The Georgia State Panthers (4-5, 3-2 in Sun Belt) head over to Conway, South Carolina to take on the 22nd-ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (8-1, 4-1 in Sun Belt). Georgia State was last seen after dropping a close game to #24 Louisiana, 21-17, last Thursday. Coastal Carolina took down Georgia Southern, 28-8, in Statesboro on Saturday and did so without their starting quarterback Grayson McCall, who missed the contest due to injury. Head coach Jamey Chadwell is in his 4th season as the Chanticleers head coach and he has compiled a 27-18 record during this time. Coastal Carolina has been one of the hottest teams in the Sun Belt since the beginning of the 2020 season. In that time, they have lost two football games, including their Week 7 matchup with Appalachian State. Other than that blip, they have beaten all other opponents on their schedule – convincingly at that, averaging a margin of victory of 29 points in their eight wins in 2021. Defeating Coastal will not be an easy task for the Panthers, even if the Chanticleers’ QB status has not been publicly revealed. And if Georgia State is able to upset Coastal Carolina, their prospects of making their third consecutive bowl trip increase significantly.
Getting to the elephant in the room, sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall’s status for this game is unknown. McCall missed last week’s contest against Georgia Southern with what was described as an “upper-body injury”, but the public diagnosis from Conway has ranged from he “could be out for the season” or “probably questionable” for Saturday. Given that this situation is almost to a T what happened last year, Georgia State likely prepared as if McCall will be play-caller today.
If it in fact is not McCall, it will be senior Bryce Carpenter who would be making his second consecutive start for Coastal Carolina. Carpenter has mostly been a backup during his time at Coastal but has gotten the occasional spot start. In fact, he featured heavily for Coastal the last time Georgia State made the trip to Conway back in 2019. Running the football is Coastal’s strength, but having a QB like McCall that is able to play off the run game so well has been key to their success. If Carpenter is indeed under center, that puts more pressure on the Coastal passing game to prevent them from becoming one-dimensional in the running game. Coastal leads the conference in rushing yards per game at 230, but Georgia State has only allowed three teams to rush for over 200 yards in a game. If Coastal Carolina is unable to pass effectively and Georgia State is keying in on the run, that bodes well for them.
Effectively moving the ball through the air should also be Georgia State’s top priority after last week’s contest. Since Darren Grainger and Quad Brown combined to throw for 246 yards in back-to-back contests against Appalachian State and Lousiana Monroe, Grainger has not exceeded 200 yards passing in his role as the starting quarterback. Grainger threw for 200 yards even against Texas State, but otherwise has put up back-to-back poor performances in the passing game. He has been effective at moving the ball with his legs, and while Georgia State has not struggled to run the ball during this time, a more dynamic passing attack would help the offense find balance in their game plan. Unfortunately for Georgia State, this might not be the game for that to happen, as Coastal has posted the stingiest pass defense in the conference to date.
Although better competition has gotten to Coastal’s secondary, if Georgia State is going to pull off the upset, the passing game has to find a way to supplement the running game better. And that will start with Grainger. Hitting open throws, getting more success on bubble screens and having the offensive line give Grainger time to make plays with his arm should the offense get off schedule in terms of down and distance. One thing Georgia State should not have to worry about is interceptions. Grainger and company have not thrown a pick since their conference opener against Appalachian State, and Coastal Carolina’s secondary has not been particularly ball hawkish this season, only securing three interceptions to date.
With the way Georgia State has played since the Appalachian State game, the recipe for the upset is certainly there. The defense has been great in conference play, allowing no team outside of Appalachian State to score more than 21 points. The offense has rushed for over 200 yards in each game and Georgia State has taken care of the ball exceptionally well in this stretch, securing a +6 turnover margin during that time. Georgia State hasn’t committed a turnover since the Texas State game, and if that trend continues this week against Coastal Carolina, it will give Georgia State plenty of opportunities for the offense to find points.
Kickoff is today at 2pm from Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina, and the game is being broadcast on ESPN+ as well.