Photo credit: Brian Westerholt, AP
Your Charlotte 49ers will take a trip down I-85 this weekend for a non-conference matchup with the Georgia State Panthers. Traditionally, football fans in Charlotte hope for a Panther victory in a football game played in Atlanta, but not this weekend. The 49ers are 19.5 point underdogs on Saturday night, and for good reason.
What to expect from Georgia State?
The Panthers are a good football team. In their first two games this season, they hung tight with the state universities of North and South Carolina, eventually succumbing to the talent of the big boys.
In week one against South Carolina, Georgia State took the lead into halftime. They were able to take advantage of a porous Gamecock offensive line and sack Spencer Rattler three times in the first half. The Panthers gave up two touchdowns off of blocked punts and that was eventually their undoing.
In week two against North Carolina, GSU was level with the Tarheels into the fourth quarter. UNC needed a miracle escape to dodge a non-conference loss to a Sun Belt team in week one, and they had to do the same in week two as well. A Drake Maye touchdown pass with 10:42 left in the fourth quarter gave North Carolina the lead for good, but Georgia State hung with them all the way to the final buzzer.
On the offensive end, Georgia State finds their success with a varied rushing attack. Three Panthers have over 100 rushing yards combined in their first two games, led by redshirt senior Jamyest Williams with 150.
Quarterback Darren Grainger is no slouch either. His passing stats are nothing to write home about, but when you combine them with his 118 rushing yards, you have a decent offense. Grainger has passed for 297 yards and four touchdowns to only one interception. His completion percentage isn’t great, but N’Kosi Perry wasn’t known as an efficient passer and he was able to eviscerate a leaky Charlotte defense.
Grainger’s favorite target is sophomore Robert Lewis, who has hauled in three of the quarterback’s four touchdowns thus far.
The Panthers’ defense is one that can be exploited. Both Carolina’s hung 35 points on Georgia State (with 14 of those being from special teams from the Southern most Carolina), showing that there are some holes in the Panthers armor.
Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 255.5 yards per game against Georgia State, and whoever lines up behind center for the 49ers will need to take advantage of the Panthers’ secondary. North Carolina was without potential All-American wide out Josh Downs, and Drake Maye spread the love to six different receivers, none of which caught more than five balls.
Charlotte has an offense that can be explosive at times. Each of the big three (Grant DuBose, Victor Tucker, Elijah Spencer), have over 200 yards for the season, and the multitude of targets for Chris Reynolds or Xavier Williams can exploit the Panthers’ defense on Saturday. (Side note – as someone who is a massive Carolina Panthers’ fan, it’s weird to be writing about an offense exposing a team called the Panthers – just me?)
Unfortunately for Charlotte, the Georgia State pass rush has shown some teeth in 2022, combining for six sacks in their first two matchups. Spencer Rattler is slippery and tough to bring down, but the Gamecock’s offensive line is similar to Charlotte. It’s not great. The Panthers’ got to Rattler three times in that game, and then three more against North Carolina the next week. Charlotte has had offensive line problems all year, and Georgia State will look to take advantage of that, especially if a less than 100% Chris Reynolds is taking the snaps for the 49ers on Saturday.
As much as it pains to pick the Niners to lose, I think we’ll see more of the same in Atlanta. However, this is a matchup where Charlotte could see some success on offense, so I’ll predict that they’ll cover the 19.5 point spread and keep it close. The 49ers defense is just too big of a question mark for me to think that they can upset the Panthers’ this weekend, and the offense won’t be able to keep up in a shootout.
Georgia State 38 Charlotte 24.