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Time: 7:00 PM (ET)
Location: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)
Where to Watch: ESPN3, Peach Tree TV for local viewers
Online Streaming: WatchESPN
I do not agree with the odds makers on this one, I don’t see this game being very close. Ball State, a below average team a season ago, is in its first year under new head coach Mike Neu. I am not sold on Neu yet, this is the first head coaching job of his career. On top of having an inexperienced head coach, the Cardinals struggled on both sides of the ball last season averaging a mere 23.1 ppg and giving up 35.8 ppg.
Georgia State has momentum coming into 2016. Trent Miles, coming into his fourth season as head coach, led the Panthers to their first bowl game in program history in 2015. Additionally, the Panthers return 17 starters; 8 on offense, 9 on defense.
Football is a game of match ups and the match ups favor Georgia State in this one. Ball State has struggled offensively since Joey Lynch took over as offensive coordinator in 2014, averaging just 25.4 ppg over that two year span. On the other hand Georgia State’s defense has steadily improved under defensive coordinator Jesse Minter. In 2014 the Panthers surrendered a staggering 43.3 ppg, however, in 2015 they only allowed 28.3 ppg. I expect the Panthers defensive to continue to improve this season. With 9 returning starters they have more than enough experience to do so.
Offensively, Georgia State returns talented playmakers like Keith Rucker, Penny Hart, Kyler Neal, and Robert Smith, but, they have to replace quarterback Nick Arbuckle. I believe redshirt freshman Aaron Winchester will get the start. Winchester is mobile enough to effectively run the zone read, and showed the ability to make all of the throws in the spring game. Yes, Winchester will have his growing pains, however, he brings another dimension to that Georgia State offense with his athleticism.
I expect Georgia State to force the issue on the ground behind their experienced big fellas. Ball State ranked 115th in rushing defense in 2015, giving up 225 ypg. Georgia State has the depth at running back to be able to exploit Ball State’s defense. Doing so should open up some RPO’s (Run-Pass options), and play action for Winchester and his talented group of wide receivers.