The Georgia State Panthers (3-8) host the South Carolina State Bulldogs (7-4, 6-2 MEAC) Thursday to kick off the 2012 college football season. The game is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Georgia Dome. Bob Neal and Brian Jordan will call the game for CSS.
Not only is Thursday's game significant as the beginning of the college football season for both teams, Georgia State is beginning its transition into the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 2012. The two-year process will begin with the Panthers playing in the Colonial Athletic Conference this year and the Sun Belt in 2013.
Georgia State's first game Thursday will also be head coach Bill Curry's last season opener at the helm. Curry announced during preseason camp that 2012 would be his last year on the sideline before heading to the athletic department as special assistant to the Director of Athletics.
These team's faced off last year on Oct. 15 in Orangeburg, S.C. where South Carolina State came from behind and emerged with a 10-point victory.
What to watch for: Georgia State
Georgia State won its first two season openers in team history, but can they make it three straight? The Panthers defeated Shorter and Clark Atlanta, respectively, the past two seasons. South Carolina State, though, poses a much tougher opponent to kick off the year.
How will red shirt freshman Ben McLane fare in his first start? He's had a year to learn the system, and has plenty of winning experience after leading Brookwood High School to win the state championship at the Georgia Dome in 2010. The no-huddle offense for the Panthers provides a new challenge for McLane to master after running the I-formation at Brookwood.
Only one starter on the offensive lines returns in 2012. With McLane starting for the first time, it might be a work in progress to keep him protected.
Donald Russell hasn't seen a ton of work in practice this August after dealing with injuries throughout 2011. The senior running back will be relied on this year to be a leader on the young offensive squad, and the coaches want him to be fresh heading into Week 1.
The Panthers were outscored by opponents 123-34 in fourth quarter play last season. Can Georgia State keep up the level of play throughout the entire ballgame this year?
David Miller has never attempted a field goal in college, but he will start at kicker Thursday night. The sophomore beat out Matt Ehasz for the job, and with Christian Benvenuto suspended for at least one game, Miller gets the nod. Georgia State only connected on 10 of 22 field goal attempts last season.
Defensive coordinator Anthony Midgets 4-2-5 scheme encountered issues stopping the run last season. South Carolina State averaged 191.1 yards on the ground in 2011. If the Panthers revert to their old ways, SCSU will be running all over the them.
What to watch for: South Carolina State
Last season was the first time in three years the South Carolina State Bulldogs did not win at least a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title. Look for the Bulldogs to start the season quickly to make sure they're headed in the right direction early.
The Bulldogs are a more experienced unit in 2012 after being forced to play 13 true freshmen and eight redshirt freshmen last year.
Linebacker Joe Thomas finished the 2011 season with 100 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions and five tackles for a loss. Look for Thomas to continue to be everywhere on defense.
Senior running back Asheton Jordan averaged 5.6 yards per carry last year and is entering his second year as the Bulldogs starter. He's expected to have a breakout season in the MEAC. Jordan rushed for 74 yards in last year's meeting with Georgia State.
Don't throw towards cornerback Daris Drummond as the junior lead the Bulldogs last year with eight pass breakups. Drummond is also electric in the return game and was named to the All-MEAC first team as a punt return specialist.
South Carolina State is 4-6 in season-opening games and has dropped its last two meetings against FBS schools.
The Bulldogs return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Richard Cue who went 5-1 last year after taking over at quarterback.
- Alex Welch contributed to this article