ATLANTA (AP) — As coach Trent Miles sees it, the Georgia State Panthers have nowhere to go but up this year.
Georgia State went 0-12 last season, its first under Miles, as the Panthers moved into the Sun Belt Conference.
It was only the fourth year of football at the downtown Atlanta university.
Home games in the cavernous Georgia Dome, which seats 72,000, have proven to be a tough draw — even for a school with an enrollment of 32,000 — but Miles knows that winning is the best way to create interest.
Miles said, "When you're building a program, you have to do it in phases. We didn't take over a program that has a tradition and long history of winning football games. Now it's time to start winning, competing to win."
Here are five things to watch during Georgia State's season:
GETTING IT RIGHT: QB Nick Arbuckle completed 9 of 13 passes for 111 yards passing in a scrimmage last weekend. Lynquez Blair caught a 34-yard touchdown and RB Duvall Smith ran nine times for 102 yards and a score.
BREAKING IT DOWN: S Nick Simon had a sack and interception the scrimmage. DT Shawayne Lawrence knocked down two passes.
GLASS HALF FULL: With four new schools joining the Sun Belt — Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Idaho and New Mexico State — the Panthers might take some satisfaction that their perception is slightly improved. Georgia State received one more vote than New Mexico State to rank next to last in the Sun Belt preseason coaches' poll.
PLAY 'EM TOUGH: Miles will be eager to see how his team compares to Georgia Southern when the schools meet in Atlanta on Oct. 25. The Eagles were annual contenders to win the Southern Conference from 1992-2013, but now they have moved up the FBS. "They've won national championships, they've had a great coaches and players there," Miles said. "We're going to have to prove to everybody that we can compete with them and that we can make into a rivalry."
NEW IN CHARGE: Charlie Cobb, formerly of Appalachian State, was hired as athletic director last week. He succeeds Cheryl Levick, who hired Miles but stayed with the school in a new position under university president Mark Becker.