodzinski seems to prefer.
The Panthers were slightly pass-first on standard downs and went all-in on the pass on passing downs, and the results were encouraging. Arbuckle had four exciting weapons in Robert Davis, Donovan Harden, Lynquez Blair, and tight end Joel Ruiz, and three of the four return this fall.
If you saw one Georgia State game last year, it was probably the season-opener against Abilene Christian, a wacky game that officially served as the first FBS game of the season. In that game, Blair came up huge with eight catches for 118 yards. But it was Davis and Harden who became the primary threats. Davis caught four passes for 108 yards in the near-upset of South Alabama, then had six for 117 in the finale against Texas State. Harden peaked in October, catching 28 passes for 458 yards and six scores (four against Georgia Southern) in four games.
Arbuckle should have one of the Sun Belt’s better receiving corps at his disposal. Not only are Davis, Harden, and Ruiz back, GSU adds Nyiakki Height to the mix, along with JUCO transfer Kameron Myers and well-touted freshmen Ari Werts and Penny Hart.
He loses two-year starting left tackle A.J. Kaplan, but tackles Taylor Evans, Michael Ivory, and Steve Wolgamott all have good size and starting experience, and GSU added a man-mountain in 6’6, 350-pound JUCO transfer Dom Roldan. The line was only good at one thing — picking up blitzes — and despite the loss of two starters, it shouldn’t be much worse.
|Marcus Caffey||CB||6’0, 195||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8625||94||354||3||3.8||3.4||30.9%||4||2|
|Nick Arbuckle||QB||6’1, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8233||43||177||2||4.1||3.9||37.2%||8||3|
|Kyler Neal||RB||5’11, 218||Jr.||NR||N/A||40||209||1||5.2||4.5||37.5%||1||1|
|Ronnie Bell||QB||5’11, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||5||8||0||1.6||2.8||40.0%||2||2|
|Jonathan Lytle||FB||6’1, 240||Sr.||NR||N/A||5||2||1||0.4||N/A||0.0%||0||0|
|Kendrick Dorn||RB||6’0, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7652|
|Demarcus Kirk||RB||6’0, 190||RSFr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7544|
5. Run game? Probably won’t get worse, at least
Georgia State’s passing achievements were impressive on their own; toss in the Panthers’ abysmal rushing performance, and the passing game looks even better.
GSU lost three backs to injury last season, and the shuffling was jarring. Leading returning rusher Jonathan Jean-Bart carried twice all year. Second leading returning rusher Kyler Neal carried 40 times in four games. Exciting freshman Krysten Hammon played in two games, Gerald Howse and Duvall Smith in two each. Cornerback Marcus Caffey switched to running back in October and became the No. 1 guy.
One of my go-to lines is that injuries hurt in the present tense and help in the future tense. But while shuffling has led to experience on the line, GSU is starting from scratch again at running back. Jean-Bart, Howse, Smith, and Dontavis Crocker are all done, Hammon was dismissed, and Caffey is supposedly moving back to cornerback. That leaves JUCO transfer Kendrick Dorn and UAB transfer Demarcus Kirk. If they’re worth their salt, then the running game could click enough to take the passing game to a new level. But relying on newcomers doesn’t always work out, does it?
