Georgia State (4-0, 1-0 Sun Belt) will host Troy (2-2, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Center Parc Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN-Plus and broadcast on local radio WRAS-FM 88.5.
Georgia State is one of 23 unbeaten teams in FBS and one of only five non-Power Five teams without a loss. The Panthers also picked up a vote in the US LBM Coaches Poll, the first time the program has received a vote in either national poll.
Georgia State has done well against the run all season behind inside linebackers Justin Abraham, Jontrey Hunter and Jordan Veneziale, outside linebackers Shamar McCollum and Kevin Swint, and linemen Javon Denis, Henry Bryant and Tylon Dunap. Abraham had 10 tackles, and Hunter, who leads the team with 29 tackles, had eight last week in limiting Coastal Carolina to 107 net yards rushing.
“We’re playing with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and a little bit more commitment to some of the things we weren’t doing so well a year ago,” Elliott said. “As each week goes by, the defensive staff, the continuity and the camaraderie gets better. Right now we’re playing at a high level.”
This week’s game against Troy will be the first time the defense has faced a balanced attack. Rhode Island and Coastal Carolina revolved around their multi-talented quarterbacks, and Connecticut and Charlotte still were trying to find their offensive identities. Troy lives behind the running of Vidal, who helped Marietta win the GHSA Class 7A title in 2019, and the arm of Taylor County product Gunnar Watson, a pocket-type passer who ranks third in the Sun Belt at 261.75 yards per game.
“They’re a tough offense to stop,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to make sure we do not give up the big run. I think they like to establish the run game and then come off that and get into the throwing contest. We’ve got to keep everything in front of us, and we’ve got to tackle much better than we’ve been tackling. If we can do that, maybe we’ll have an opportunity to hold that back under 50. But it’s going to be a tough challenge because he’s a very, very good player.”
Likewise, Troy will need to slow GSU running back Marcus Carroll, who has rushed for 508 yards and an FBS-best eight touchdowns. In last week’s 30-17 win over Coastal Carolina, Carroll carried a career-high 29 times for 150 yards, his third time to surpass the 100-yard mark in four games.
“It’s hard to tackle him for four quarters,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to stay with those 2- and 3-yard runs because they become 3- and 4-yard runs, then 5- and 6-yard runs, and the next thing you know they’re 20- and 25-yard runs. He can carry the load, and he can carry some defenders.”
Carroll has provided an ideal counterpunch to the dual threat of quarterback Darren Grainger, who has thrown for 994 yards and seven touchdowns and ranks second in the Sun Belt in passing efficiency (171). The senior has also run for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
“(Grainger) is a bigger guy, runs really well, can throw the ball down the field with great arm strength,” Troy coach Jon Sumrall said. “He’s a weapon. He’s really grown a lot, and they play to his strengths really well. He looks a lot more comfortable in their system. He’s definitely a matchup problem.”
Troy leads the overall series 5-4, but Georgia State has won the past three meetings. Georgia State won the most recent meeting 37-10 in 2021 in Atlanta.