2020 Game 8 Preview: South Alabama
WR Cornelius McCoy celebrates a Roger Carter touchdown in Georgia State’s 2019 win against South Alabama. Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com
Fresh off their fourth conference loss, the Georgia State Panthers (3-4, 2-4 in Sun Belt) will pay the South Alabama Jaguars (3-5, 2-3 in Sun Belt) a visit and try to get back in the win column in their final road game of the season. The Panthers head to Mobile fresh off a 17-13 loss at the hands of the Appalachian State Mountaineers, while the Jaguars dropped their third straight game, getting trounced by the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns 38-10. With two games remaining on their schedule, for Georgia State to finish the season above .500, they must win this game.
The Jaguars return home after an uninspiring loss at the hands of the Cajuns in which they were shut out in the second half. If the Panthers are going to be successful, they must keep the Jaguars offense at bay. The Jaguars have scored a combined 33 points during their three-game losing streak, and although Georgia State doesn’t have the defensive prowess of Coastal Carolina and Louisiana (the Jags’ last two opponents), replicating their defensive strategy should help the Panthers come out with a win. The Jaguars offense does not present the same challenges that the Panthers have seen in recent weeks, but it is still a potent bunch capable of breaking off a big play or two.
The game plan for the Panthers is relatively simple. This matchup will come down to the Georgia State defensive line versus the Jaguars offensive line and vice versa. The Panthers are second in the Sun Belt with 23 sacks tallied through 7 games. Conversely, the Jaguars have allowed a Sun Belt-worst 26 sacks through 8 games. Expect the Panthers’ defensive line and linebackers to live in the backfield and make life incredibly difficult for Jaguars QB Desmond Trotter. Trotter has been a much better passer this season than he was in 2019, but the sophomore QB has not had the same success running the ball as he did in his freshman season. The Panthers have struggled a bit against dual-threat QBs, but it is unlikely Trotter will be using his legs to do damage vs Georgia State. That will force the secondary to again prove they’re better than some of their previous performances from earlier this season.
On the other side of the ball, the story is reversed. The Jaguars have struggled to get after opposing QBs, having only produced 10 sacks as a defense this season. While the book on the Panthers’ young QB is simply to pressure the ever-loving daylights out of him, that task is easier said than done. The usually stout Panther offensive line has allowed only 9 sacks this season. If the offensive line holds, it should allow Quad all the time he needs to make plays and exploit a defense that doesn’t have the same firepower as the Mountaineers did in the secondary. While Quad shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame for the offensive performance against Appalachian State, he struggled to consistently find his footing in a game the defense kept the Panthers in for 60 minutes. Georgia State will need him to find it again, much like he did in his Sun Belt Player of the Week-winning performance against ULM following the Coastal game. Young QBs have their ups and downs – and if the Panthers can keep him standing upright against the Jaguars, a bounce back performance from the Panthers’ signal-caller is very possible.
The Panthers are in complete control of their season outlook and how good it turns out. Finishing 5-4 is no guarantee of a bowl trip – every team in FBS has been given bowl eligibility regardless of record in this Covid-affected season. But Georgia State as a program is still seeking their first-ever back-to-back winning seasons, something that will loom larger in the trajectory of the team than any bowl appearance anyway. And if they’re interested in finishing with a winning record, it has to start tomorrow in Mobile. Kickoff has been moved to 3:30pm EST and can be seen nationally on ESPNU.