N.C. State meets Georgia State on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium (12:30 p.m.) in the first meeting between the two teams.
Ten things to know about the relative Football Bowl Subdivision newcomers from Atlanta:
1. 2017 recap
The Panthers went 7-5 overall, 5-3 in the Sun Belt Conference, and picked up their first bowl win in their short history last season.
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They beat Western Kentucky, 27-17, in the AutoNation Cure Bowl in Orlando.
Quarterback Conner Manning (no relation to the famous quarterback family) threw for 3,146 yards and receiver Penny Hart led the Sun Belt with 1,121 receiving yards (on 74 catches).
The season, the first under Shawn Elliott, started off slowly with losses to Tennessee State (a Football Championship Subdivision team) and Penn State.
The Panthers won the games they were supposed to, though. The combined record of the six teams they beat in the regular season was 16-56.
Georgia State, located in Atlanta, started playing football in 2010 and joined the FBS level in 2013. The 2017 season was its first (out of five) with a winning record.
2. Returning leaders
Passing: QB Aaron Winchester 6-9, 102 yards
Rushing: RB Taz Bateman 53 carries, 176 yards
Receiving: WR Penny Hart 74 catches, 1,121 yards
Tackles: LB Chase Middleton 65
3. Returning all-conference players
WR Penny Hart (first team)
DE Marterious Allen (third team)
LB Michael Shaw (third team)
4. Key losses
QB Conner Manning (3,146 passing yards)
RB Glenn Smith (594 rushing yards)
DT Julien Laurent (6.5 tackles for loss)
S Bryan Williams (four interceptions)
5. Breakout candidates
QB Dan Ellington: The juco transfer ran for 77 yards and passed for 187 with three touchdowns in his first start for the Panthers.
WR Christian Owens: With all of the attention on Hart, there’s room for Owens to make some hay. He has good size (6-4, 215). A transfer from South Carolina, he had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 24-20 win over Kennesaw State.
Hart ranked No. 11 in the FBS last season in receiving yards per game (93.4) and led the Sun Belt in receiving yards (1,121) despite missing out on a 12th regular-season game.
Georgia State can empathize with N.C. State’s kicking woes. The Panthers made 12 of 23 attempts last year, worst in the Sun Belt.
Also like N.C. State, the Panthers struggled on pass defense. They ranked No. 102 in the country last year (two spots ahead of the Wolfpack) and gave up an average of 251.4 yards per game.
8. Coaching connections
Shawn Elliott was an assistant to Steve Spurrier at South Carolina and took over for Spurrier in 2015 and coached the final six games (the Gamecocks went 1-5) of that season.
Elliott was a longtime assistant at Appalachian State, his alma mater, before going to South Carolina in 2010.
Elliott and Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb both worked at App State together. Cobb is a former football player and assistant AD at N.C. State.
9. The Panthers vs. Power 5
GSU is 0-7 against Power 5 conference teams including an 0-1 mark vs. the ACC (28-0 loss at Clemson in 2014). All but one of the losses, 23-17 at Wisconsin in 2016, was by at least 28 points.
Aug. 30 Kennesaw State (W, 24-20)
Sept. 8 at N.C. State
Sept. 14 at Memphis
Sept. 22 Western Michigan
Sept. 29 Louisiana-Monroe
Oct. 4 at Troy
Oct. 18 at Arkansas State
Oct. 27 Coastal Carolina
Nov. 3 Texas State
Nov. 10 at Louisiana-Lafayette
Nov. 17 at Appalachian State
Nov. 24 Georgia Southern