That clip is a metaphor for Georgia State’s tenure as an FBS program. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they have played the part of The Rock’s opponent in almost all of their games. They’re tired of it and ready to be competitive this season.
Offensive firepower is there, and has the potential to be solid in 2015 if all of the pieces come together. They will need to too, because even a modest improvement on defense will likely not crack the top 100. One place the offense has to get better though is ball security. The Panthers finished dead last in turnover margin last year.
Nick Arbuckle led the Sun Belt in passing last year, and is back this season. What was the one flaw in Arbuckle’s game? If your guess was turnovers then you win the grand prize. With 17 interceptions and three fumbles lost, he was one of the most generous quarterbacks in the FBS. (Generosity in this case is certainly not a good thing).
There are plenty of options present for Nick Arbuckle to be generous to his own team, rather than the other, this season. Donovan Harden is a consensus preseason All-Sun Belt pick at receiver. TE Joel Ruiz and RB Kyler Neal are both coming back from knee injury and should present a solid passing option and an improvement in the running game, respectively. Also, Nyiakki Height may not have been uber productive at UAB, but he was given a three-star rating in high school and has breakout potential for 2015.
With solid pieces returning at the skill positions, all that remains is for an offensive line hat gives them space to work. Three starters return and there are seven total linemen on the team who have started a game. Experience goes a long way in line success, especially when those players have experience together. If this group can at least be passable, then the offense should at the very worst be an average Sun Belt offense.
Who was the worst defense in the FBS in 2015 you ask? It was the Georgia State Panthers. At that point, it may not sound like returning starters is an advantage, and comparatively it isn’t, but the experience has to count for something. Georgia State returns their entire defensive line, but for a group that gave up around 300 yards a game last season that’s not necessarily a bonus.
ILB Joseph Patterson is one of the few bright spots on this Panther defense. Patterson is another consensus preseason All-Sun Belt selection, and he earned it last season racking up 79.5 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. He should have some help this year too with Alonzo McGee coming in from UAB, and fellow ILB Trey Payne returning. Plus, redshirt freshman Michael Shaw played well enough in the spring that he emerged as a starter on the depth chart.
The secondary isn’t particularly noteworthy, but they were relatively decent last year and literally the whole group comes back in 2015. Of course, it’s hard to tell if they were actually decent, or if teams just didn’t pass because they never needed to pass. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to find out this year.
This may sound like a downer prediction, but given that Georgia State is averaging exactly one win a year since moving to the FBS, I think their fans would be thrilled with this result. This also may sound like a bit of a stretch, but the schedule’s manageable and they were close in several games last year. With Charlotte and Liberty on the non-conference docket, that should be a real chance to at least go 2-2 in non-conference play. The conference schedule isn’t the easiest with the four best teams in the conference all showing up, but New Mexico State and Troy present opportunities, especially with the Troy game coming at home.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution