Here we go with Week 8:
Furman (4-3, 2-2 T4th) @ #1 Appalachian State (7-0, 5-0 1st)
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home advantage: 2.95 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 12 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Furman leads 21-16-3
Last Meeting: Appalachian 52, Furman 27, October 31, 2009
Earlier in this decade, Furman and Appalachian State had some of the most dramatic finishes you could ever imagine. At one point, seven straight games were decided by one possession, with Appalachian winning five of those contests. And then there was a turning point that occurred during the 2005 playoffs. That game was the most recent classic in this series. Including that win in 2005 that propelled Appalachian to its first national championship game, the Mountaineers have won five straight games with Furman. It is the longest winning streak for Appalachian in the series. Furman has not won a playoff game since the 2005 season, and has struggled to less then Furman like records in the past couple seasons. However, do not let the records or the winning streaks fool you. This has been highly contested series since the first game in 1971 that ended in a scoreless tie, and I would not expect anything different on this Black Saturday.
Furman entered the season with high hopes, with the return of dual threat quarterback Chris Forcier. A return to the playoffs seemed to be on the horizon. Forcier was exactly the kind of quarterback that Bobby Lamb wanted to run his spread offense. However, Forcier was lost for the season in the loss to South Carolina, and with it, the Paladins hopes to return to the playoffs might also have been as well. The following week, Furman was pummeled by Wofford and still had many challenging conference games remaining. Furman appeared to regain its form last weekend, when it took a big lead into the fourth quarter at home against Chattanooga. However, the Mocs were persistent, and may have learned a few lessons from their loss to Appalachian at the beginning of the season. The Mocs scored 26 straight points in the final frame and stunned the Paladins. In what had to be a gut-wrenching loss, the Paladins must find some inner strength if they are going to compete with the top-ranked team in their head coach’s personal house of horrors.
The Furman offense was once built on running the football, and running the football some more. That is not the case any longer. Despite their average of 156 yards per game rushing, which is ranked 48th nationally, Furman has not been very consistent on the ground. In conference games this season, Furman has only averaged 93 yards a game, for a total of 375 yards in four games. The averages are skewed from games against Colgate and Howard, where the Paladins rushed for 666 yards. Chris Forcier only played against Colgate, but did gain 130 yards that day.
Take away the blowout wins over Colgate and Howard and the Paladins scoring average also take a significant hit. Thirty-one points a game is good enough for 18th nationally, but take out the 45 from Colgate and the 56 from Howard, and the Paladins find themselves scoring 24.4 points per game. That would only be good enough for 56th nationally, tied with Massachusetts, which is scary considering CAA teams are not exactly burning up the scoreboard this season. The Paladins are going to have to come up with some big plays from receiver Adam Mims (42 catches, 553 yards, 4 TD) and Mike Brown (266 yards, 4.8 ypc) if they plan to keep up with the Mountaineers.
Last weekend, the Mountaineers did exactly what they needed to do in a rivalry games situation. It was obvious before the game, that Appalachian has much better talent than Western Carolina. Appalachian came out and took care of business quickly by going up 20-0 on the Catamounts, pretty much squashing any hopes they had of an upset. The offense looked stagnant and bored in the second half, but there was also no pressure from the Catamount offense to score more points. In several situations down the stretch, even with the game mostly decided Appalachian turned back Western Carolina on more than one fourth down and also held on a goal line stand. In the age of spread offenses and high scores, it seems that defensive stands are almost a thing of the past in college football. It was nice to see that burning fire on the defensive side of the ball.
The Mountaineer defense continues to get burned through the air by opposing offenses. At this point in the season, one is led to believe that is just a part of the scheme, compared to being mental lapses in the secondary. Furman basically has one go to receiver in Adam Mims, and he will get his fair share of balls thrown his way. Furman only averages 181 yards a game in the air, and also allows 2.71 sacks per contest. Compare that to Appalachian’s defense which gives up 218 yards a game and get this, averages 2.71 sacks a game. Sounds like Jabari Fletcher, John Rizor and Bobby Bozzo, who have combined for 13.5 sacks, will have their way in the Paladin backfield on Saturday.
The Mountaineers will begin the gauntlet of the conference schedule this weekend with three straight games against some of the more hated rivals. Furman has been one of those teams for a long time, and has been scheduled as the Black Saturday since the renewal of the game in 2002. We all remember how that one went down, Josh Jeffries, Derrick Black, and Who Cares!!! Furman has not won in Boone 14 years. The Paladins mobile quarterback, Cody Worley is averaging 1.3 yards per carry. Mike Brown has not been the same since 2008, if not before. I just do not see this Furman team as being explosive, or capable of holding down another offense. The Paladins are giving up 225 yards a game on the ground, 111th in the nation. Their lone bright spot is probably their secondary, which has picked off six passes, and returned four of them for touchdowns. If DeAndre Presley is going to throw an interception, it might be this weekend, but the Paladins are going to need more than just on turnover to stick around this weekend. Furman is going to have to do something that an Appalachian opponent has not done this season, and that is keeping them less than 35 points, and that still might not be enough. Furman will have to keep the Mountaineer offense off the field for a significant amount of time. In three Furman losses, the opposing team has dominated the line of scrimmage. Wofford and Chattanooga possessed the ball for 36 minutes each. South Carolina possessed it for 34 minutes. Good defenses are only good if their offense can give them time to rest, and score some points as well, and the Furman offense has not been good in either of those categories. The Mountaineers will dominate, but the final score will not indicate it.
The First Pick: