Georgia State made it to a bowl Game (27-16 loss to San Jose State in Cure Bowl) last year so there’s not much to complain about from a team that had one win the previous two seasons. The Panthers return enough starters on each end to once again be competitive in the Sun Belt, although with a new quarterback, winning the Conference is unlikely.
GSU actually had a disastrous start last year, going 2-6 in the first eight Games, but coach Trent Miles pulled them out of the muck into a bowl Game. While leading the Conference in passing last season, the Panthers still only scored 26.9 points per Game. With a new quarterback, they’ll need a much better ground Game.
Quarterback is still undecided and the race will go into the fall. The competition is between three guys, last year’s backup Emiere SCaife, Utah transfer Conner Manning and newcomer Aaron Winchester. Whoever starts will get an experienced group of receivers with Penny Hart (71 receptions, 1,099 yards, 8 TDs), Robert Davis (61 receptions, 980 yards, 6 TDs) and tight end Keith Rucker (522 yards, 6 TDs).
The offensive line has some returning pieces, but won’t be the strong suit of this group. To better the ground Game, it starts with the line and three returning starters.
Georgia State was actually solid defensively last year, allowing 28.3 points per Game and they return most of those players. Coordinator Jesse Minter turned this group around and they should be even better this year.
The line is filled with seniors starting with end Shawanye LAwrence and nose guard Jalen LAwrence. A linebacking corps led by seniors Alonzo McGee and Kaleb Ringer flanks those guys. The secondary lost a stud at safety, but senior Bobby Baker is still back there with two returning starters at cornerback. Needless to say, the Panthers should be just as good on this side of the field.
To surpass last year’s six wins, they’ll need a better start to the season (early losses to Charlotte and Liberty in 2015). Unfortunately, the season doesn’t start all that easily with three road Games early on against good competition. Getting a win against Ball State in the opener will be key. But outside of those early ones, the rest of GSU’s road slate is winnable. The tough thing will be winning home Games against the Sun Belt’s best in Arkansas State and Georgia Southern. They dismantled Southern last year on the road in the regular season finale.
The Panthers have the sixth-best odds to win the Conference and that is about right with a new quarterback. Their over/under at 5Dimes is at 6 wins with the under a heavy -380 favorite in July. However, there’s no question six wins is attainable for them again even with a question at quarterback. The defense will be good and they have plenty of skill players on the offensive side. After last year’s slow start, expect this team to be ready early on.
2016 Georgia State Panthers Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Ball State
Sept. 10 at Air Force
Sept. 17 at Wisconsin
Oct. 1 at Appalachian State
Oct. 8 vs. Texas State
Oct. 15 at Troy
Oct. 22 vs. UT Martin
Oct. 29 at South Alabama
Nov. 3 vs. Arkansas State
Nov. 12 vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 19 vs. Georgia Southern
Dec. 3 at Idaho