NCAA Thursday Night Football: Arkansas State/Georgia State Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Thursday night college football game on ESPN features two teams from the Sun Belt Conference with .500 records looking for their first win in conference play.

Georgia State is 1-1 on the season after upsetting East Carolina on October 3rd by a 49-29 score as a 2-point underdog. The Panthers dominated that game by outgaining the Pirates by 199 yards while holding them to just 286 yards. Georgia State scored a special teams touchdown from a blocked punt, and they scored a defensive touchdown on a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Panthers gave up a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown as well.

Georgia State opened their season with a 34-31 overtime loss at home to Louisiana-Lafayette on September 19th. The Panthers then had their game the next week with Charlotte canceled because of COVID tests that were later determined to be false positives.  This game is their first on the road this season.

The Panthers returned 16 starters from last year’s team that upset Tennessee in Knoxville to open their season. They finished 7-6 following a 38-17 loss to Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl. The most pressing question mark for them was who would replace their two-year starter and second-team all-conference quarterback Dan Ellington. Head coach Shawn Elliott decided on Cornelius Brown IV, and the redshirt freshman has completed 59.7% of his passes for 434 yards, with a 6.5 yards-per-attempt average. Brown has thrown four touchdowns passes but also has three interceptions. He has added 90 rushing yards on 21 carries. Running back Dustin Coates is third in the conference with a 131.5 rushing yards per game average.

Arkansas State plays their second home game of the season after a successful debut last week, where they defeated Central Arkansas by a 50-27 score. The Red Wolves opened their season with a 37-24 loss at Memphis on September 5th before they pulled off a 35-31 upset victory at Kansas State as a 15-point underdog. They had to wait three weeks before playing their next game at Coastal Carolina, where they were stung by a 52-23 score despite being a 3.5-point favorite.

Arkansas State returned 15 starters from last year’s 8-5 team that played in a bowl game for the ninth straight season. The Red Wolves ended their season with a 34-26 triumph over Florida International in the Camellia Bowl. Head coach Blake Anderson had a quarterback issue to address coming into the season after last year’s incumbent, Logan Bonner, suffered a season-ending injury after starting the first four games. Layne Hatcher took over as a redshirt freshman to average 294.6 passing yards per game, with the former Alabama transfer completing 65.8% of his passes with 27 touchdown passes.

Anderson has rotated both quarterbacks so far this season. Bonner has been given deference as the starter as a redshirt junior, and he has completed 63.7% of his passes for 741 passing yards with eight touchdown passes and three interceptions. Hatcher has completed 58.6% of his passes for 564 yards with six touchdown passes and one interception. They share a dynamic weapon at wide receiver in Jonathan Adams. The 6’3 senior has 26 receptions with a 90.5 receiving yards per game, which is third-best in the conference. Adams has caught five touchdown passes as well, which is fourth-best in the FBS. Arkansas State hopes to get more out of running back Marcel Murray, who is now probable for this game with a leg injury that has limited him to just ten carries for 63 yards. Murray led the team last year with 820 rushing yards while adding six rushing touchdowns.

This forecasts as a high-scoring affair with Georgia State surrendering 31.5 points per game along with 405.5 yards per game and Arkansas State giving up 36.8 points per game along with 411 yards per game. The Panthers pulled a 52-38 upset at home in Atlanta last year in their meeting with the Red Wolves as a 6.5-point underdog.

BetAnySports lists Arkansas State as a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 72.5. The ESPN broadcast begins at 7:30 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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