Jagodzinski was able to coax out some solid efficiency numbers despite the injury issues, and the Panthers still managed to rank 99th in Off. S&P+; there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to do so again. But if the run game can actually produce a few big plays, then this offense could end up a top-70 or top-80 unit. Such an offense can win you some games in the Sun Belt if your defense isn’t atrocious.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Robert Davis||WR||6’3, 198||Jr.||NR||N/A||97||50||732||51.5%||23.5%||55.7%||7.5||99||7.6||92.0|
|Donovan Harden||WR||5’11, 175||Sr.||NR||N/A||89||60||885||67.4%||21.5%||53.9%||9.9||166||10.1||111.1|
|Joel Ruiz||TE||6’4, 240||Sr.||NR||N/A||57||39||478||68.4%||13.8%||56.1%||8.4||12||8.4||60.1|
|Nyiakki Height (UAB)||WR||6’1, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7600||25||17||136||68.0%||8.1%||32.0%||5.4||-67||4.2||17.8|
|Todd Boyd||WR||5’11, 180||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7483||12||8||119||66.7%||2.9%||50.0%||9.9||23||9.8||15.0|
|Glenn Smith||WR||6’1, 185||So.||NR||N/A||9||7||83||77.8%||2.2%||55.6%||9.2||1||9.0||10.4|
|Marcus Caffey||RB||6’0, 195||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8625||9||8||38||88.9%||2.2%||44.4%||4.2||-54||3.1||4.8|
|Keith Rucker||TE||6’3, 235||Jr.||NR||N/A||7||5||32||71.4%||1.7%||85.7%||4.6||-27||5.0||4.0|
|Kyler Neal||RB||5’11, 218||Jr.||NR||N/A||5||5||107||100.0%||1.2%||60.0%||21.4||51||21.0||13.4|
|Nathaniel Minor||WR||6’2, 180||Sr.||NR||N/A||4||3||16||75.0%||1.0%||25.0%||4.0||-19||4.9||2.0|
|Bill Teknipp||TE||6’4, 235||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7333|
|Clay Chastain||TE||6’4, 215||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8700|
|Kameron Myers||WR||5’8, 175||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7300|
|Ari Werts||TE||6’4, 225||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8037|
|Penny Hart||WR||5’9, 170||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7891|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Alex Stoehr||RG||6’2, 300||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7700||12|
|Garrett Gorringe||LG||6’4, 295||Jr.||NR||10|
|Taylor Evans||RT||6’4, 305||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||8|
|Michael Ivory||LT||6’5, 340||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7400||5|
|Akil Hawkins||LG||6’2, 282||Jr.||NR||N/A||4|
|Davis Moore||LG||6’4, 300||So.||2 stars (5.2)||N/A||1|
|Steve Wolgamott||RT||6’6, 315||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7400||1|
|Kelepi Folau (UAB)||OL||6’3, 305||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7656||0|
|Sebastian Willer||LT||6’5, 279||So.||2 stars (5.2)||N/A||0|
|Jah-Mai Davidson||RG||6’4, 290||Jr.||NR||N/A||0|
|Tyler Simonsen||OL||6’3, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7800|
|Dom Roldan||OL||6’6, 350||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7594|
|FIVE FACTORS — DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||50.7%||123||Succ. Rt. +||79.9||124|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||26.1||125||Off. FP+||93.1||124|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||5.2||122||Redzone S&P+||81.7||121|
|Q1 Rk||125||1st Down Rk||126|
|Q2 Rk||107||2nd Down Rk||123|
|Q3 Rk||126||3rd Down Rk||122|
6. Experience won’t be an issue
As with the run game, the Georgia State defense got involuntarily shuffled around so much that each week saw a new unit to some degree. Above, I mentioned that nine linebackers and 10 defensive backs averaged at least one tackle per game. Only seven of those played in all 12 games, and four played in four or fewer.
So if you’re looking for reasons why GSU could allow 4.9 yards per play to Washington and 4.7 to Clemson but 7.5 to Arkansas State, 8.1 to Texas State, and 9.6 to Georgia Southern, start there. Add in extreme youth, and you’ve got even more cause for volatility.
It’s hard to say how much talent resides on the defensive side, but to the extent that experience was an issue, that’s no longer the case. The top five tacklers on the line were sophomores and freshmen; now they’re juniors and sophomores. Freshman linebacker Trey Payne and corners Chandon Sullivan and B.J. Clay are now sophomores. Toss in an influx of JUCO transfers and UAB seniors, and GSU’s two-deep will feature far more upperclassmen. Size shouldn’t be much of an issue either, especially with the addition of big Julien Laurent up front.
