Here we go with Week 9:
#3 Appalachian State (6-2, 4-1 T2) @ Furman (5-3, 4-2 4th)
Live Video: www.furmanpaladins.com
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 2.64 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 2 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Furman leads 21-17-3
Last Meeting: Appalachian 37, Furman 26, October 30, 2010, Boone, NC
WXAPP’s Greenville Gameday Weather Trends:
9 AM: Mid 40’s
Kickoff: Low 60’s
End of Game: Mid 60’s
APPTASTIC Football Weather!
In the biggest game of the season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers put up on their best show of the season. Is this thread on repeat? We could have said that for each game the last three weeks. Fortunately, it is a true statement. Appalachian is currently on a three game winning streak where it has played better and better with each passing week. The opponents have also been a little better with each game, from Citadel to Samford to then top ranked Georgia Southern. This week, the script changes with a road trip to Paladin Stadium against a team that is less talented than last week’s opponent. I say less talented based solely on the result between those two schools, a 50-20 Georgia Southern win. Furman used to own Appalachian in the early years, but since, Appalachian has won six straight in the series. Take it further, and Appalachian has defeated a Furman football team in nine straight seasons. In 2005, Furman won the regular season game while Appalachian won the national semifinal at home. However, the last four wins for Furman in this series were all played in Greenville in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2005. For only the second time in this series, Appalachian and Furman will play in November and recently, the later this game is played in the season, the better the results are for Appalachian. Furman has not beaten Appalachian in the third week of October or later since 1992.
For two seasons, Appalachian was able to avoid dynamic Paladin quarterback Chris Forcier. In 2009, the Mountaineers received a taste of Forcier in the fourth quarter of a blowout game. Forcier was unable to complete a pass, but did run seven times for forty-one yards, including a twenty-five yard touchdown run. In 2010, Forcier was injured early in the season and was unable to suit up against Appalachian. This year, Forcer is healthy, leads the country in passer efficiency and manages the game very well for the Paladins. Forcier is at his best when the running game is working for Furman, and they are not forced into playing a game of catch up. That is a real nice way to say, Furman is better when Forcier does not have to win the game for the Paladins. The fewer passes Forcier throws has shown to help Furman. Forcier has thrown 23 or more passes twice this season, both were losses. When throwing 21 passes or fewer, the Paladins are 5-1. Forcier has thrown 17 touchdown passes and four interceptions. In Furman’s three losses, Forcier has thrown all of his interceptions and four touchdowns. Two of those losses were to Samford and Georgia Southern, who are tied the SoCon lead with 12 interceptions. The conferences third leading team in interceptions: Appalachian with 11.
On the defensive side of the ball, Furman has perhaps two of the SoCon’s best players in Kadarron Anderson and Ryan Steed. Anderson leads the conference in tackles per game with 11.75 per contest. Anderson has registered thirteen or more tackles in five of his last six games. Anderson has landed on the All-SoCon first team in each of the last two seasons. Anderson’s only interception of his career was DeAndre Presley’s first interception thrown of the season in 2010. Ryan Steed is your typical shutdown corner who is considered a top NFL prospect in 2012. Steed has twelve career interceptions, three of them returned for touchdowns. Steed’s two interceptions this season have come in the last two games against Chattanooga and Wofford.
Although it was not a perfect offensive performance, Appalachian put enough points to defeat Georgia Southern. Appalachian was granted good field position for most of the first half which lead to a 17-3 halftime lead. Jamal Jackson had good moments, and others that would make one scratch their head. For the most part, all three of Jackson’s touchdown passes were to wide open receivers. Andrew Peacock scored on a twenty-five yard catch in the first quarter and Brian Quick scored twice. However, Jackson had several passes batted down, which is a great concern for a quarterback that stands 6’3” tall. Some credit must be given to Southern’s defensive line, which could be considered the best line in the conference. Jackson also threw an ill-advised pass out of his end zone in the fourth quarter that was intercepted. Luckily the Mountaineer defense was able to produce a goal line stand to keep the Eagles off the board.
The Mountaineer defense did exactly what it was supposed to do against Georgia Southern. They attacked the point of the option and stayed home on the ends. Every time the Eagles went misdirection there were three black shirts waiting on Shaw and company. The Appalachian line all but took away the fullback dive. Southern did have some success with the pitches and options, but it was very limited. The Eagles had two drives that travelled further than fifty yards. One was their opening drive in the third quarter, and the other produced a turnover on downs at the Mountaineer two yard line on their next possession. The Mountaineers only allowed eleven first downs, four completed passes and 135 yards rushing. Appalachian accumulated seven tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions.
Furman’s season can be looked at in halves. In their first four games, they played a much easier schedule than their last four games. Their first four includes their FCS non conference games in Presbyterian and Coastal Carolina, and SoCon games against The Citadel and Western Carolina. Their last four opponents were Samford, Georgia Southern, Wofford, and Chattanooga. The loss to Coastal Carolina was unexpected, even though it was a road game. The Samford loss might have put any other team over the edge. The playoffs looked bleak with games against Southern, Wofford and Appalachian on the horizon. As we mentioned earlier, the Paladins were trashed by Southern, but answered back nicely with a somewhat improbable win over Wofford and a gutsy win over Chattanooga. Now Furman is faced with having to win two of its final three to even have a chance at the playoffs. Even more interesting, is that Furman’s playoff hopes hinge solely on this game against the Mountaineers. After Appalachian, the Paladins will face Elon at home and Florida on the road. A 7-4 Furman team could sneak in as the SoCon’s fourth team, but it must share the conference title to do so. The Paladins have an outside chance of conference championship, but those hopes will be dashed with a loss this weekend. So there is a reason beyond just beating Appalachian for Furman to win this weekend. I think all of this could work in favor of the Mountaineers. All it takes is for Jerry Moore to tell the players, “They have a chance. Furman is playing for their season.” When all is said and done, I do not think the Paladins will have enough offense this weekend. The Appalachian defense is playing at the top of its game right now and I just can not imagine the Paladins scoring more than a couple touchdowns. The Mountaineers must treat the second leading rusher in the conference in Jerodis Williams the same way they did Robert Brown of GSU and Fabian Truss of Samford. Both backs were held well below their averages against Appalachian The Mountaineer offense is a mismatch for the Furman defense. Not only did the three option teams run on Furman, but so did Coastal Carolina and Samford. Appalachian will run the ball on Furman and will also mix in the short passing game with screens, which are basically running plays, substituting offensive lineman for blocking wide receivers. Furman is near the bottom of the conference in punting and punt returns, but keep an eye on Sederrik Cunningham, who averages 27 yards per kickoff return and has returned three for touchdowns this season.
The First Pick:
Bobby’s Lambs 20