Memphis saw a 12-point, fourth-quarter lead turn into a one-point loss last Saturday at Navy to send the Tigers to 1-1 on the young season, and they now shift their focus to a home game against Georgia State. Memphis outgained the Midshipmen 378-316 in total yards, but four turnovers helped lead to the Tigers’ demise.
Last week, Georgia State dropped a 41-7 contest at NC State where its pass defense was heavily exploited by Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley, who threw for more than 350 yards. A year after winning their first bowl game in program history, the Panthers are seeking their first victory over an FBS team.
Friday’s meeting will be the first between these two programs.
Georgia State at Memphis
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Memphis -27
Three Things to Watch
1. Memphis running back Darrell Henderson
Henderson accounted for all three of Memphis’ scores as he gashed the Navy defense for 212 rushing yards on just 13 carries (16.3 yards per carry). Henderson’s dominance as a running back isn’t new. The junior rushed for 1,154 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017, and through two games this season, Henderson has 288 yards on 22 carries (13.1 ypc) and four touchdowns.
Georgia State’s rush defense enters Friday’s contest ranked No. 71 in FBS, as it’s allowed 148 yards per game and four rushing scores to opponents. The Panthers allowed 181 rushing yards in their Week 1 win against FCS foe Kennesaw State, a triple-option offense, but held NC State to just 115 yards on the ground in last week’s loss.
At 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, Henderson is a load. Georgia State’s defense will face a tall task in slowing him down.
2. Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington
The Panthers’ offense received a boost with the addition of Ellington, a junior college transfer from Mississippi’s Itawamba Community College. He threw for 27 touchdowns and 3,211 yards in 2017 and was among the NJCAA’s best at the position.
Ellington’s Georgia State career got off to a good start as he went 20 of 28 for 187 yards and three touchdowns to go with 77 rushing yards in a win against Kennesaw State. His numbers dipped against NC State last week, as he was 15 of 28 for 194 yards while adding another 30 yards on the ground.
Ellington will have his work cut out for him this week against a Memphis pass defense that is ranked fourth in the nation. The Tigers are allowing 166 passing yards per game and just two touchdown passes through two games. Sure, Navy’s three pass attempts and 22 yards certainly helped boost Memphis’ ranking in the category, but the defense got the job done against Mercer (104 passing yards) in Week 1 as well.
3. Memphis’ pass offense vs. Georgia State’s pass defense
NC State quarterback Ryan Finley had his way with the Panthers' pass defense, finishing last week's game with 370 yards and two touchdowns, although he did toss one interception. Kennesaw State quarterback Chandler Burks threw for 201 yards to go with a touchdown and interception in Week 1.
This week, Georgia State is tasked with containing Memphis' Brady White, who will undoubtedly be playing with a chip on his shoulder after a sluggish performance against Navy that saw him go 15-for-25 for 145 yards with an interception. White is a solid passer who threw for 358 yards and five touchdowns in Memphis’ opener. He’ll attempt to get back on track against a Georgia State pass defense that currently ranks near the bottom (No. 114) among FBS teams at 313.5 yards per game allowed.
After last week’s loss to Navy, Memphis would like nothing more than to get a commanding win. And that’s likely what will happen. Memphis’ pass defense will make things difficult for Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington, as the junior college transfer is still adjusting to the speed and intricacies of playing in the FBS. The Tigers' QB-RB combination of Brady White and Darrell Henderson should enjoy productive contests as Memphis gets back into the win column.
Prediction: Memphis 38, Georgia State 14
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star, Hayes also has been an invited guest on "The Paul Finebaum Show." Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
(Top photo by Joe Murphy/University of Memphis)