ATLANTA -- Georgia State is back on the practice field, working through a rare early open date on the schedule.

The Panthers (0-1) have begun preparations for next week's game at No. 4 Penn State (Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m., BTN). If the Nittany Lions, who host Pittsburgh this week, maintain their No. 4 ranking, they will be the second-highest ranked team that Georgia State has faced and the highest since the Panthers' 2013 game at No. 1 Alabama.

After this week's opening, Georgia State will play nine straight weeks before enjoying its second open date on Nov. 18.

"With an open date this early, you don't get to self-scout like you could have six or seven games," head coach Shawn Elliott said, "so we are really focusing on getting better - minimizing turnovers, minimizing mistakes, the fits defensively, working on special teams. And then recruiting."

The game at Penn State is the first of two straight road tests for Georgia State, which travels to Charlotte on Sept. 23. The next home game for the Panthers is Sept. 30, when GSU hosts Memphis.

NOTING THE PANTHERS:

* Head coach Shawn Elliott said of the opening game loss to Tennessee State, ""Our defense played well and gave us a chance to tie game at the end, overall the special teams were positive, and there were some good individual efforts, but all in all, we have to play better as a football team. We've got to run the ball better, and obviously we can't have five turnovers."

* Eight members of the Georgia State's 2017 signing class, the first for head coach Shawn Elliott and his staff, saw action in the opening game, including six true freshmen. Two newcomers started the game in junior college safety DeAndre Applin, who had a game-high nine tackles, and true freshman guard Pat Bartlett. Also seeing action were junior college linebacker Jalen Wade and five other true freshmen: WR Tamir Jones, LB Victor Heyward, LB Trajan Stephens-McQueen, NG Dontae Willis and DE Hardrick Willis.

* With one tackle for loss against Tennessee State, senior defensive end Mackendy Cheridor tied the GSU career record of 22. His next tackle for loss will break the mark that he currently shares with Joseph Peterson (2012-15).

* Just a redshirt sophomore, Penny Hart already ranks among the Georgia State career leaders in receptions (84/6th), receiving yards (1,196/5th) and touchdown receptions (9/5th) after just 16 career games.. Hart has averaged 5.25 receptions per game.

* Senior safety Bryan Williams is the first Panther to play a sixth season after being granted an extra year by the NCAA. Williams originally joined the Georgia State program in 2012. His older brother, tight end Arthur Williams, played for the Panthers in their first two seasons (2010-11), meaning Georgia State has never played a football game without a Williams brother on the roster.

* Georgia State ranks among the national leaders with 10 current team members who have already graduated.