Our weekly Q-and-A session with a beat writer covering the Huskies' opponent features Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC), who covers Georgia State football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Doug answered five questions for us. Here they are.
1. For fans out here who don't know much about Georgia State, could you give us a little background on their transition to FBS and the kind of resources/budget they're working with?
Roberson: “The program is in its fifth year of football. It had planned on being an FCS-level team, but as the landscape began to change a few years ago they were approached by the Sun Belt Conference about joining as a full member, which would necessitate playing football on the FBS level. It wasn’t in the original plan, so the program overall is a bit behind in terms of balancing the classes by year in football and in some of the important ancillary things like a strength and conditioning facility. But it has plans put together to improve in those areas.”
2. After going 0-12 last season, what is the expectation for the Panthers in their second year at the FBS level?
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Roberson: “The team was competitive in many games last year. This year, they want to continue that while also pulling out a few wins. It is isn’t playing with the full allotment of 85 scholarships (see above) – it is in the low 70s – so a lot of underclassmen who played last year and others who are seeing their first FBS games this year will be on the field.”
3. Do you get the sense that it's a big deal to the players to be able to travel this far for a nonconference game against a Pac-12 team?
Roberson: “Because of their ties to Washington, a lot of Georgia State’s coaches are looking forward to the game. The players are excited about going up against an FBS program, something they’ve already done a few times in playing Alabama twice, Houston, Tennessee and West Virginia. Really, the game doesn’t make a lot of sense for Georgia State. Yes, they are receiving $900,000, but after travel costs are taken out they will only clear about $600,000 to play in a region they don’t recruit. There are a handful of SEC and ACC schools that would have given them just as much in areas that the school does recruit.”
4. In which areas do the Panthers look the most improved through three games?
Roberson: “Offense and special teams. It was difficult to tell how good last year’s offense was because the team was often trying to rally from big deficits. This year’s offense, led by Nick Arbuckle, is turning games into shootouts. The offensive line is light years better than last year’s, which couldn’t run block (102.2 yards per game) or pass block (32 sacks allowed) consistently well. Last year’s line had to use 10 combinations in 12 games. This year the same five have started each game.
5. Aside from starting quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who is a GSU player to watch on Saturday?
Roberson: “The team may be without tight Joel Ruiz, the second-leading receiver. Arbuckle has done a good job getting everyone involved in the passing game. The running game will be led by Krysten Hammon, who was suspended last week and whose status hasn’t been announced for this week [EDIT: Roberson updates this situation with the news that Hammon will not travel to Seattle for the game], and Kyler Neal. Neal is a bulldozer type of running back, so look for some big collisions if he gets the ball.”