Georgia State’s 2012 football schedule includes plenty of firsts: its first trip to Rocky Top, and its first eight games in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The schedule, released today, likely won’t be easy: aside from the Panthers going 3-8 last season, which brings its own issues in all areas, four of their conference opponents made it to the FCS playoffs last season.
The Panthers, whose bye doesn’t come until the season’s last week, will open at the Georgia Dome, either on Thursday, Aug. 30 or Friday, Aug. 31, depending upon the Atlanta Falcons’ schedule.
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“Our schedule is a great step forward for us to go and compete in this league,” coach Bill Curry said. “We’ve got to make a great leap forward with this team, to be competitive. That’s what we intend to do. We started working the day after the season, and we are continuing to work so that we will be competitive in the CAA.”
The Panthers will begin to see if they have improved their offense, defense and special teams, each of which struggled in 2011, by hosting South Carolina State, a traditional power in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs averaged 28.5 points per game, allowed just 18.5 last season and defeated the Panthers 23-13 in a sloppy game in at S.C. State.
Of course, coach Bill Curry and his staff must keep the team focused on S.C. State and not on the next week’s game at Neyland Stadium, which seats 102,455. It could be the most fans the Panthers have ever played in front of, surpassing the 101,821 that watched them lose at Alabama in the 2010 season finale. Of course, Georgia State will receive $500,000 to play there.
Georgia State will then return home to face Texas San Antonio, another recent start-up program. The Roadrunners defeated the Panthers 17-14 in overtime at the Alamodome last season.
The Panthers will begin their first official season in the CAA by hosting Richmond. They couldn’t have asked for a better opponent. The Spiders went 0-8 in the conference last season.
The Panthers will then travel to William and Mary, a traditional power in the CAA that went 5-6 last season.
Georgia State will host New Hampshire, the first of the four conferences foes that made it to the postseason. The Wildcats will be without quarterback Kevin Decker, a senior who passed for more than 3,200 yards last season. But do feature linebacker Matt Evans, who led the FCS with 7.67 tackles per game last season.
The Panthers will then travel to Rhode Island, which went 2-6 last season, before hosting Villanova for homecoming. The Wildcats went 1-7 in the conference last season.
The fun, if that’s what it can be considered, ends with Villanova.
The Panthers close at James Madison, are at home against Old Dominion for the second consecutive season and end the regular season with a pack-a-coat game at Maine. That trio went 27-12 last season and each participated in the playoffs. Only Maine advanced past the second round, losing to Georgia Southern in the quarterfinals. Of course, the Panthers were handily beaten by the Monarchs last season at the Georgia Dome.
“There’s a tendency to look at those and understand how difficult it is,” Curry said. “We have to look at the first part and divide it into thirds and look at how we prepare for each one. Hope is by the time we get to the last three we will be toughened up by other battles and not beat up so that we can play our best.
“Teams that are reasonably healthy do the best down the stretch. Hard work we are doing right now is the most important thing we can do to get ready for not only that stretch, but for the whole season.”
Georgia State schedule
Date — Opponent — 2011 Record — Comment
Aug. 30 or 31 — South Carolina State — 7-4 — Defeated GSU last season
Sept. 8 — at Tennessee — 5-7 — Panthers’ second game against a SEC school
Sept. 15 — Texas San Antonio — 4-6 — Defeated GSU last season
* – Sept. 22 — Richmond — 3-8 — Panthers’ CAA opener
* – Sept. 29 — at William & Mary — 5-6 — First CAA road game
* – Oct. 6 — New Hampshire — 8-4 — Lost in 2nd round of FCS playoffs
* – Oct. 13 — at Rhode Island — 3-8 — 0-8 in conference last season
* – Oct. 20 — Villanova — 2-9 — Homecoming opponent for Panthers
* – Oct. 27 — at James Madison — 8-5 — Advanced to 2nd round of FCS playoffs
* – Nov. 3 — Old Dominion — 10-3 — Defeated GSU last season
* – Nov. 10 — at Maine — 9-4 — Advanced to FCS quarterfinals last season.
* – Colonial Athletic Association games