Getting to know Georgia St., Panthers no strangers to SEC schools

Published 11:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2023

At the time, LSU was in the midst of an 11-2 season that culminated with a 41- 24 victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

The year was 2010 — not that long ago — but the first season tonight’s LSU opponent, Georgia State, ever fielded a football team.

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The Panthers’ first coach was Bill Curry, who’d had also coached at Georgia Tech and Alabama, the latter of which beat Curry and GSU 63-7 to finish that initial season.

The downtown Atlanta school originally played in the now-imploded Georgia Dome, but has since moved to Center Parc Stadium, formerly known as Turner Field when it was home to the Atlanta Braves.

The school is probably best known for graduating Julia Roberts, as well as former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, not to mention Christopher Brian

Bridges, better known in the rap world as Ludacris.

But the school is not totally devoid of football history, even as short as the sport’s tenure may be there.

The Panthers joined the Sun Belt Conference for the 2013 season and have been to five bowl games in the last eight last years, winning three of them.

But the biggest win in program history was probably in 2019, when, as 25-point underdogs, the Panthers shocked Tennessee 38-30. That is still its lone victory against a Power Five school, which includes six other games against Southeastern Conference teams.

The Panthers also put a scare into Auburn in 2021, leading 24-18 before those Tigers scored on a fourth-down play with 45 seconds remaining in the game.

Although this will be the first meeting between LSU and Georgia State and the 13th game that the Panthers have ever played on real grass, current Panthers’ head coach Shawn Elliot is no stranger to Tiger Stadium. In his seventh year as head coach, he’s coached against the Tigers four times, twice while an assistant at Appalachian State and twice more while at South Carolina.

In fact, it was South Carolina’s 45-24 loss to LSU in 2015, which had to be moved to Baton Rouge at the last minute due to flooding in Columbia, that indirectly landed him his first head coach job.

Then-South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier resigned the next day, and Elliott took over as interim head coach for the Gamecocks final six games of the season. He landed his current gig the next season.

The Panthers (6-4, 3-4 Sun Belt) are bowl eligible but take a three-game losing streak to Baton Rouge.

“We’ve solidified postseason play,” Elliot said. “We’ve got a lot to look forward to. It’s not all gloom and doom.”

For LSU it’s more a case of not looking ahead toward next week’s regular-season finale against Texas A&M, with the subplot of not doing anything to hurt Jayden Daniels’ Heisman Trophy hopes.

The LSU quarterback is coming off the best game of a spectacular season last week against Florida — a SEC-record 606 yards total offense while becoming the first player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to throw for more than 350 yards and rush for more than 200.

Elliott called Daniels “the best player in college football,” seconding an opinion voiced by LSU head coach Brian Kelly most of the season.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” Elliott said.

But Elliott also recalled that his team played one of this season’s other top Heisman candidates, Oregon’s Bo Nix when Nix was still at Auburn for Georgia State’s near-upset in 2021. Nix ended up getting benched in that game.

“We’re going to see what this guy’s got,” Elliott said. “Maybe we can get him benched too.”