NEW ORLEANS -- Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott, along with senior outside linebacker Michael Shaw and junior left tackle Hunter Atkinson, represented the Panthers at the annual Sun Belt Conference Football Day Monday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.

Elliott embarks on his second season at the helm after leading the Panthers to a 7-5 record in his debut in 2017, including the school's first bowl victory with a 27-17 win over Western Kentucky in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.

"We're excited about opportunities we have in 2018, including the chance to play in a conference championship game," Elliott said. "2017 was a very special one for Georgia State University as we won our first bowl game and had our first FBS winning season. So there were a lot of great positives in 2017, and now we're looking to accomplish a lot more firsts in 2018."

One of the storylines for all the teams in New Orleans is the introduction of divisional play in the conference, capped by the inaugural Sun Belt Conference Championship Game on Dec. 1, 2018 at the site of the divisional winner with the highest winning percentage.

"I really want our players to understand how important it is that we have opportunity to get to that championship game and play for a championship, but first I want to make sure that the steps necessary to get there are right in the front of the mind," Elliott said.

"We graduated some key individuals from last year's team, but we added some talent and upgraded our overall depth, offensively, defensively and in the special teams.

Elliott's GSU squad was predicted to finish third in the East Division, and Shaw and Atkinson were among the five Panthers on the preseason All-Sun Belt team, along with WR Penny Hart, LG Shamarious Gilmore and DE Marterious Allen.

The Panthers open preseason camp on Aug. 1 in preparation for their Aug 30 season opener vs. local foe and 2017 FCS playoff team Kennesaw State at Georgia State Stadium.