So that leaves talent. Does coordinator Jesse Minter’s unit have any?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Shawayne Lawrence||DE||6’4, 270||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||N/A||12||39.5||5.4%||3.5||1.0||0||2||0||0|
|Jalen Lawrence||NG||6’1, 285||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7800||12||30.0||4.1%||2.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Tevin Jones||DE||6’4, 270||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||N/A||12||20.0||2.7%||2.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Carnell Hopson||DE||6’2, 268||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||N/A||10||17.5||2.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Will Cunningham||DE||6’1, 280||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||12||8.0||1.1%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|David Huey||NG||6’2, 290||Sr.||NR||N/A||12||6.5||0.9%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tanner Strickland||DE||6’3, 270||Jr.||NR||N/A||8||3.5||0.5%||1.0||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|DeQueszman Kelley||NG||6’0, 285||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7300|
|Julien Laurent||NG||6’4, 325||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793|
7. Who rushes the passer?
While the rest of the team might have dealt with shuffling, the line did not, and the line was still terribly ineffective. The size was decent for a 3-4 (although you’d like your nose guards close to 300 pounds than 285), but while a 3-4 line isn’t asked to make many plays, GSU’s line made almost none. And that’s not an exaggeration; linemen combined for one sack and 9.5 tackles for loss. That’s wretched for a line in any alignment.
That Shawayne Lawrence and Jalen Lawrence each ended up with 30-plus tackles says something about their pursuit, but a No. 124 ranking in Adj. Line Yards and a No. 113 ranking in Adj. Sack Rate tell you the Panthers were lacking up front.
GSU’s line stats should see minor improvement simply from experience and depth. Every lineman returns, and GSU added two intriguing JUCO transfers in DeQueszman Kelley and big Laurent. Plus, three intriguing inside linebackers (Joseph Peterson, Trey Payne, and UAB’s Alonzo McGee) will fight for two spots and assure a decent level of play.
But what about the OLBs? Peterson (an ILB) and Jarrell Robinson (gone) led the team in sacks last year with a whopping three each. Mackendy Cheridor did have 7.5 tackles for loss (albeit with only one sack) in 2013 before playing an abbreviated season last fall; can he or a newcomer like Kaleb Ringer help to provide a level of disruption that just didn’t exist in 2014?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Joseph Peterson||ILB||6’0, 225||Sr.||NR||N/A||10||79.5||10.8%||4.0||3.0||1||1||1||0|
|Trey Payne||ILB||6’0, 230||So.||2 stars (5.3)||N/A||11||72.0||9.8%||6.5||1.0||0||0||1||0|
|Alonzo McGee (UAB)||LB||6’1, 220||Sr.||NR||N/A||10||36.0||5.6%||5.0||1.0||0||1||1||0|
|Melvin King||OLB||6’3, 225||Sr.||NR||N/A||11||19.0||2.6%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Jameel Spencer||ILB||6’1, 215||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7600||12||13.0||1.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Mackendy Cheridor||LB||6’5, 250||Jr.||NR||N/A||4||10.5||1.4%||1.0||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|James Traylor||LB||6’3, 220||So.||NR||N/A||4||4.5||0.6%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Nate Paxton||LB||6’1, 245||Sr.||NR||N/A||10||4.0||0.5%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Malik Ricks||LB||6’1, 230||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8107||6||1.5||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||6’0, 235||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7883|
|Chase Middleton||LB||6’2, 225||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8167|
|Charlie Patrick||LB||6’0, 215||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7856|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Tarris Batiste||S||6’1, 210||Sr.||NR||N/A||11||72.0||9.8%||5.5||1||0||3||0||0|
|Bruce Dukes||CB||5’10, 195||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8453||12||53.0||7.2%||2||0||0||6||1||0|
|Nate Simon||S||6’1, 195||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7300||9||43.5||5.9%||3||0||0||3||0||0|
|Chandon Sullivan||CB||5’11, 180||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7483||12||38.0||5.2%||0.5||0||1||1||0||0|
|Dartez Jacobs||S||6’1, 200||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||12||23.5||3.2%||2||1||0||0||0||0|
|LaDarion Young (2013)||S||6’1, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8000||7||18.5||2.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Robert Dowling||CB||5’10, 185||Jr.||NR||0.7000||12||17.5||2.4%||1.5||1||0||1||0||0|
|Bobby Baker (UAB)||S||6’2, 190||Sr.||NR||N/A||3||17.0||2.6%||1||0||1||0||0||0|
|B.J. Clay||CB||6’0, 180||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||10||15.0||2.0%||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Bryan Williams||S||6’3, 200||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||N/A||3||11.0||1.5%||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|Marcus Caffey||CB||6’0, 195||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8625||11||9.0||1.2%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|Trent Hill||S||5’10, 185||Jr.||NR||N/A||10||8.0||1.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Antreal Allen||CB||5’11, 180||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8211||8||6.0||0.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ronald Peterkin||S||6’0, 170||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7594|
|Jerome Smith||CB||5’10, 165||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7200|
|Cloves Campbell||DB||6’1, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7200|
|Demarco Davis (UAB)||CB||5’11, 175||RSFr.||NR||N/A|
|Malliek Jackson||S||5’11, 185||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7956|
8. The Jackée formation
If Minter were to build a defense based around his best players, he might end up with something like a 2-2-7 alignment. (Get it? 227? Jackée? Get it? Get it? Granted, that show was based in DC and not Atlanta…)
Sure, the Lawrences up front are intriguing, as are the inside linebackers and maybe Cheridor. But between senior safeties Tarris Batiste, Nate Simon, Dartez Jacobs, and now Bobby Backer, plus active corner Bruce Dukes, JUCO transfer Cloves Campbell, speedy UAB transplant Demarco Davis, and other newcomers, the talent in the secondary is disproportional to the number of defensive backs who will actually see the field.
