Georgia State (6-4) at (10) Alabama (8-2)
Thursday, November 18th, 7:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: An obvious mismatch will ensue on Thursday night, as the 10th- ranked Alabama Crimson Tide host the Georgia State Panthers, a team set to conclude its inaugural season of football.
Billy Curry deserves a ton of credit, as he has led the Panthers to 6-4 record in their first season. Fans of Alabama certainly recognize that name, as Curry spent three seasons as head coach of the Crimson Tide, posting a 27-10 mark during that time. He earned SEC Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year honors during that period. Last weekend, the Panthers, who compete at the FCS level, snapped a two-game slide with a 23-17 victory over Lamar.
"We have a lot to work on, but the bottom line is this, we have a winning record for the year and we have a winning record at home," said Curry.
Alabama owns an 8-2 record, but this season has been a bit of a disappointment considering last season's success. The Crimson Tide are the defending FBS national champs, but they won't even have a chance to play for the SEC title this season, Auburn has already claimed the right to represent the conference's West Division. Nick Saban's Alabama club posted an impressive victory over Mississippi State last weekend by a 30-10 final, the third win in the last four outings for the club.
"I was pleased with the way our team played today," said Saban after the Mississippi State game. "I was pleased with how anxious they were to bounce back and compete, to be relentless in the game, to try to be physical and to establish the kind of identity for our team that we want to have in terms of intensity, toughness, ability to execute and the focus we need to have."
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Alabama and Georgia State on the gridiron.
Georgia State has been a productive offensive team this season, and the result has been 29.5 ppg and 343.8 total ypg. The Panthers do most of their damage through the air, and the man at the helm is quarterback Drew Little. Through 10 games, Little has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,033 yards and 18 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. He often looks the way of Danny Williams, and the team's top receiver has recorded 53 catches for 640 yards and five scores.
The Panthers are mediocre defensively, as they are yielding 22.3 ppg and 344.8 total ypg. They have given up 25 touchdowns, including 15 rushing yards, and are permitting more yards on the ground (179.9 ypg) than through the air (164.9 ypg). With 19 takeaways and 15 sacks, there have been some big plays made by Panther defenders, but there is still room for improvement in that category. Fred Barnes leads Georgia State with 58 total tackles.
Trailing late in the fourth quarter against Lamar last weekend, Little drove his team 71 yards in 10 plays and tossed a touchdown pass with 4:52 left on the clock. The Panthers added a field goal with 1:39 remaining to seal the win, one in which they were outgained in total yardage (357-322) but exhibited a great deal of toughness.
As for Alabama, it is generating 32.5 ppg and 430.3 total ypg thanks to some dynamic offensive weapons. This season hasn't gone according to plan for defending Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, who missed two games with injury, but he has still averaged 5.6 yards per rushing attempt and scored 10 total touchdowns. With fellow tailback Trent Richardson banged up and questionable for Thursday's affair, Ingram could post big numbers against Georgia State.
Quarterback Greg McElroy has completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 2,331 yards and 15 touchdowns against only five interceptions, proving to be much more than a game manager. Julio Jones is the team's star wideout, and the NFL prospect has hauled in 58 catches for 799 yards and four scores.
As potent as the Alabama offense can be, this is still a football team that wins with strong defense. The Crimson Tide are yielding just 13.4 ppg and 306.3 total ypg. They have been tough against the run, permitting only 3.8 yards per attempt, and have been equally impressive against the pass, posting 17 interceptions with only eight touchdowns allowed. Robert Lester has intercepted seven passes for 'Bama.
Against Mississippi State last week, McElroy completed 12-of-18 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Jones was held in check as a receiver but did make the most of his one rushing attempt, racing 56 yards for a score. Marquis Maze stepped up with five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Alabama smothered the Bulldog offense, limiting MSU to 299 total yards with only one touchdown in last week's game.
"Just attacking was the main focus," said Alabama defensive lineman Damion Square after the win. "Run or pass, we just came out today and attacked them. Tonight we just made something happen instead of waiting for something to happen."
Obviously, Alabama is far superior to Georgia State and should crush the Panthers. Still, Curry should be extremely proud of what he has built at Georgia State, and hopefully the Crimson Tide fans will give him a warm welcome.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 49, Georgia State 9
11/17 10:37:22 ET