The Huskies are 3-0 and ready to finish up the non-conference slate against the weakest of four opponents. Georgia State has only existed for a few years and played for the first time in 2010. In 2011, the team won a single game. Last season the Panthers went without a single victory. Through three games in 2014, that win total has already been equaled with a slim 38-37 win over lowly Abilene Christian in week one. Losses to New Mexico State (34-31) and Air Force (48-38) have followed.
Nick Arbuckle is a 6-1, 230-pound junior out of Camarillo, California. He has played his first football for the Panthers this season, and so far the results have been mildly encouraging. Arbuckle has completed 78 of 126 passes (62%) for 1121 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and five interceptions.
His lowest passing total, and his worst performance out of the three, came against New Mexico State. He threw for 292 yards on 37 attempts, and his two interceptions outweighed his single score. In the two other contests Arbuckle has thrown for at least 400 yards and has thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions.
It's no secret that Washington has struggled to defend the pass. The return of Peters will help, but as was the case against Eastern, the 2nd and 3rd corners will be targeted heavily. Tape of this defense consists of far too many busted coverages against the go route for Georgia State not to test the defensive backfield.
A line that was pretty bad in last year's winless campaign lost 90 career starts and three to four starters. Tim Wynn returns at center for a final season, but the rest of the line has been patched up with JUCO transfers and some younger in-house players.
To be fully honest: I won't pretend to have an opinion on individual Georgia State linemen. Unless they've struck gold with a JUCO player that everyone else missed, the talent level is roughly at a two-star level. Arbuckle has been sacked seven times in three games against defenses with a fraction of the pass-rushing ferocity that Washington possesses.
Last season, there was not a lot of running in Georgia State's pro-stye, pass-heavy offense. So far this year, over an admittedly small sample size, a lot more attention has been paid to the ground game. Kyrsten Hammon leads the team with 38 carries for 197 yards and two scores, and Kyler Neal is second with 24 carries for 152 and a score. Overall, the Panthers have rushed for 433 yards and seven scores.
Arbuckle has not had a favorite target this year. Three receivers have between 15-16 catches for 202-223 yards. Five receivers have caught at least ten passes. Joel Ruiz may have the best overall line: 15 for 223 and two touchdowns.
This tendency to spread the ball around mitigates the impact of Marcus Peters a bit. Even if he mostly removes Ruiz or Lynquez Blair from the game, he'll only be removing a small fraction of Arbuckle's arsenal.
That being said, the talent here is not comparable to that of Eastern. Though inexperienced, Sidney Jones, Naijel Hale, and Darren Gardenhire are all long, athletic, and talented enough to take an incremental step forward and control a lesser group of receivers.
Danny Shelton and Hau'oli Kikaha are two of the top pass-rushers in the nation this year, and they haven't faced an offensive line this weak.
Georgia State may try to run the ball, but will likely be overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage. Washington's speed at linebacker will make running to the sideline equally difficult.
That leaves Kikaha and friends to pin back their ears and attack while Arbuckle tries to pick on Sidney Jones and Naijel Hale. He will likely make a few plays, but I'd be shocked if he survives four quarters without making at least one backbreaking mistake.