Here we go with Week 8:
#1 Georgia Southern (7-0, 5-0 1st) @ #5 Appalachian State (5-2, 3-1 T2)
TV: SoCon Sports Network
Live Video: GoASU TV & ESPN3
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 3.14 points
Georgia Southern is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 2 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 13-12-1
Last Meeting: Georgia Southern 21, Appalachian 14 OT, November 6, 2010, Statesboro, GA
WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:
Early AM – Snow Flurry or two, Lower 30’s
Noon: Partly Sunny, Lower 40’s
Kickoff: Partly Cloudy, Mid 40’s
End of Game: Party Cloudy, Lower 40s
Breezy for the day, a bit of bite from the winds and cold
Imagine every cliché that comes to mind and it certainly applies to the Georgia Southern and Appalachian football series. In the nineteen games played in the SoCon era for both schools, only three have been decided by more than three scores. Ten wins for Georgia Southern and nine for Appalachian. The only games decided by more than three scores, Georgia Southern’s win in 2004, and Appalachian’s wins in 2005 and 2009. Black Saturday has not been bigger than this since the reincarnation of the “Black Saturday” game in 2002. Appalachian is 8-1 in those games, with the lone loss, to unranked Georgia Southern in 2007. Six times, Appalachian’s Black Saturday opponent has been ranked, with the Mountaineers winning them all. For the first time since the original Black Saturday game in 2002, both teams are ranked in the top five in the country, and for the first time ever, the opponent is the top ranked team in the country. On top of it all, the winner is in the drivers seat for the conference championship and the coveted automatic berth to the playoffs that comes with it. Rarely does a regular season game mean so much on the national scene. It just does not get much bigger than this Black Saturday.
What a difference a year has made for Georgia Southern. Before last years game in Statesboro, the Eagles were coming off of a loss to Samford, sitting at 4-4, and their playoff lives hung in the balance against #1 Appalachian. They could not afford a loss if they wanted to play football in December. They were squarely on the playoff bubble, even on Selection Sunday, when they were chosen to host a first round game. They have been on a tear ever since. Last year they averaged 260 yards rushing a game and were ranked as the 63rd best offense after the season was over. Fast forward to 2011, and the Southern triple option appears to be back to its old form of the 1990’s. Now averaging 369 yards a game on the ground, and throwing the ball with better consistency, the Eagles are now the 2nd ranked offense in the country, along with being the top scoring offense in the country at 44.6 points per game.
It takes more than just one guy to rack up all those yards and points. Southern might be back, but they are not Adrian Peterson back as of yet. However the guy that plays the same position that Peterson did, Robert Brown, is making a good impersonation of the former All-American. Brown plays the B-back position, which in the triple option offense lines up about three to four yards behind the quarterback and begins the play similar to an old school fullback, with his hand usually on the ground at the snap. Brown is the Eagles leading rusher at 98 yards a game and has scored five touchdowns. Brown has hit the century mark three times season, but only has 17 carries for 84 yards in his last two games. Brown carried 20 times for 61 yards and a touchdown last year against Appalachian. Southern’s second leading rusher is actually backup quarterback Jerick McKinnon who has appeared in all but one game for the Eagles, toting the ball 48 times for 382 yards and seven touchdowns. JJ Wilcox is leading A-back for the Eagles, with 37 carries for 355 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Wilcox also has four receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.
For a second week in a row, the Mountaineer offense put on another show offensively. The Mountaineers racked up another 500 yard performance that was well balanced with 290 yards in the passing game and 229 yards on the ground. Travaris Cadet was a workhorse against Samford with 139 yards and two touchdowns and was also dynamic in the return game averaging 26.3 yards per kick return and 14.5 yards per punt return. Jamal Jackson was also impressive for the second consecutive weekend. Jackson completed nineteen of his thirty passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns and a very fluky interception. Jackson also ran well with seven carries for forty yards and another touchdown. Jackson hit six different receivers with four players catching at least three passes. Tony Washington caught six passes for seventy-eight yards, including an acrobatic forty-one yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Brian Quick added four catches for a hundred yards and sixty-nine yard catch-and-run touchdown at the end of the first half. Despite the turnovers the two teams traded in the first quarter, it was the most complete game the Mountaineers have played all season.
Appalachian’s defense will have to perform as well against the triple option as it did last year against Southern. The Eagles entered last years game averaging right at 250 yards a game and the Mountaineers held them in check, to the tune of 195 yards rushing. A lot of those rushing yards came from Jaybo Shaw, who probably reads the defense as good as any Eagle quarterback ever has. Shaw ran 23 times for 86 yards last year, but the more interesting part of his game was how much he threw the ball. The statistics might not be flashy, (9/21, 106 yards 1 INT) but it kept the Appalachian defense guessing just enough. In his career, Shaw has thrown for more yards in games than he did against Appalachian last year, but he still has yet to attempt or complete as many passes as he did in the 2010 game. Last year, Shaw averaged 9.3 pass attempts per game, and this year he is also averaging right at nine attempts per contest. It will be interesting to see how Appalachian reacts to the Southern gameplan, especially what kind of defensive fronts the Mountaineers will show the Eagles.
Georgia Southern’s defense has been impressive on paper, and in my feelings, it is just that. It’s all on paper. Yes, the Eagle defense is only giving up 101 yards rushing a game which is best in the conference, and 13th best in the country, but they have not really played many teams that I would say, prefers to run the ball. Of their seven opponents, five ranked 57th or worse in rushing yards per game. The other opponents are Furman who ranks 29th in rushing and Samford who ranks 42nd on the ground. A perfect example: Samford’s Fabian Truss. The Georgia Southern and Samford game was not decided until the second half. Truss ran 21 times for 74 yards, averaging 3.5 a carry. At that time, we thought Samford was a running team, but it is obvious they are getting the ball moved in their air this season. Truss against Appalachian: 16 carries 65 yards, averaging 4.1 a carry. Both fairly even examples. Now here is the good part. Georgia Southern could not contain Chattanooga in the second half at home when BJ Coleman went down with an injury. Moc QB Terrell Robinson sliced and diced the Eagle defense for 114 yards and three touchdowns, most of that coming in the second half. When mixing in the zone read play, that Appalachian employs, running backs Marquis Green and JJ Jackson were gashing the Southern defensive front. Both Green and Jackson averaged over 5 yards and carry for the game. This is where Appalachian will hurt Georgia Southern. Against The Citadel and Samford, Appalachian has dominated time of possession and has shown the ability this season to really milk the clock in the fourth quarter and preserve victories. If the Mountaineers can continue to be effective on offense, by possessing the ball like they have the last two weeks, it will tire out this Georgia Southern defense. Another stat I like for the Mountaineers this weekend is that this is only the third time the Eagles have hit the road this season. They have been racking up points at home, 48 a game to be exact. On the road, they average 12 fewer points. In their previous two road games, at Samford, and at Elon, there were 15,909 fans at both games combined. The Rock will probably double that this weekend. Last thing: the high/low temperature when Southern played at Elon four weeks ago: 62/46. The Eagles will be lucky to see 46 degrees on Saturday.
The First Pick:
The Stink 34