Know Your Penn State Football Enemy: Georgia State Panthers

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 17: Conner Manning
MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 17: Conner Manning /

Penn State will be a huge favorite in the primetime matchup with Georgia State. 

After hosing rival Pitt in Week 2, the Nittany Lions remain at home in Week 3 to face the Georgia State Panthers out of the Sun Belt Conference. It will be the final non-conference game of the season for Penn State before getting into Big Ten play.

The first ever matchup between the Nittany Lions and the Panthers will take place under the bright lights in primetime.

Georgia State will be a major underdog, but will have an extra week to prepare for the Nittany Lions. The Panthers open the season on August 31 against Tennessee State and won’t take the field again until the game in Happy Valley.

The Panthers are coming off a 3-9 season in 2016, including a close six-point loss at Wisconsin. New head coach Shawn Elliott, the former co-offensive coordinator at South Carolina, was hired in December to help turn the program around.

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Starting quarterback Conner Manning will look to build on last season when he was one of the top quarterbacks in the Sun Belt Conference. He led the Sun Belt with 268 passing yards per game and finished the season with 2,684 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Unfortunately, he was plagued with 13 interceptions.

Top receiver Robert Davis is no longer around, nor is all-conference tight end Keith Rucker, but Manning will still have several options in the passing game. In 2016 five different Georgia State players had a least one game with 100 yards receiving.

A player to watch for the Panthers on offense will be backup running back Glenn Smith. He rushed for just 150 yards on 41 carries in 2016, but accounted for five total touchdowns — two rushing and three receiving. Smith was second on the team with 547 receiving yards.

Kyler Neal will handle the bulk of the rushing duties, just as he did in 2016. He’s coming off a season in which he carried the ball 75 times for 314 yards and two touchdowns.

On defense, linebacker Michael Shaw will be the likely leader. He finished third on the team last year with 76 total tackles and led the Panthers with three sacks. The secondary should be Georgia State’s strength, as defensive backs B.J. Clay, Jerome Smith, and Chandon Sullivan are all back for 2017. The trio accounted for nine interceptions last season.

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Kickoff between the Nittany Lions and the Panthers is set for 7:30 and will air live on the Big Ten Network.