2016 Georgia State football look ahead: Ball State

Georgia State running back Kyler Neal scores a 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter of a 31-19 win over Ball State on Saturday. (Georgia State)

Georgia State running back Kyler Neal scores a 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter of a 31-19 win over Ball State on Saturday. (Georgia State)

Now that Georgia State’s surprising football season is over, let’s take a way-too-early look at next year’s schedule and see if the Panthers can build on their first bowl appearance.

To recap: Georgia State won its last four regular-season games to reach 6-6. The Panthers were invited to the Cure Bowl in Orlando and were defeated by San Jose State 27-16.

The Panthers return eight starters on offense and nine on defense.

Those starters who aren’t returning are all key, led by quarterback Nick Arbuckle. He became the Sun Belt’s single-season passing leader in the loss to the Spartans.

With that in mind, how might the Panthers do next year? Can they make it to a second consecutive bowl game?

Because the Sun Belt schedule hasn’t been announced, let’s start with Georgia State’s non-conference schedule. I’ll try to post one a day until we are done:

Sept. 1 or 2 vs. Ball State

Have the teams played before? Georgia State defeated the Cardinals 31-19 last season. That victory was one of the moments that turned around the Panthers’ season.

Key players returning:

  • Quarterback Riley Neal (2,276 yards passing, 16 touchdowns, 6 interceptions);
  • Running back Darian Green (145 carries, 730 yards, 5 touchdowns);
  • Running back James Gilbert (152 carries, 608 yards, 8 touchdowns);
  • Wide receiver KeVonn Mabon (70 receptions, 745 yards, 2 touchdowns);
  • Safety Martez Hester (78 tackles);
  • Linebacker Zack Ryan(250 career tackles);
  • Safety Aaron Taylor (31 tackles);

Key players lost:

  • Wide receiver Jordan Williams (72 receptions, 920 yards, 8 touchdowns);
  • Wide receiver Chris Shillings (58 career receptions);
  • Center Jacob Richard;
  • Defensive end Michael Ayers (65 tackles);
  • Linebacker Ben Ingle (102 tackles);

 

Can Georgia State beat them?

Well, the Panthers defeated the Cardinals once. Ball State returns a lot of players on offense and defense, but will be led by a new coach after Pete Lembo resigned to take a coordinator’s position at Maryland.


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