Dan Ellington of the Georgia State Panthers hands the ball off to Tra Barnett in the second quarter of their game against the Georgia Southern Eagles on November 30, 2019 at Allen E. Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Thelen/Getty Images)
Photo: Chris Thelen/Getty Images
Photo: Chris Thelen/Getty Images

Georgia State to play third bowl game in five seasons

Georgia State will learn its bowl destination Sunday, and any place the Panthers are sent is OK with coach Shawn Elliott.

The most likely landing spot for the Panthers appears to be the Camellia Bowl, played Dec. 21 in Montgomery, Ala. Georgia State’s opponent would be a representative from the Mid-American Conference.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Elliott said. “I’m just thrilled to death to have the opportunity to play one last time and have the opportunity to be successful. It’s a tremendous honor to tell the truth. When you look at where we are 10 years into our football program and this is our third opportunity to play in a bowl game, that says a lot.”

There are plenty of appealing factors in Georgia State’s favor. The Panthers (7-5) have a prolific offense that averages 32.4 points and 446.9 total yards. They feature quarterback Dan Ellington, who averaged 240.8 yards in total offense, and running back Tra Barnett, who led the Sun Belt Conference with 1,389 yards rushing. 

This will be the third bowl trip in five seasons for Georgia State. Both previous trips were to the Cure Bowl in Orlando, with the Panthers losing to San Jose State in 2015 and beating Western Kentucky in 2017.

“People remember that, not just Georgia State fans, but football fans across the country,” Elliott said. “I’ve had numerous people come up to me and say they remembered that day and that bowl celebration. It brings great attention and we get a lot of notice from it.”

The Camelia Bowl is one of five bowls that have a tie-in with the Sun Belt Conference. 

The winner of this week’s Sun Belt Championship game between Appalachian State and Louisiana-Lafayette is automatically headed to the New Orleans Bowl for a Dec. 21 meeting against a team from Conference USA.

The loser of the championship game most likely will go to the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 31 in Tucson, Ariz., and face a team from the Mountain West Conference.

That leaves the Cure Bowl on Dec. 21 and the LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 6. One will take Georgia Southern, the other will take Arkansas State. 

The Cure Bowl is unlikely to want Georgia State to return so soon. Likewise, the Camellia Bowl has hosted Georgia Southern in 2018 and Arkansas State in 2017, leaving it as Georgia State’s likely landing spot. 

Regardless, Elliott plans to find a way to combine business and pleasure during the bowl trip.

“It’s an opportunity to go spend four or five days in a destination and enjoy the time we have there,” Elliott said. “The last time we went down (to Orlando for the Cure Bowl), I told them we were going to use the opportunity to get better as a football team and we were going to enjoy the week. We were going to concentrate and do the things necessary to win the football game, but were going to us it as a reward for our team for how hard they worked.”

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