Can Georgia State hang with the Auburn Tigers on Saturday?

The Panthers will take their first trip to Auburn and try to pick up their second straight win, this time against a quality SEC opponent. Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

Georgia State’s grueling out-of-conference schedule comes to an end at Jordan-Hare Stadium against Auburn on Saturday night. What lies ahead could spell a .500 record or a 1-3 start.

The Panthers will take their first trip to Auburn and try to pick up their second straight win, this time against a quality SEC opponent.  While winning is the ultimate goal, this game will test Shawn Elliott’s ability to change the roster. 

Auburn is coming off an exceptional performance at Penn State, where they lost 28-20 to the Nittany Lions and will look to rebound with a home win against the Panthers. In the Tigers’ first two games, they have outscored opponents 122-10. Even against Akron and Alabama State, that’s a scary sight for any team who doesn’t come out hot to start.

With the Panthers and Tigers just days away from their matchup, a few players for both teams could stand out.

Players to Watch

Darren Grainger, Quarterback, Georgia State

After Cornelious Brown struggled in back-to-back games against the Army Black Knights and North Carolina Tar Heels, the Panthers opted to start Grainger this past weekend against the Charlotte 49ers. The redshirt junior completed just six passes, but two of them were touchdowns.

The Furman transfer took second-half snaps in the first two games, but the 20-9 win over the 49ers may have given Georgia State’s coaching staff a reliable second option to start, should they choose to not start Brown again this week. 

Jamari Thrash, Wide Reciever, Georgia State 

Thrash is the only bright spot for the Georgia State offense amid a terrible season. Through three games, the redshirt sophomore has caught 11 passes for 167 yards and touchdown (all led the team). He recorded eight catches for 87 yards against Army and on Saturday, caught two more passes for 61 yards and his first touchdown of the season. 

Look for Thrash to continue being a critical part of the Georgia State offense against Auburn. While the Panthers may not score much against an improved Auburn defense, Thrash will likely be involved in critical third and fourth down conversions.

His role as a critical receiver in a struggling Panthers offense so far this season is also something to look at if they fall behind early. Expect him to see targets often as the Panthers try to show life against a talented Auburn defense. 

Bo Nix, Quarterback, Auburn

Following a disappointing 2020 season, Nix has roared back to life to begun his junior season. Entering the year, Nix faced adversity from the War Eagle faithful. While a win over the Panthers won’t quiet his critics, even an off-game against a non-conference will cause Auburn fans to doubt whether he can carry the Tigers back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. 

Through three games, Nix has efficiently completed over 65% for 568 yards and five touchdowns. Coming off the Penn State loss, Nix will look to keep the same intensity against the Panthers.

Tank Gisby, Running Back, Auburn 

The Tigers have a talented backfield that will flex their muscle against a poor Georgia State rushing defense. Following a tough game against the Nittany Lions, the Tigers rushing attack looks to have another productive outing.

Gisby has had a tremendous start to sophomore season as a threat both as a runner and catcher. Through three games, he’s got 47 carries for 343 yards and four touchdowns. For context, he carried the ball 138 times for 834 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Score Prediction: 56-12, Tigers

Georgia State’s flaws on defense are still a bit evident, and an exceptional program like Auburn could take advantage of that from the game’s first drive. Look for Nix to shine early in the first half and test the Panthers’ secondary. Gisby will continue his impressive start to the season and have another big day in front of the Auburn faithful in Jordan-Hare. 

For the visiting team, the Panthers may use both Brown and Grainger under center throughout the afternoon. 

Fans looking to watch Saturday’s game can catch it on SEC Network at 4 p.m. EST.