EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
Let's be completely honest here: This is arguably the worst team in the FBS. All of those media outlets and websites that try to rank all 125 teams in the highest division of football? They almost unanimously pick Georgia State as No. 125. And why not? The Panthers were 1-10 as an FCS school last year (losing 35-3 to WVU's opening opponent, William & Mary) and now step up to the FBS in just the school's fourth season of football, and with a new coach to boot.
But even the worst team in the worst league (Sun Belt) in the country has a few things going for it. It won't show up this year, but the school has a huge enrollment in one of the strongest football areas in the country (Atlanta). It plays its home games at the Georgia Dome and it's not too farfetched to think that in a few years this could be a program in demand in the next round of conference realignment.
Still, this year is going to be a real problem. The Panthers have neither the talent nor the depth to face a schedule that includes nine FBS opponents, including WVU and Alabama. But coach Trent Miles has built programs before and he could do so again here.
Like William & Mary in the opener (Kevin Rogers), the Panthers also have a first-year offensive coordinator with a rather impressive resume. Jeff Jagodzinski was the head coach at Boston College and worked with Miles when both were with the Green Bay Packers. Jagodzinski might not have a lot of talent to work with, but he does have experience with nine starters returning from last year.
There will be a quarterback competition in the fall, but returning sophomore starter Ben McLane (1,592 yards, 10 TDs, 11 interceptions) seems to have the early edge over 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior college transfer Clay Chastain. The winner has plenty of targets in a deep and experienced receiver group led by senior Albert Wilson (47 catches for 947 yards, plus work in the return game), but the line was awful last year and has to get better.
On defense, Terrance Woodard is an NFL prospect on a line that figures to be the team's strength, and the linebackers are solid. But the back end is likely to have trouble against West Virginia's passing attack given that only cornerback Brent McLendon is a proven commodity and there are plenty of places to attack other than his side.
Georgia State's football program was formed in 2008 under Bill Curry and began play in 2010. Curry, the former coach at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky and later an ESPN analyst, retired after going 6-5, 3-8 and then 1-10 in GSU's first year in the Colonial Athletic Association. ... Miles takes over as the Panthers' coach as the school begins its first year in the FBS. He was an assistant at Stanford, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Washington and the Green Bay Packers, among other stops, before coaching Indiana State the last five seasons. He was 19-14 there the last three years after starting 0-12 and 1-10 while inheriting a team that had won just one game in the previous three seasons. ... Georgia State plays no teams this season that it faced in 2012.