Are You Ready For Some Georgia State Football?

Here are A Dandy Dozen FUN FACTS about GSU football to make sure you're really ready for the 2012 season.

•1.      We're First

Georgia State's first game kicks off on the first day NCAA football can be played. GSU is one of 33 Division I games played on that first day, Thursday, August 30. It is the only game played in the state of Georgia. It is the game played in the largest stadium on that night of the 33 openers.

•2.      New Rules

The NCAA moved kickoffs up from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. That's to lessen the number of injuries that occurred with the intense full-speed contact and should encourage fewer Kickoff Returns by kicking the ball deep into the end zone.

The players on the kickoff team must be within five yards of the yard line of the ball and can't take the long running starts some players did.

A touchback when a returner downs the ball in the end zone will now be brought out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line.

On punt plays, blockers cannot jump over a player in an attempt to make the block, they must jump more straight up like a volleyball player at a net. Players can still leap at an angle if there is no blocker.

If a player loses his helmet, he must stop or a penalty will be called and the play blown dead. That rule requires a player that lost his helmet to sit out a play.

•3.      Not Since Deion

Not since Deion Sanders was playing football for the Falcons and baseball for the Braves will the Georgia Dome be the home field for a two-sport baseball-football star.

Georgia State junior Mark Hogan has been a two-year starter at linebacker and is the second-leading tackler in GSU's short two-year history. He made a game-winning interception in overtime last year against South Alabama. In the spring, Hogan put on the cleats and moved to the GSU baseball diamond as an outfielder. Hogan batted .319 (to lead the team) with 20 runs scored, a .448 on-base percentage and a .457 slugging percentage with a couple home runs. He bats left-handed (didn't Deion?).

•4.      100,000 Again

GSU played before 117,251 home fans in the Dome in the inaugural season and then 101,621 in the season's final game at Alabama. We don't know about 100,000 attendance at home yet for 2012, but we know the Panthers could play before another 100,000 road crowd when GSU travels to Tennessee on Sept. 8.

•5.      America's Busiest and Most Popular Stadium?

Football is king in the South and king at the Georgia Dome. The Georgia Dome has become one of the most widely-known and favored stadiums in America in its 20 years of existence.

This year, the Dome hosts 8 games in 7 days to start the football season. On Saturday, Aug. 25, the Dome will host the annual Corky Kell Kickoff Classic with five games in one day, making at least 14 hours of football. Ten top-ranked teams from Georgia's largest classification will battle under the bright lights with the first game at 9 a.m. and the last an 8:30 p.m. kickoff if the games don't run long. GPB-TV will broadcast as well as radio.  On Thursday, Aug. 30, college football begins with the Georgia State-South Carolina State game. That is followed by the Friday, Aug. 31 game with N. C. State and Tennessee coming to the big stage. On Saturday, Sept. 1, Clemson heads south and Auburn heads east to meet under the big top of the Georgia Dome.  Of those 8 games, only one team plays on its home field: Georgia State.

The hometown Atlanta Falcons will be away during the 7-day extravaganza, but will be under the national spotlight at home in the Dome when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos come to town for exciting Monday Night football on Sept. 17.

The popular Dome has hosted Olympics basketball and gymnastics, a pair of NFL Super Bowls, will host its third NCAA Final Four this year (the 75th anniversary game), after also hosting a Women's Final Four. The Dome will host the annual New Year's Eve Chick-fil-A Bowl game, as well as another SEC Championship game. It was home for the Atlanta Hawks when they played Michael Jordan and the Bulls before an NBA record 62,000-plus. It has hosted international soccer (Mexico vs. Venezuela), and all the entertainment events from concerts to WCW Wrestling. It's even featured on the USA TV series "Necessary Roughness" as the fictional home of the New York Hawks.

•6.      State Champs Who Won At The Dome Now With the Panthers

A quartet of GSU Panthers won the last two state championships playing in the Georgia Dome, so playing there with GSU makes it a turf to defend and a place to expect to win.

QB Ben McLane led his Brookwood Broncos to the state championship in 2010 in a wild, 52-38, win over Colquitt County. A wide receiver and safety on that same team is Panther WR Nate Minor. And, a junior defensive stalwart on that team is current Panther LB Jah-Mai Davidson.

OL Garrett Gorringe was a key part of the explosive Grayson Rams team that swept to a 15-0 season and 24-0 state title win over Walton last year.

•7.      The Only Uniform Of Its Kind

The Panthers Nike uniforms are one of a kind because when GSU began football in 2010, a special Sparks font was created for use by the athletics department and for the uniform numbers. The Sparks font was so named in honor of GSU's first president. So, each numeral is a unique number not seen on any other college, pro or high school uniform in America.

•8.      How Long Is A Football Field ?

