2016 Georgia State football look ahead: Air Force

Georgia State Panthers cornerback Bruce Dukes (27) could have a standout year. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

Georgia State Panthers cornerback Bruce Dukes (27) could have a standout year. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s continue the Georgia State football 2016 way-too-early look at next year’s schedule with Air Force.

This is the bookend of a two-game series that Georgia State oddly agreed to play years ago. It’s odd because a growing school on the east coast doesn’t usually play an established school on the western side of the country unless there is money changing hands. Georgia State doesn’t recruit in Colorado, where the Falcons are based. Anyway ….

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 27-16. The Falcons averaged 319.1 rushing yards per game and 131.9 passing yards per game. They allowed 354.9 total yards per game.

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.

So, how might the Panthers do next year?

Here’s a look at Ball State, which the Panthers will play Sept. 1 or 2.

Air Force

2015 bowl game result: Lost to Cal 55-36 in the Armed Forces Bowl. They finished 8-6.

When will they play: Sept. 10 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Have the teams played before? Yes. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 48-38 in the Georgia Dome in 2014. They rushed for 315 yards and four touchdowns. They also completed 12 of 15 passes for 224 yards in a very efficient performance.

Key players returning:

  • RB Jacobi Owens: 205 rushes, 1092 yards, seven touchdowns this season; 2,146 rushing yards in career.
  • RB Timothy McVey: 53 rushes, 441 yards, nine touchdowns.
  • RB D.J. Johnson: 82 rushes, 425 yards, six touchdowns.
  • WR Jalen Robinette: 26 receptions, 641 yards, five touchdowns.
  • DB Weston Steelhammer: 80 tackles, six interceptions.
  • DB Roland Ladipo: 79 tackles.
  • DB Brodie Hicks: 67 tackles.
  • LB Claude Alexander: 60 tackles, 10 ½ tackles for loss , 4 sacks.
  • LB D.J. Dunn: 52 tackles, 12 for loss, 5 1/2 sacks.

Key players lost:

  • QB Karson Roberts: 168 rushes, 743 yards, 10 touchdowns; 1,595 passing yards, 11 touchdowns.
  • WR Garrett Brown: 27 receptions, 557 yards, one touchdown.
  • WR Garret Griffin: 12 receptions, 208 yards, three touchdowns.
  • DL Alex Hansen: 70 tackles, 15 1/2 tackles for loss, 7 ½ sacks.

Outlook

Good, if Georgia State’s defense can play with the same intensity it did against the last option team it faced, Georgia Southern. The Panthers held the Eagles to season lows in rushing in the victory in Statesboro.

Other factors to consider, the Falcons must replace their quarterback, two of their best wide receivers and arguably their best player on defense.

Plus, Georgia State usually plays much better on the road than it does at home.


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