Georgia Southern (5-2) at Georgia State (1-6) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Georgia Dome (28,155) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Georgia Southern 3-0, Georgia State 1-3. Away Record: Georgia Southern 2-2, Georgia State 0-3. Neutral Record: Georgia Southern 0-0, Georgia State 0-0. Conference Record: Georgia Southern 4-0, Georgia State 0-4. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Two teams at opposite ends of the Sun Belt Conference standings gather in Atlanta this weekend, as the Georgia State Panthers grapple with the Georgia Southern Eagles at the Georgia Dome.
Since opening the 2014 campaign on Aug. 27 with a last-second victory over Abilene Christian (38-37) at home, the Panthers have gone on to drop six straight decisions against FBS competition. Last weekend, the team was taken out by South Alabama on in the road in a close call, 30-27, which means the Panthers have now fallen in 22 of their last 23 outings. Since the start of the 2012 campaign, Georgia State has a grand total of two wins.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, who are now 0-4 in conference play and all alone at the bottom of the SBC standings, after the game this weekend the team will be on the road for three straight, before returning to the Georgia Dome for the season finale versus Texas State late next month.
While Georgia State wallows in last place, the Eagles are flying high in first place thanks to a 4-0 conference start. Overall, Georgia Southern has won five of seven games this season and is riding a four-game win streak at the moment. The team recently enjoyed a week off after crushing Idaho at home on Oct. 11 by a score of 47-24.
Despite hailing from the same state and now playing in the same conference, this is actually the first-ever meeting between the schools on the football field.
The offense for the Eagles has been lighting up the scoreboard so far in 2014, generating 41.3 ppg, thanks in large part to an aggressive running attack that is responsible for a staggering 372.0 ypg and a total of 30 touchdowns.
Averaging almost nine yards per carry, Matt Breida is making a name for himself this season as he averages 118.7 ypg on the ground and has scored eight TDs, one more than quarterback Kevin Ellison who is responsible for another 95.6 ypg and is averaging a hefty 6.8 yards per attempt. As a group, the Eagles are averaging a staggering 7.0 ypc.
Ellison lets his legs do the talking more of the time, but here and there he does put the ball in the air, resulting in 98.1 ypg on 54.8 percent accuracy. He has thrown five TDs, with Favian Upshaw tossing two more, which means the team can put something together when it needs to go over the top, but that's rather infrequent.
From a defensive perspective, the Eagles have only two players with more than 35 tackles through seven games. At the top of the list is Edwin Jackson with 58 stops, although half of those have been labeled as assists. Antwione Williams, tied with three other teammates for the lead with four tackles for loss, has 44 stops.
Guarding against the pass are Deion Stanley and Nick Wright, the former pacing the program with three interceptions and the latter owning a team-best six passes defended in his six appearances.
Duvall Smith's one-yard touchdown run at the 9:48 mark of the fourth quarter put the Panthers ahead by four versus South Alabama last Saturday, but a failed two-point conversion may have taken away some of the unit's momentum, eventually costing the visitors a much-needed win at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Smith, who ran the ball six times, finished with a net of only six yards for GSU. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle kept the Panthers in the mix as he converted 23-of-40 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns, but he was also sacked five times, lowering the team's rushing total to only 90 yards on 37 attempts. Donovan Harden was responsible for a game-high 10 catches for 132 yards and two scores, while Robert Davis tallied 108 yards on only four grabs.
The Panthers, who failed to force a single turnover, recorded just three tackles for loss, compared to nine for the hosts.
Through seven games, the Panthers have surrendered no less than 30 points in any one outing and are currently ranked 121st in the nation with 40.0 ppg allowed. The squad is permitting 240.9 ypg on the ground and has a team pass efficiency defense rating of 155.31. which has them sitting at 118th in the country this week.
Arbuckle has looked decent on offense with 60.7 percent accuracy, leading to 12 TDs and eight INTs, but the loss of running back Krysten Hammon (197 yards and two touchdowns in two games) to personal issues early on has hampered the team's ability to produce on the ground. Granted, the squad has scored 13 rushing TDs, but still is averaging only 114.3 ypg.
Other key factors working against the Panthers these days are their poor kickoff returns (17.6 yards per, 119th nationally) and allowing foes to convert 51.0 percent of their third down plays (123rd). Add to that a turnover margin of minus-1.29 per game (119th), and it is easy to see why Georgia State continues to be an underdog, even at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Southern 41, Georgia State 28Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 25, 2 p.m. (ET).