Wisconsin has been generating tons of buzz across the college football world since defeating LSU in week one, having climbed all the way to No.9 in the latest AP Poll. Up next for Wisconsin is Georgia State (0-2) of the Sun Belt Conference.
The Panthers have dropped their first two games of the season to Ball State and Air Force. Lead by Head coach Trent Miles, the Panthers face their toughest test of the season Saturday as they make the trip up to Madison. This is an extremely favorable matchup for Wisconsin, especially the Badgers’ rushing attack.
The Georgia State offense is headed by junior quarterback Connor Manning, a transfer from Utah. In two games, Manning has thrown for 298 yards while completing 29 of 56 passes, which amounts to a 51.8 percent completion rate. Manning has thrown one interception so far, a total that Wisconsin could have a good chance of adding to come Saturday. Manning currently has a quarterback efficiency rating of 104.7, which is just outside the top 100 at 103 and higher than the ratings of multiple players of the same position from larger institutions.
In regards to who Manning may target in the passing game, senior wideout Robert Davis is the Panthers’ go-to threat. Davis is an underrated receiver who could easily cause some problems if the Badgers don’t take him seriously in their coverages. Davis has twice been selected as an all-conference receiver and currently leads the team in receptions (11) and yards gained (140), averaging 12.7 yards per catch. He ranks eighth among all active FBS players in career receiving yard and 13th in receptions.
Sophomore Penny Hart, who was the 2015 Sun Belt freshman of the year, is not expected to play, so receiver Todd Boyd (7 catches for 41 yards) and second year tight end Ari Werts (one receiving touchdown) are also players to watch in the passing game.
GSU’s Swiss Army knife is Aaron Winchester, who is the backup quarterback and leads the team in the rushing with the most yards (58) and carries (11) this year. A former 1,000-yard rusher, redshirt junior transfer Kendrick Dorn is the pure tailback to watch in this matchup having the second most carries and yards on the team, but he is underutilized in the offense. Manning poses no real threat on the ground having only attempted two runs in two games that resulted in negative yardage.
The Georgia State defense is one that does not lack experience, returning nine starters and the major players on the defensive side of the ball are all either seniors, juniors or redshirt sophomores. The intriguing group also consists seven total transfers in the projected two-deep.
Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter’s defense is led by UAB transfer and veteran linebacker Alonzo McGee, who is tied for first on the Panthers’ defense with 11 solo and 18 total tackles. Redshirt senior safety Bryan Williams, who also has accounted for 18 total tackles, leads the Georgia State secondary having already nearly matched his tackle total of 22 from last season in only two games.
The Wisconsin running backs could be in for a field day as the Georgia State defense has posted abysmal numbers when trying to stop the ground attack, allowing 394.5 yards on the ground per game, which ranks 128th (dead last) in the country overall. The Panthers allowed 464 rush yards to Air Force, a team nowhere near as physical or as athletic as Wisconsin. Through two games, the defense has only three tackles for loss.
The Panthers have managed to force two interceptions in two games both coming from redshirt sophomore defensive back Jerome Smith, a starter in the Georgia State secondary.
Georgia State is an average squad overall in terms of athleticism with a few potential breakout players who could pose problems for the Badgers, but likely won’t due to the obvious talent gap between the two schools. The Panthers seem to have the foundation set to succeed with a veteran team Sun Belt but have never beat a power five conference opponent since the program started in 2010.
Look for the Badgers to take advantage of the poor defensive effort against the rush, regardless if star tailback Corey Clement plays at full speed or not. Bart Houston may be able to experiment a little bit with some more difficult throws against a weaker defense, though Wisconsin will not break out their full playbook for a team like Georgia State.
Head Coach Paul Chryst alluded to the Panthers being an opponent similar to that of Akron, something that I agree with. Expect some of the Georgia State players to make a couple of nice plays with speed and agility, but for Wisconsin’s superior strength and physicality to make for an easy victory.