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Fall Sports Predictions, Part 1

FOOTBALL

For the upcoming season, the Panthers will be competing in the Sun Belt Conference and FBS conference, the highest level of competition in college football.

This season should be a transitional year for the Panthers as they won’t be expected to upset FBS powerhouses such as defending back to back national champions Alabama (Oct. 5) and West Virginia (Sept. 14).

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There are several notable matchups against Sun Belt Conference foes Troy (Oct. 12), Arkansas State (Nov. 23) and Louisiana Monroe (Oct. 26), which won’t be a cake walk. Those teams have made noise in Sun Belt for several seasons by either capturing conference titles and/or having key wins against FBS teams like last season for instance when Louisiana Monroe got an upset win over 8th ranked Arkansas.

However, Georgia State has familiarity with some of the opponents on their schedule having faced them in previous seasons such as Jacksonville St. and South Alabama which includes a 27-21 victory against South Alabama in 2011.

The Panthers will face Texas State (Oct. 19), a program that made the big jump to the Sun Belt like they did. The Bobcats didn’t leave on a winning note before exiting the Western Athletic Conference, ending with a 4-8 record.

Wins against Jacksonville St. (Sept. 21), South Alabama (Nov. 30) and Texas State would go a long way in establishing the foundation for a winning culture under the program being built by Georgia State head coach Trent Miles.

3-9 is a realistic record to expect from the Panthers for the upcoming season. By the 2016 season, the Panthers should be able to make some noise themselves in the Sun Belt, with Miles having his first senior football class at Georgia State.

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MEN’S BASKETBALL

Starting the 2013-2014 season for the Panther’s men’s basketball team will return to a familiar challenge, competing in the Sun Belt Conference, having been one of the founding members of the conference when it was began operations in 1976. The move marks 29 years since the school’s departure from the Sun Belt to compete in the Trans America Athletic Conference (now Atlantic Sun Conference).

This past season the Panthers struggled at times finishing with a 15-16 record (10-8 in conference) — at one point losing nine of twelve in a difficult stretch in the middle of the season. The team rebounded by winning six of their next seven games and closed with a 9-5 record to complete their season.

Through the late signing period, the Panthers added two guards in Isaiah Dennis of Eagle’s Landing (McDonough, Ga.) and Jaylen Hinton of Trinity Episcopal (Richmond, Va.). Dennis averaged 16.2 points and 4.3 assists per game — while Hinton averaged 17.5 points per game and 5.0 assists per game. The two players will compete for spots in the Panthers rotation in the fall.

The Panthers are still waiting on the NCAA decision on former Kentucky Wildcat point guard Ryan Harrow who is transferring to Georgia State in an effort to be closer to his ailing father. Harrow applied for a hardship waiver that would allow him to play for the Panthers without having to sit out the requisite year. There is no timetable on the NCAA’s decision but it is expected to be sometime during the summer.

As the Panthers move into the Sun Belt and into the public eye, the competition will improve. Georgia State has the advantage of continuity on their side, however, returning four of five starters (losing senior center James Vincent to graduation) from last year’s squad including CAA Rookie of the year in guard RJ Hunter. Ron Hunter, the head coach of the team will be entering his third year as coach of the Panthers and with that added experienced, it will improve the Panthers chance at a winning season.

A winning season is not out of the realm of possibility.