South Alabama vs Georgia State – A Clash of Claws

October 16, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football 
South Alabama lines up inside the one yard line. Ross Metheny would dive over the top to score the Jaguars third touchdown of the game on this play in the Georgia Dome against Georgia State on November 30, 2013.

South Alabama lines up inside the one yard line. Ross Metheny would dive over the top to score the Jaguars third touchdown of the game on this play in the Georgia Dome against Georgia State on November 30, 2013.

South Alabama heads into their homecoming game against Georgia State on Saturday after their second and final open date of the regular season. After starting the season 1-2 in their first three games, they have put together back-to-back wins in impressive fashion.

They opened with a strong showing in the first half against Kent State, but then struggled until a late touchdown sealed the game. Then at home against Mississippi State and Georgia Southern the Jaguar offense struggled with dropped passes and penalties.

Road wins over Idaho and Appalachian State have put the Jaguars back above .500 and producing offensively again. But both of those teams have been struggling themselves. But a win on the road, especially when you have to travel thousands of miles, is always a good thing.

South Alabama will finish out the season with seven consecutive games, the first five are conference games, to close out the regular season. Their first two opponents, Georiga State (this weekend) and Troy (Friday, October 24), have a combined record of 2-10 this season as each have only one win so far.

Georgia State opened the season with a last-second victory over FCS Abilene Christian then has suffered five consecutive losses since. Troy on the other hand opened the season with five consecutive losses, including one to the same Abilene Christian that the Panthers defeated. But the Trojans finally put on in the win column last weekend against New Mexico State after longtime Trojan head coach Larry Blakeney announced his retirement after the season.

Georgia State’s defense ranks dead last in the conference in most statistical categories including scoring defense and total yards allowed per game.

Offensively the Panthers fare better. They rank second in the conference in passing yards per game (301.8) but only manages 118.3 yards per game rushing which comes in 9th in the conference. Obviously it is hard to win games when your average score on the season is 27.0 to 41.7 and not in your favor.

South Alabama’s defense has played very well all season long. However over the last two weeks, aided by a more efficient offense, the defense has turned it up against opponents. The Jags rank in the top 3 in many key defensive categories including second in pass defense (190.8 yards per game), third in total defense (374.8 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (21.4 points per game).

Offensively the Jags struggled early but flipped the switch two games ago against Idaho. In their two losses, the Jags suffered from a rash of dropped passes and penalties which stalled drives. Many people feel that USA should have had an early 14-0 lead on Mississippi State. They only managed to put up nine points against MSU and Georgia Southern combined.

Even after the last two games the Jaguar offense still ranks in the bottom half of the conference in most statistical categories. Their best category is rushing offense where they rank 6th in the 11 team conference.

South Alabama and Georgia State had developed quite the rivalry early on. Georgia State started playing football a year after South Alabama began their program. The Panthers made ESPN headlines by hiring Bill Curry to build the program from scratch with their eyes set on the FCS ranks. South Alabama and the Panthers scheduled a home-and-home series, which they split. When the opportunity presented itself for Georgia State to receive an invitation to move up to the FBS ranks and join the Sun Belt, they accepted but they have struggled over the last two-and-a-half seasons.

In Curry’s final season in 2012, the Panthers finished 1-10 and they hired Trent Miles, the former Indiana State head coach, to replace the retiring Curry. Since 2012 the Panthers are 2-27.

Last season in Atlanta, Shavarez Smith broke out for 194 yards on 10 catches an a touchdown against the Panthers in a 38-17 win.

Look for the Jaguars to declaw the Panthers again this year. I think Xavier Johnson will get more playing time this week, especially if the Jaguars go up early on the Panthers. South Alabama will run their record to 3-1 against Georgia State with a predicted score of 34-17.

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