Since joining the FBS in 2013, Georgia State has gone through its fair share of growing pains. But while fourth year head coach Trent Miles went 1-23 his first two seasons, the Panthers won six games a year ago, finished fourth in the Sun Belt and advanced to the program’s first bowl game. As a byproduct he was named the Sun Belt coach of the year.
While last season was considered a success, the Panthers have lost their first two games against non-power five conference schools by an average of 22 points. With Big Ten play one week away, Saturday will serve as another opportunity for Wisconsin to get things cleaned up and clicking before traveling to Michigan State.
The rankings for the Front Seven are determined based on performance from last week, expectations this coming week and need. Here are our seven players most important in helping the Badgers to a victory over Georgia State.
Last Week’s Rankings in Parentheses
1, Corey Clement RB (2): Will he or won’t he play? Clement’s season is off to a good start, carrying the ball 21 time in each of the two games for an average of 98.5 yards and three touchdowns. Despite only playing the first half last week with an ankle injury, Clement registered his sixth career game scoring at least two touchdowns. UW’s rushing attack should feast on a defense that has given up 789 rushing yards this season, including 464 yards on 83 carries against Air Force. Clement was limited Tuesday but insists he will play. If he’s in the game, Clement should be able to have a productive afternoon.
2, Vince Biegel OLB (1): Biegel’s stats from the game against Akron aren’t eye popping (two tackles and one for loss) but he still make his presence felt on a number of defensive plays. Having a knack for causing havoc in the backfield, Biegel will have a chance to improve upon those numbers with the Panthers’ offensive line allowing nine tackles for loss and two sacks this season. Even if Biegel can’t sack quarterback Conner Manning, he’ll have a good chance preventing him from getting an accurate pass off, as Manning completes 51.8 percent of his passes on 28 attempts a game.
3, Bart Houston QB (3): Georgia State’s secondary through two games has allowed 98.5 yards passing. Impressive until you consider Air Force just ran the ball consistently and with authority. Through two games Wisconsin has struck a balance with the run and the pass, credit that goes to Houston with his ability to distribute to a number of different targets. Behind an improving offensive line, Houston should be able to have time in the pocket to get a clean pass off. He still needs to be careful with the football, as Houston threw two interceptions in week one and nearly threw two more last week.
4, Sojourn Shelton CB (NR): With GSU averaging 33.5 pass attempts per game, Shelton and the rest of the secondary will need to be prepared and key on Robert Davis, who leads the team in receptions (11), receiving yards (140) and has registered a reception in 39 straight games. Through two games Shelton has protected his side of the field with his ability to make success breaks on the ball and limit yards after the catch. If Wisconsin’s pass rush can continue to consistently pressure the quarterback, UW’s secondary will have a great opportunity to make more plays.
5, Ryan Ramczyk (6): Ramczyk was able to put together more of a complete game against Akron than he did against LSU with his ability to consistently win his battle in the trenches to create open running lanes for the tailbacks. The plan will likely be the same against Georgia State – run the football and control the clock. Ramczyk should be able to help pave the way for Wisconsin to accomplish that. In two games the Panthers defense has accumulated just three tackles for loss and one sack. UW’s big offensive line should be able to dominate up front.
6, T.J. Watt OLB (NR): Leading the team with 10 tackles this season, Watt has shown to be a good counterpart to Biegel. With Georgia State allowing nine tackles for loss, it should allow Watt to continue to find ways of making plays in the backfield. If Watt and Biegel can combine to create pressure and force the Panthers into long third downs, the Badgers should continue to thrive, as UW has held opponents to 3-for-20 on third down this season.
7, Derrick Tindal CB (NR): Although Davis is the top wide receiver for Georgia State, Tindal will need to be ready for Todd Boyd, who is second on the team with seven receptions. Tindal has been able to put together a strong start to the season with a team-high three pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. With the level that Tindal and Shelton are playing at, Georgia State could have a tough time moving the football.
Others to Note
Troy Fumagalli TE: Double teamed throughout the Akron game, UW’s tight end still found ways to make plays with two catches that yielded first downs. Fumagalli’s presence is huge for the offense in terms of making catches or having multiple defenders cover it, opening up one-on-one opportunities for the receivers.
Alec James DE: James has been consistently active on the line and already has registered two sacks on the season. Playing to his strengths as a pass rusher, James has been able to find ways of creating pressure in the backfield.
Leo Musso S: If Wisconsin’s corners shut down the edges, Georgia State might test the middle of the field, which could lead to many plays coming Musso’s way. Having been successful in limiting chunk plays, Musso and the secondary have allowed 8.57 yards per pass. Musso will likely have his eyes on Davis, who has seven catches of over 50 yards in his career.
Jazz Peavy WR: Peavy showed against Akron that he is one of the potential weapons that Houston has at his disposal. The key with him will be to continue to show that he can be counted on. Targeted three times on third down, Peavy caught two of those three passes, including a 13-yard touchdown. Peavy will have a chance to build off that performance against Georgia State if he can continue to beat his man off the line of scrimmage.