After winning their final four games of the 2015 season to become bowl eligible, the Georgia State Panthers hope to improve on last year's run as they host Ball State on Friday to kick off the 2016 season.
It will be the first of three consecutive match-ups against larger conference opponents for the Panthers. The next two games will be at Air Force and Wisconsin.
The Panthers beat Ball State in 2015, pulling off a 31-19 win over the Cardinals in Muncie, Indiana.
Georgia State went 6-6 in 2015 and earned a trip to the AutoNation Cure Bowl, where they were beaten by San Jose State 27-16.
It will be tough for the Panthers to duplicate their 2015 campaign as they'll have to replace seasoned signal caller Nick Arbuckle. Arbuckle led the team with nearly 4400 passing yards, 28 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions.
Three of the Panther's top four receivers from last year will return. Penny Hart led the team with 71 catches for 1099 yards and Robert Davis finished second with 61 catches and 980 yards. Keith Rucker (39 receptions for 522 yards) also returns.
Georgia State also returns its top four running backs from last year and will need all of them to help replace some of the offense that left with Arbuckle's departure.
The Panthers should look good on defense as well, as they'll return a number of top lineman and members of the secondary.
Friday's game kicks off at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta at 7 p.m.
Copyright 2016 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.