Western Kentucky (4-4) at Georgia State (0-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 2, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Georgia Dome (71,228) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: Sun Belt Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: WKU 2-2, GSU 0-4. Away Record: WKU 1-2, GSU 0-4. Neutral Record: WKU 1-0, GSU 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 1-3, GSU 0-3. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will kick off a three-game road trip on Saturday when they pay a visit to the Georgia State Panthers for a Sun Belt Conference battle at the Georgia Dome.
A year removed from its first bowl game, Western Kentucky is still hanging in there for a chance to go bowling again. The Hilltoppers own a 4-4 overall record through the first eight games. However, they have lost their last two games and have fallen to 1-3 in the Sun Belt. The most recent setback was a 32-26 disappointment against Troy in Bowling Green.
In their first season at the FBS level the Panthers are still searching for their first win. An 0-8 record, including an 0-3 mark against league foes, is pretty par for the course for a team that is entering a new league and making the step up, but the Panthers still want to avoid a winless start to their FBS era. On Saturday, the Panthers didn't come close to that goal as they were routed 38-10, by ULM.
Not only is this the first meeting between these teams as conference foes or at the FBS level, it is the first matchup ever.
Bobby Petrino has certainly made sure the Hilltoppers move the ball in his first season as head coach. In fact, WKU is leading the Sun Belt in total offense (480.6 ypg), despite struggling to put wins up against their league opponents.
At the heart of the offensive attack is Antonio Andrews. The star running back has been the definition of a workhorse for the Hilltoppers as he has 1,180 yards and 11 touchdowns on 180 carries already. Andrews is second to only Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey in rushing yards per game at 147.5. Even though WKU lost to Troy last time out, Andrews was as consistent as ever as he piled up 144 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. He has had at least 25 carries and 140 yards in four straight contests. Andrews also makes plays in the passing game as he has 26 receptions for 293 yards this season, including a team-best 125 yards on seven catches against Troy.
As far as throwing the ball goes the Hilltoppers have piled up yards. Brandon Doughty leads the passing attack, completing 67.7 percent of his pass attempts fro 2,045 yards and eight scores. It is not all good news though, as Doughty has also been picked off 12 times. He had neither a touchdown nor an interception against Troy, though he did throw for a season-best 387 yards.
Andrews was the most productive receiver against Troy but the Hilltoppers have plenty of players who contribute. In all there are five different pass- catchers who have brought in at least 20 balls. The leaders are Joel German 26 receptions, 339 yards) and Willie McNeal (25 receptions, 342 yards, TD).
As far as defenses go, the Hilltoppers could certainly be doing much worse. Overall they are allowing 355.9 yards and 26.5 points per game, though those numbers have spiked upwards in league action. Still the Hilltoppers rank at the top of the league in total defense. Xavius Boyd (73 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks) has been the unquestioned leader of the unit, topping the conference in sacks and tackles for loss.
The Panthers are last in the league in both total (324.4 ypg) and scoring defense (15.8 ppg). In fact they have scored just 16 touchdowns and been in the red zone on just 15 occasions.
In the loss to ULM, starting quarterback Ronnie Bell was finally benched after throwing a pair of interceptions. Ben McLane entered the contest and threw for 86 yards on 10-of-21 passing, but was also intercepted once. It remains to be seen whether Ball (113-of-241, 1,520 yards, 10 TDs, seven INTS) or McLane (21- of-41, 285 yards, two TDs, INT) will get the start against WKU.
No matter who is under center it is clear that Albert Wilson will be getting the bulk of the passes thrown his way. Wilson has 43 receptions for 798 yards and six touchdowns this season, which are all the best marks on the team by far. Robert Davis (30 receptions, 397 yards, three TDs) is a decent second option and one of just three other players with 10 or more receptions.
Travis Evans is leading the team in rushing with 333 yards, but he is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and 47.6 yards a contest. Evans has scored one of just two rushing touchdowns for the Panthers, who as a team, average a mere 3.2 yards per carry.
Georgia State is also the worst defensive team in the Sun Belt, ranking last in total defense (479 ypg), as well as in points allowed (36 ppg). The Panthers also have just eight sacks and the worst opponents third down conversion rate (62-of-119). Joseph Patterson (57 tackles) is one of only a few productive players on the unit.
Something has to give for Western Kentucky. A team doesn't usually lead a conference in total offense and defense and not win more games. Even though the Hilltoppers have struggled with turnovers, with a Sun Belt worst minus-13 turnover margin, they will get things figured out on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted OutcomeL Western Kentucky 38, Georgia State 13
10/30 10:40:00 ET