Georgia State midseason review…who is the biggest surprise?

Georgia State’s football team is halfway through its season.

The Panthers are 2-4 with wins against New Mexico State and Ball State, and losses to Charlotte, Oregon, Appalachian State and Liberty.

If not for a bad first quarter against the 49ers and a reversion by the defense against a Liberty squad that has done nothing since, the Panthers should be 4-2.

But they aren’t.

However, because the offense continues to roll and the defense is showing some improvement, the Panthers are in a position to do well in their remaining six conference games, starting at Arkansas State on Oct. 31.

Let’s review the first six games:

Most Valuable Player

Nick Arbuckle.

Georgia State’s quarterback leads the conference and is ninth in FBS with 326.8 passing yards per game. He is also the Sun Belt leader in total offense (317.3) and completion percentage (66.2).

As he promised after last season’s last game, he has reduced his number of interceptions (six) after tossing 17 last year. At least two of those interceptions came off tipped passes, which is something Arbuckle can’t do much about.

Here are a couple of interesting stats about Arbuckle, as noted by the excellent site

His yards per attempt is 9.5 on the road, compared to 7.9 at home.

His rating is 165 on the road, compared to 135 at home.

His passing yards per game is 80 yards more on the road than at home.

Biggest surprise (player)

Penny Hart

When reviewing the list of “impact” receivers before the season, I’ll admit that Hart’s name didn’t enter into my thoughts.

After all, the Panthers had Robert Davis, Donovan Harden, UAB transfer Nyiakki Height, Glenn Smith, Todd Boyd and Avery Sweeting.

But Hart took advantage of Harden’s absence because of injury to become an integral part of the offense.

With five catches for 73 yards last week, he is second in the Sun Belt in receiving yards (85.5 pg) and touchdowns (4) and third in receptions (5.7 per game). Among FBS freshmen, he ranks third in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

Biggest surprise (position group)

Special teams

Wil Lutz’s ability as a place-kicker was known after hitting seven of eight field goals, nailing all 35 point-after attempts and handling kickoff duties last season.

But his ability as a punter was still unknown, especially considering he lost his long-snapper to a career-ending ailment.

With the exception of one bad punt, Lutz and the rest of the special teams have handled the duties well.

With a rugby style approach, he is averaging 45.2 yards per punt, tops in the Sun Belt.

He is tied for third in the conference in field goals after hitting 8-of-11 and is a perfect 17-of-17 on point-after attempts.

The coverage teams are first in the conference in punting (41.6) and fifth in kickoffs (38.8).

Player with something to prove

Left tackle Michael Ivory

In his second year at Georgia State, Ivory seemed to be locked in as the starting left tackle.

However, he has struggled to keep his weight down this season, which may be contributing to poor play that has seen him lose his starting job to Sebastian Willer.

Ivory proved last season that he can be a solid player and the line needs him because it is struggling to run block.

The Panthers kept trying to run left against Ball State and could get nothing, finishing with 33 yards. It is averaging 86.5 rushing yards per game, fewer than last season.

Coach Trent Miles has said more times than I can count that the Panthers need to run the ball.

Position group with something to prove


After struggling with giving up big plays in the first five games, the cornerbacks seemed to settle down against Ball State. The Cardinals’ longest pass play was 19 yards. Not bad considering the defense had allowed 13 passing plays of at least 25 yards through the first five games.

Opponents are completing 65.2 percent of their passes, which is an indictment of the entire defense and not just the cornerbacks.

The Panthers need to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback. They have nine sacks through the first six games.



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