UNC at Georgia State: Final thoughts and prediction
A week after going on the road to play a very tough Sun Belt Conference opponent, North Carolina is doing it again.
This week the Tar Heels are headed to Atlanta to play Georgia State, looking to make it 2-0 on their oddly scheduled Group of 5 road trip. Carolina beat Appalachian State 63-61 in a barnburner last weekend in Boone, as Drake Maye and the Tar Heels offense got the win despite the defense.
For the Panthers, Week 1 featured a tightly contested game in SEC country. Georgia State went to South Carolina and gave the Gamecocks a contest, as the Panthers held a lead during the 2nd half before eventually falling 35-14.
Now the Heels and Panthers will meet up at Center Parc Stadium, formerly Turner Field, in a game that could be a lot closer than Carolina fans are hoping for.
Here’s what to expect:
The Georgia State program has a fairly solid thing going on under head coach Shawn Elliott. The Panthers have been bowl eligible in 4 of 5 years under Elliott, and they’ve won 3 of those bowl games.
In 2021, Georgia State went 8-5, but it finished the year on a 7-1 heater that included a win against Ball State in the Camellia Bowl. The Panthers schedule tough opponents, and they’ve had some close games over the years. They beat Tennessee back in 2019, and last year they went to Auburn and lost by just 10.
Now in 2022, Georgia State is starting the season off with a bang again. In Week 1, the Panthers gave South Carolina all it could handle. Georgia State was leading 14-12 after its initial drive of the 2nd half ended with a touchdown, and it just ran out of steam against the Gamecocks.
Still, Georgia State did some really good things in that opener. Defensively the Panthers held South Carolina to just 306 yards, including only 79 yards rushing. They outgained the Gamecocks in the game and they won the turnover battle. They just couldn’t finish drives, punting the ball 9 times in the loss.
The Panthers didn’t throw the ball well, but they did run it all over South Carolina. While quarterback Darren Grainger went just 7-for-29 passing with 111 yards, the Panthers as a team rushed for 200 yards and 1 touchdown.
On defense, Georgia State completely stifled the Gamecocks’ rushing attack. Spencer Rattler threw for 227 yards and a touchdown in the win, but he also threw 2 interceptions against the Georgia State secondary.
The Panthers certainly are not a bad football team, and they showed that with a good effort in Columbia, S.C.
The Tar Heels
The story of the season so far for Carolina has been offense, offense, offense.
The Heels followed up a 56-point performance against Florida A&M with a 63-point day at Appalachian State, though neither defense seemed interested in playing Saturday in Boone, N.C. Drake Maye has come into the season on absolute fire, even without top receiver Josh Downs against the Mountaineers.
The Tar Heels are doing pretty much everything right offensively. They’re running it well and passing it even better. They aren’t turning the ball over, and they’re converting drives into points when they get into the red zone.
On the flip side though, Carolina’s defense allowed 40 points during the 4th quarter alone Saturday and has struggled to stop much of anything.
It’ll be interesting to see if UNC’s defense can look better against the Panthers, though it probably can’t look worse. Downs is going to be a game-time decision in Atlanta, though Carolina showed this past weekend that it can move the ball without him if it must.
Last year when Georgia State made the trip to Chapel Hill, Carolina won 59-17.
Those were, of course, 2 different-looking teams. Both return a lot from those squads, but both also have some key changes throughout the lineup.
This weekend in Atlanta, Carolina needs to see its defense improve. The good news for the Tar Heels is that they’re going up against a Georgia State team that really didn’t do much offensively in against the Gamecocks.
The line on this game is a bit closer than some might think, with Carolina opening as a 9.5-point favorite. It already has been moving though, with UNC down to -7.5. The Panthers should give the Tar Heels another tough contest, though Carolina’s ability to score at will should give the Heels the edge.