2021 Game 7 Preview: Texas State

Safety Antavious Lane’s presence has been a crucial element of the Panthers defense. Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com

The Georgia State Panthers (2-4, 1-1 in Sun Belt) get the second half of their season started as they welcome the Texas State Bobcats (2-4, 1-1 in Sun Belt) to Center Parc Stadium. The Panthers were off last week but are coming in off a satisfying 55-21 win over ULM their last time out. The Bobcats, meanwhile, head to Atlanta fresh off a disappointing 31-28 home loss to Troy last week in which they squandered a late lead with a poor 4th quarter. Texas State is led by head coach Jake Spavital, who is in his third season with the Bobcats and has compiled a 7-19 record. The Bobcats and Panthers share identical records, but the two have had vastly different strength of schedules. Texas State lost their season opener by just 9 points to Baylor, currently the #20 team in the nation, but the rest of the losses came at the hands of FCS Incarnate Word (a game they played without 20+ contributors due to Covid protocols), 4-3 Eastern Michigan (a 59-21 trouncing) and this past weekend against the now 4-3 Troy Trojans. On the other side, Georgia State’s four losses came against a group of teams with a combined 18-10 record in 2021, including a #19 Auburn they fought to the bitter end in Jordan-Hare Stadium last month and the Appalachian State team that just knocked off #14 Coastal Carolina in Boone on Wednesday night. This is the first meeting of the two schools since a 37-34 3OT loss for Georgia State back in 2019 in San Marcos.

With the quarterback question settled and junior Darren Grainger firmly in charge, the Panthers’ offense will have another week to produce a consistent performance and continue their ascent up the conference leaderboards. The Panthers currently sport the fourth-best rushing offense in the Sun Belt at 205 rushing yards per game. Only Georgia Southern has more attempts per game than Georgia State, so the game plan for their game against the Bobcats will remain the same. They want to run the ball and run it often. In two of their last three games, Texas State has allowed 242 and 200 rushing yards to Eastern Michigan and Troy. The opportunities will be there for Georgia State to play their brand of football and exploit a less-than-stellar run defense. 

Back to the quarterback play, the big issue with Georgia State’s offense this season has been the passing game. Texas State is average at defending the pass but better at preventing the deep ball, as they average only 7.2 yards given up per attempt. While Grainger had success in the short passing game against the Warhawks, finding consistency in the passing game will be key to prevent the Panthers from being one-dimensional. Expect Georgia State to be a bit more run-heavy but mixing in passes if they don’t keep on schedule down-and-distance wise. Texas State has only secured two interceptions, but Grainger has either thrown a pick or had a pick nullified in each of his starts. As ever, taking care of the ball will be paramount as the Panthers cannot afford to give away offensive opportunities. 

Defensively, the Panthers enter the second half of the season with something to prove about the unit. The overall numbers aren’t great, as they sit at or near the bottom of the conference in points allowed per game and in total defense. However, there have been plenty of times where the defense has been better than the stats look. Going up against an offense like Texas State can either help or hurt that perception. Like ULM, Texas State is in the bottom of offensive production. However, QB Brady McBride is fifth in the conference at 208 passing yards per game. He’s three behind conference leader Grayson McCall with 12 passing touchdowns as well. McBride is a gunslinger through and through, so despite his high yards per game figure, he far and away leads the conference with 9 interceptions thrown. Georgia State has only secured 1 interception, but the opportunities should be there to improve that number.

It’s Homecoming weekend for Georgia State as they get ready for this battle of the Cats. With a win, the Panthers are halfway to bowl eligibility and keep pace in an open Sun Belt East race. Catch Georgia State vs Texas State at 2pm at Center Parc Stadium or on ESPN+.

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