Though it may not seem like it, Week Zero was just a little over a month ago.
Just 30ish short days ago, everyone had excitement for the upcoming season, sprinkled with some level of hope. One of the teams in the Group of Five that had very high expectations was Georgia St. To some (including myself), they were considered a darkhorse in the very loaded Sun Belt East Division. But heading into October, GSU remains 1 of two winless teams in the Group of 5 (rebuilding Colorado St. being the other) sitting winless at 0-4.
Sure, the optimist would point out that Georgia St. started out 1-4 last year, so slow starts are nothing new. They tend to play a tough non-conference schedule to collect paychecks and prepare themselves for life in the Sun Belt. But after a 42-41 loss to a Charlotte team struggling in their own right and a nationally televised conference opener at home against Coastal Carolina, where they trailed 14-0 before I could finish watching the Jeopardy round, this feels different.
So why has a team that finished last season winning 7 of their last 8 games and returns several key cogs from one of the most potent rushing attacks in all of college football struggling this season? Simply put, it’s Murphy’s Law. If it can go wrong, it has.
I have not been able to watch every second of Georgia State Panther football this season, but I have watched enough to notice patterns. Week One against South Carolina, their Special Teams gave up two punt blocks that were returned for touchdowns. Week Two against North Carolina, the offense had a difficult time keeping up with the high-powered Tar Heels. Against Charlotte, it was the defense that let them down. Last week against the Chanticleers, it was all of the above.
The frustrating part for folks in Atlanta is that even if all aspects of the team were clicking, there is no guarantee that 0-4 would magically turn into 4-0. The reality is, they would probably be 2-2 at best. The schedule dealt them a bad hand, with 3 of the 4 teams on their non-conference slate bowl teams last year. And with the addition of four new conference rivals – three of which they face on the road – there is a TON of unknown.
I say all that is frustrating to folks in Atlanta…except if last Thursday night is any indication, there is not much of a fan base. The team needs support. There is definitely talent on this team, they did go to a bowl game last year after all. Darren Grainger is a really, really good quarterback. Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams are a very, very good combination at running back. And while the defense won’t draw any comparisons to last year’s Georgia squad, they are good enough to keep the team in games.
I have heard some podcasts discuss how this may affect coach Shawn Elliott’s job security. Frankly, I don’t think any knee-jerk decisions should be made based on this season. It’s funny to think that if this were any other season, you probably hear his name be mentioned for a certain job that’s available in the very same city.
The negativity has appeared quickly, and perhaps rightfully so. The conference is generating a lot of buzz thanks to a few Power 5 upsets by teams in their division, including their rival Georgia Southern. So it’s fair to wonder if they are maybe getting left behind in a conference full of new and exciting changes. But I really don’t think they are. Is this going to be a long season? Probably. But could GSU get their first win of the season Oct. 8 against the Eagles and a few more before the season is over? Without a doubt.
To be clear, I am not in Atlanta. I am not an alum. I am just a casual fan. So someone further in the forest may see the perspective a bit differently. But to this observer, the sky is not falling. I think this is just one one of those seasons where the deck is just kind of stacked against Georgia St. And hey, look on the bright side…
At least you aren’t Georgia Tech.