Don't be fooled into answering 100 yards. A football field is 120 yards long because each end zone is 10 yards in depth and that is where the goal posts are placed. It's technically that 101st yard that scores the TD.

A football field is 160 feet wide, 60 feet from each sideline to the hashmark and 40 feet between the two hashmarks. That 160 feet translates to 53.333 yards.

•9.      FBS and FCS

The top levels of NCAA football are the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). There are 120 FBS football schools with seven transitional (GSU is one of those seven) teams over the next three years. The FBS schools are eligible to compete in a Bowl game (there were 35 played last year between Dec. 17 and Jan. 9).  There are 11 FBS conferences for football.

There are 115 FCS football schools that compete to play in the NCAA Tournament with 20 bids. Between the FBS and FCS, there are 242 football-playing schools, with a total of 396 athletics programs as 104 do not play football (much like GSU before football). There are 14 FCS conferences for football.

In addition, there are 154 colleges who play NCAA Division II football, another 239 who play NCAA Division III and another 86 who play at the NAIA level for football. Add all five of those levels up and there are 725 colleges and universities that have football teams. In addition, another 700 schools have athletics programs, but do not have football teams, for 1,425 colleges with athletics at those five levels of competition.

•10.  Working Overtime

The NCAA didn't adopt overtime until 1996, meaning there are tie games galore in schools' football histories. There are no ties in Georgia State's two-year history, but the Panthers wasted no time in getting into the overtime play. GSU's third-ever game was an overtime game (a 34-27 loss to Jacksonville State). GSU's seventh game also went into overtime, but this time the Panthers prevailed, 20-17. 

In the second season, GSU played its first double overtime game, defeating South Alabama 27-20. That was game seven and the Panthers ran off two more OT games in back-to-back-to-back weeks.).

Amazingly, GSU has played 22 games in its history and five of those have gone into overtime, or 22.7% of all the games played in GSU history. The odds are pretty good that is the NCAA career record for a school for overtime games versus their total games played.

The moral of the message: NEVER leave a Georgia State game early.

•11.  The GSU Roster

The GSU team, like most, comes in all sizes and shapes. There's the 5-7, 150-pound Darren McCray, as well as a 5-7, 160-pounder and a 5-8, 165-pounder on the roster. On the other side of the spectrum, 6-foot-8 Ulrick John and 6-7 Ramell Davis lead the way. In the weight scales, nose tackle Terrance Woodard is around 320 pounds, with another at 315 pounds and another pair at 310 pounds, so that might depend on recent meals eaten or practices to work weight off as to the heaviest.

The majority of student-athletes come from Georgia, but a good 25% of the roster comes from out-of-state. Florida tops that list with a dozen, with next-door-neighbor South Carolina next. The NFL player drafted from GSU came from Canada; the NFL free agent signee had come from Arizona. If you yell Mark, four Panthers will respond with that first name, which is the same quartet you would get if you called out for all the Smiths to shake your hand. There's also three Kings on the roster.

•12.  Experienced Coaches Know Winning and Leadership

The GSU coaching staff has learned from legends. Coach Bill Curry played for Bobby Dodd, Vince Lombardi and Don Shula, competing in Super Bowls and Pro Bowls.

Associate head coach George Pugh played for "Bear" Bryant at Alabama, winning a national championship. He later coached for Jackie Sherrill at both Pitt (Sugar Bowl) and for seven years at Texas A&M (three Cotton Bowls).

Defensive coordinator Anthony Midget was an All-America pick under Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, playing in four Bowls as well as the National Championship BCS game. Midget was drafted as a DB by the Atlanta Falcons and then went to the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Offensive coordinator John Bond has coached prolific offenses at Georgia Tech, Northern Illinois, Army and Illinois State, ranking among national leaders. Bond played one season at Arkansas under Lou Holtz.

Linebackers and Special teams coach Jason French was an eight-year Canadian professional player.

Running backs coach Joe Hamilton is a College Football Hall of Fame candidate after being the Heisman Trophy runner-up and the Davey O'Brien Award winner as best college QB while at Georgia Tech under George O'Leary and Ralph Friedgen. He played three years under NFL coach Tony Dungy.

Defensive ends coach Ricky Thomas coached 15 years in the NFL with Tony Dungy and had played at Alabama. Thomas was on Coach Curry's staff at both Kentucky and Alabama.

Defensive tackles coach Chris Ward was an All-SEC player at Kentucky and a seventh round NFL draft pick. He also played several pro years in the NFL Europe League.

Offensive line coach Mike Riddle played for Coach Curry in the SEC at Kentucky.

Tight ends coach Craig Harmon coached under offensive coordinator John Bond at Northern Illinois and had played college quarterback there.

Strength and conditioning coach Ben Pollard has tutored FBS schools like Alabama, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and TCU.