Troy will take its four-game winning streak into a Thursday night Sun Belt Conference matchup against Georgia State. The Trojans’ season-opening loss to Boise State seems like years ago, as Troy (4-1, 2-0) has since rattled off road wins against Nebraska and ULM, and most recently vs. Coastal Carolina.
Georgia State (2-3, 1-0) will celebrate history Thursday as the Troy contest marks the Panthers' 100th game. Last week, Georgia State snapped a three-game losing streak by beating ULM 46-14 in a game in which freshman running back Seth Paige erupted for 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Troy holds a 4-1 series advantage over Georgia State since the teams' first meeting in 2013. The Trojans are riding a two-game win streak over the Panthers. Georgia State’s lone win in the series occurred in 2015.
Georgia State at Troy
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Troy -16
Three Things to Watch
1. Georgia State receiver Penny Hart
When Hart’s been healthy, he’s been nothing short of spectacular for Georgia State. As a freshman in 2015, Hart corralled 71 passes for 1,099 yards (15.5 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns. He was named the Sun Belt Conference’s Freshman of the Year that season. Hart played in just two games in 2016 due to a foot injury. Last year, he ended the season with 1,121 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 74 receptions and garnered accolades as a first-team All-Sun Belt selection.
Hart enters Thursday’s game with 267 yards receiving and one touchdown on 24 receptions this season. He posted a season-high 91 yards on five catches in Georgia State’s 34-15 loss to Western Michigan on Sept. 22. He’s due for one of his signature breakout games.
Troy held Hart to 38 yards and one touchdown on five receptions during his freshman season, and last year, he tallied similar numbers against the Trojans — 32 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches.
2. Troy’s monster pass rush
Coastal Carolina’s equipment staff is likely still attempting to remove the stains from quarterback Bryce Carpenter's jersey. Troy’s defense sacked Carpenter nine times in Saturday’s 45-21 win as Carlton Martial and Jarvis Hayes led the way with two sacks apiece.
Thanks to last week’s defensive efforts, Troy is tied for third in FBS in sacks with 18 (for 128 yards in losses). Hunter Reese ranks tops in the Sun Belt Conference for sacks with 3.5 this year. He was credited with half a sack against Coastal Carolina, and he’s registered sacks in all but one game this season.
Georgia State’s offensive line has been susceptible to pressure this season, and quarterback Dan Ellington could be in for a Carpenter-like night should things spiral out of control. The Panthers rank No. 101 in FBS in sacks allowed (14) and are giving up 2.8 sacks per game.
3. Troy’s sticky fingers
The Trojans defense has registered a turnover in each of its five games. Cornerbacks Tron Folsom and Tyler Murray are tied for second in the Sun Belt Conference with two interceptions apiece this season. Troy’s defensive unit is responsible for 11 turnovers this year, recovering five fumbles and intercepting six opposing passes.
Troy’s 11 turnovers gained this season are good enough to rank the team tied for seventh in FBS in that category. Georgia State has lost five fumbles and thrown two interceptions in 2018.
Seth Paige gave Georgia State a glimpse of the talent he possesses at the collegiate level during last week's breakout performance against ULM. Troy's defensive front, as shown against Coastal Carolina last week, is not just among the Sun Belt's finest; it ranks up there with the best in the nation. Paige and the Panthers' offense will struggle to gain traction against a dominant Troy defense.
The Trojans under Neal Brown have been one of the Sun Belt's most consistent programs, and that's not by accident. Troy typically doesn't lose conference matchups, and it most certainly doesn't do so at home.
Troy will inch one step closer to bowl eligibility with a win Thursday against Georgia State.
Prediction: Troy 38, Georgia State 13
— 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 Colin Edwards/Troy)