Last week, we looked at the Georgia Southern Eagles 2019 season. This week we will look at their bitter rivals from Atlanta. The 2019 Georgia State Panthers were a feel-good story this year. Coming off a 2-10 record, 2019 was up in the air as far as success went. Georgia State was able to make a bowl game in 2019. As the off-season continues, let us see how the Georgia State Panthers clinched their third bowl game appearance since coming to the FBS level.
2019 got off to a good start with an upset win over, SEC opponent, Tennessee. The Panthers also defeated non-conference opponents, Furman and Army. Georgia State finished 4-4 in Sun Belt conference play. The Panthers registered conference wins over Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Troy, and South Alabama. Heading into the final week, Georgia State had an opportunity for an eight-win season as they squared off with their rivals in Georgia Southern. The Eagles defeated the Panthers by a final score of 38-10.
As a result of their 7-5 finish, Georgia State accepted a bowl bid to the Arizona Bowl. The Panthers faced off with Wyoming Cowboys, from the Mountain West Conference. The Cowboys got the better of Georgia State with a 38-17 victory. Head Coach Shawn Elliot deserves credit for the turnaround in 2019. As the Panthers prepare for 2020, Georgia State hopes to build on its turnaround and increase the win total.
Georgia State has a favorable non-conference schedule in 2020. The Panthers will open with Murray State at home before traveling to Alabama in week 2. On September 26th, Georgia State hits the road to take on, Conference USA opponent, Charlotte. The non-conference slate comes to an end on October 3rd when, American Athletic Conference opponent, East Carolina comes to Georgia State Stadium. The Panthers could finish 3-1 in the non-conference before entering Sun Belt play. Inside the Sun Belt, Georgia State will host Coastal Carolina, Louisiana, ULM, and Georgia Southern. In addition to their home schedule, the Panthers will travel to conference foes Appalachian State, Troy, Arkansas State, and South Alabama. Georgia State can improve on their 4-4 conference record from last year.
On paper, the Panthers could finish 3-1 at home in the conference. Their lone loss could come to Louisiana. The conference road record could also produce a 3-1 record. At the worst, Georgia State finished 2-2 on the road. Losses include Appalachian State and then add in a toss-up game against Troy. Furthermore, that brings the Panthers to 6-2 in conference play. Worst case, Georgia State finishes Sun Belt play 5-3. While the improvement may only be one game, the Panthers will be in contention for the Sun Belt Conference Championship. They can also hang their hat on a potential 9-3 record overall. That would be their best season since they moved up to FBS. This Panthers team might be a dark horse of discussion in the 2020 Sun Belt Conference Championship race.
Coach Shawn Elliot has only been the head coach since 2017. However, he has held his own over these last three years. Advancing to two bowl games in three years is cause for celebration. The win over Tennessee was also the program’s first win over an SEC school in four tries. Furthermore, it brought their record against the power five to 1-7. While Alabama is not Tennessee, the Panthers will have that memory of 2019 forever.
The Sun Belt looks to be wide open next year, despite Louisiana and Appalachian State being the favorites again. Whichever team can knock off the Cajuns and Mountaineers stand in good shape at the end of the year. Georgia State hopes they are one of the teams to defeat the two-time defending division champions. As stated above, look for the Georgia State Panthers to be a dark horse in the quest to hoist the Sun Belt Conference trophy in 2020.
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