The Texas State football team badly needs a win Saturday, and they’ve got an opponent that has lost every game this season.
The Bobcats now are going into what makes the Sun Belt Conference an entry-level position in bowl level football. They are playing an entry-level conference foe, Georgia State, at Bobcat Stadium.
Georgia State isn’t nearly as advanced as teams like Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL) and Louisiana-Monroe (ULM), which can venture into higher reaches and beat people. The Bobcats showed in their best moment this season, a 41-21 win against Wyoming three weeks ago, that they can do it, too. But they couldn’t beat ULL or ULM.
The good news for the Bobcats is that they seem to have taken the best shots their new league could throw at them. They’re a little battered, 0-2 in the Sun Belt and 3-3 overall. The schedule didn’t help. If they could have worked their way through the league and come to the league co-favorites later in the year, we’re looking at a very different perspective on the league race.
Instead, the Bobcats are realistically in the running for a top-half finish, perhaps enough to entice a bowl bid.
Comes now to Bobcat Stadium, the Georgia State Panthers, a first-year program at the bowl level. Georgia State is 0-6, losing to the likes of Samford, Chattanooga and Jacksonville State, as well as top-ranked Alabama.
The Bobcats are 17-point favorites. Georgia State is starting from rock bottom. Listen to Georgia State coach Trent Miles count his blessings:
“There are two types of 0-6 teams. Ninety-something percent of them are falling apart and are divided and you got guys starting to get some physical problems and those kind of things and there’s bickering and pointing fingers. And then there’s that one percent of an 0-6 teams that’s going up. We’re that one percent that’s going up. Our kids are bonding together even more, their sense urgency to win is even more, they’re staring to see the results by playing better. They’re practicing better.”
The Bobcats are coming off a rickety offensive performance in their 21-14 loss to ULM at Bobcat Stadium last Saturday. ULM scored two of its touchdowns on long interception returns against freshman quarterback Tyler Jones, who completed only six of 15 passes. Senior quarterback Tyler Arndt did not distinguish himself as a prosperous alternative, completing six of 19 passes.
Texas State coach Dennis Franchione told a Sun Belt Conference media call this week that Jones probably is the starter against Georgia State — “He’s the best direction to go at this time,” Franchione said — qualifying just in case practice revealed something different. Then Franchione followed with a much broader endorsement of the freshman quarterback when asked how the youngster navigates the highs and lows.
“He’s pretty cool,” Franchione said. “He doesn’t vary one direction or the other a great deal. He’s a pretty good student of the game. I haven’t seen any changes in him. I don’t anticipate seeing any changes from him. I think he’ll get ready and be very businesslike in his approach.”
On a more successful front, the Texas State defense against UULM returned to its previous competitive form after a bad outing a week earlier at ULL. The Bobcats rank 52nd nationally in total defense at 383.2 yards per game, including a very robust rushing defense of 11th (90.3 yards per game).
The Texas State defense ranks 112th of 123 bowl-level teams in passing yardage allowed (292.8 yards per game), but 34th in pass efficiency defense (116.2). ULL was the one opponent that could establish the run (212 yards), which enabled it to pass with deadly accuracy and many fewers shots (21 for 26, 360 yards).
The Bobcats returned last week with a fine defensive game, allowing but 192 total yards, 80 of them on the ground. Georgia State doesn’t figure to be much of a challenge here.
Georgia State’s lack of a running game was the main topic of discussion concerning this team on the teleconference. The Panthers run for only 75.8 yards per game, which would rank 121st of 124 bowl-level teams (Georgia State doesn’t count in the national rankings this year). Even as the Panthers totaled 422 yards in last week’s 35-28 loss to Troy, the running game gained only 52 of them.
“It looks like maybe they’re looking for the right combination of offensive linemen,” was Franchione’s diplomatic way of describing the Georgia State running attack.
The Bobcats are all alone in the Sun Belt basement, since Georgia State is only 0-1 after losing it’s league inaguration to Troy, 35-28, last week.
The betting line is not alone in having us believe that the Bobcats ought to win this game. They have the ability to win this game, and Georgia State has yet to demonstrate that it can win any game. Outside of the Georgia State participants, no one believes Georgia State will win this game, and even the participants’ beliefs are better seen as hopes.
Not that it’s already decided, or anything like that. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
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