If the front seven can give this unit any support, good things could come. Either way, it’s the least of Minter’s worries.
|Wil Lutz||6’0, 190||Sr.||27||39.2||2||7||3||37.0%|
|Wil Lutz||6’0, 190||Sr.||50||59.0||19||2||38.0%|
|Wil Lutz||6’0, 190||Sr.||35-35||5-5||100.0%||2-3||66.7%|
|Glenn Smith||KR||6’1, 185||So.||13||18.5||0|
|Donovan Harden||PR||5’11, 175||Sr.||7||11.0||0|
|Special Teams F/+||115|
|Field Goal Efficiency||4|
|Punt Return Efficiency||113|
|Kick Return Efficiency||79|
|Opponents’ Field Goal Efficiency||115|
9. Hell of a kicker, at least
Field goals don’t matter as much when you are giving up 40 points per game, but as Georgia State gets more competitive, Will Lutz’s automatic place-kicking could become more of an asset. Now GSU just needs to work on all the other aspects of special teams — coverage, returns, etc.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||2014 F/+ Rank|
|?||at Arkansas State||66|
|?||at Georgia Southern||57|
|?||at New Mexico State||124|
|?||at Texas State||95|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-43.2% (123)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||122 / 128|
|2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-22 / -8.1|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||-5.8|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||18 (8, 10)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||1.7 (-0.7)|
10. Start by beating Charlotte
(Note: only 11 opponents are listed above because a 12th, UAB, isn’t going to be able to make it to the Georgia Dome as planned, and GSU has yet to find another opponent.)
With one of the younger rosters in the country, Georgia State lost nearly every running back, linebacker, and defensive back to injury at one point or another* and “lost” nearly six points per game to turnovers luck in a season that saw them go 1-4 in games decided by 10 or fewer points. Plus, some of their best performances (Clemson, Washington, Air Force) came against their best opponents.
The Panthers nearly upset UL-Lafayette and South Alabama on the road, outscored Air Force over the final three quarters, held Washington scoreless in the first half, and held Clemson scoreless in the second half. The Panthers weren’t ready to be good, but if you’re looking for reasons why they ranked ahead of both NMSU and Troy in the countdown — two teams that beat them — that’s a good place to start.
* One thing that bears mentioning: injuries are mostly random, but if GSU’s weight room and training facilities are lacking compared to most of FBS, that might suggest that the Panthers could be more susceptible to injury.
So how good can GSU be if fate deals a better hand? Well, the passing game could be downright strong, and the run game and secondary could be competent, especially if newcomers are ready to roll. The defensive front seven, though bigger, more experienced, and deeper, is going to assure that GSU probably cannot climb out of the FBS bottom 30.
But with a schedule that features home games against Charlotte, Liberty, and Troy, plus a potentially winnable road game against NMSU, the Panthers will at least have a chance to climb out of the SBC cellar. And the season opener against FBS newcomer Charlotte offers an immediate opportunity to end that FBS losing streak. Better not lose that one.
That might not be enough to send crowds flocking to the Georgia Dome, but there’s no quick fix. Miles just has to hope he can keep putting some pieces together.