Coach: Trent Miles (1-23, entering third season, 21-59 overall)
2014 record: 1-11, 0-8 in Sun Belt, eighth in Sun Belt
Look back: Will Lutz hit a 26-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Georgia State a 38-37 win over Football Championship Subdivision Abilene Christian in the 2014 season opener.
It was Georgia State’s first win as an FBS team and snapped a 16-game losing streak. It also was the final victory the Panthers would claim in 2014. Georgia State dropped 11 consecutive games, delivering an entertaining offense but struggling on defense.
Quarterback Nick Arbuckle, a junior-college transfer, had no trouble leading the Georgia State passing attack during his first season with the Panthers.
Arbuckle led the Sun Belt in passing yards (273.6 pg), and touchdown passes (23) and ranked second in total offense (274.4 ypg), helping him earn a spot on the league’s all-newcomer team. Arbuckle finished the year ranked No. 16 in the nation in passing yards per game and No. 22 in touchdown passes.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Offensive starters lost: 3
Defensive starters returning: 9
Defensive starters lost: 2
Key losses: WR/KR LynQuez Blair, LT A.J. Kaplan, C Tim Wynn, LB Jarrell Robinson, LB Sean Jeppesen, S Jamaal May
Top returnees: WR Donovan Harden, TE Joel Ruiz, LB Joseph Peterson, QB Nick Arbuckle, OL Tim Wynn, WR Robert Davis, S Tarris Batiste
Strengths: Arbuckle returns to lead the Georgia State offense and will get some help from Donovan Harden, an Illinois State transfer who was the Panthers’ leading receiver last season with 60 catches for 885 yards and seven touchdowns. Harden was named to the All-Sun Belt first team. Tight end Joel Ruiz is another productive all-conference player who should help the Georgia State offense.
Linebacker Joseph Peterson, a two time All-Sun Belt honoree who has led the Panthers in tackles for three consecutive seasons, will help anchor the defensive side of the ball.
Coach Trent Miles is back for his third season leading the Panthers and his team is tied for 10th nationally in number of returning starters with eight on offense and nine on defense.
Weaknesses: Georgia State’s defense was completely overwhelmed last season, ranking last in the nation among 125 teams in scoring defense, surrendering 43.3 points per game. The team struggled to stop opponents on the ground, ranking No. 124 in rushing defense (303.4 yards allowed per game).
While the Panthers’ passing attack was robust, the team often stalled in the red zone and didn’t deliver especially prolific scoring. Georgia State ranked No. 100 in scoring offense (22.7 points per game).
The team lost few starters from last season, but LynQuez Blair was a reliable playmaker at receiver and kickoff return specialist who will be missed.
Outlook: Georgia State has yet to score a win against an FBS opponent since moving to the highest level of college football. The Panthers narrowly beat Abilene Christian, a team two years removed from moving up from the Division II level, to avoid what could have been a 28-game losing streak. It may simply take more time for the Panthers to figure out how to play sound defense and score consistently.
Sept. 4 Charlotte
Sept. 12 at New Mexico State
Sept. 19 at Oregon
Oct. 3 Liberty
Oct. 10 Appalachian State
Oct. 17 Ball State
Oct. 31 Arkansas State
Nov. 7 UL-Lafayette
Nov. 14 Texas State
Nov. 21 South Alabama
Nov. 27 Troy
Dec. 5 Georgia Southern
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com