Here we go with Week 4:
#1 Appalachian State (3-0) @ #13 Wofford (2-1)
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.93 points
ASU is favored to win by 16 points
Series: ASU leads 14-9
Last Meeting: ASU 14, Wofford 7
The Southern Conference schedule is finally upon us. Wofford will have their turn at trying to knock off the nation’s top ranked team. Appalachian will make its second trip on the road this season which looks like it will be the most hostile Wofford crowd that an ASU team has seen. ASU and the Southern Conference have been receiving the “David Beckham” effect. Stadiums are selling out all over the place, just to see the Mountaineers. Wofford has played ASU as tough as anyone the last few years. Wofford coach Mike Ayers is one tough son of a gun and has been licking his chops ever since Wofford gave ASU a scare last year in Boone. Ayers is also Wofford’s winningest coach and currently is the longest tenured coach in the Southern Conference. Josh Collier and Kevious Johnson want their chance to beat ASU just as bad as anyone does in Spartanburg. The only problem is, ASU knows how bad Wofford wants to beat them as well.
Wofford was the hottest team in the FCS as the season wound down. The hottest team not to make the playoffs. After losing to Appalachian State, it gave the Terriers their fourth loss of the season. The Terriers rang off five straight wins and wanted to be included in all the playoff talk. One reason they were not selected was their end of year strength of schedule. Their most quality win in those last five games would probably be Elon. I don’t care who you are, if you are trying to sell yourself by saying you beat Elon, Western Carolina, Georgia Southern, Gardner Webb and Chattanooga, you are in a heap of trouble.
After resting last week, Jason Collier will likely get the start against the Mountaineers on Saturday. Collier came in for one play in the loss to NC State that was full of turnovers and penalties. Wofford ended the game with 15 flags compared to only 41 in the entire 2006 campaign. Wofford out gained NC State in total yardage and many will tell you that they outplayed the Wolfpack. Maybe the Terriers were looking past NC State. Maybe they were ready to play Appalachian last Saturday. I know one thing, if Wofford has 15 penalties this week, the game should never be in doubt.
Wofford has ran 171 rushing plays for 929 yards in three games so far. The interesting stat is they have not had a 100 yard rusher in a game to show for it. Collier ran 19 times against Georgetown and Kevious Johnson ran 11 each against Charleston Southern and NC State. They like to spread the ball around. They won’t give the ball to a guy 25 times a game. Wofford wants to keep opposing defenses guessing. Yeah they will run the ball 57 times a game, but it’s the average of 17 times a game they throw the ball that really makes defensive coordinators scratch their heads. Wofford actually threw for more yards passing then NC State did. Seventy-three offensive plays a game? It’s just silly.
On the other side, ASU has been resting their quarterback for some time as well, getting ready for the conference schedule. Armanti Edwards look to return to the huddle for the Mountaineers with fresh legs. Backup Trey Elder played beautifully in two wins, throwing for 426 yards, seven touchdowns and also rushing for 172 yards and another touchdown. Appalachian is very fortunate to have a backup that would start at every other school in the Southern Conference. Also returning this week for the Mountaineers is center Scott Suttle, who sprained a knee in fall camp. This will be first game of the season where the Apps will suit up with all the offensive starters in tact.
ASU was given a challenge against Northern Arizona, one that most fans expected. The ASU defense shut down Payton candidate receiver Alex Watson to one catch for negative one yard. Receiver turned quarterback Lance Kriesien took advantage of great secondary coverage by running out of the pocket several times for first downs. Wofford’s Josh Collier will not run as much Kriesien which is a relief to ASU fans.
Kevin Richardson took advantage of teams stacking the box to stop the ASU running game by getting out in the open and catching a career high 7 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Trey Elder said it best, “I just dump off a 2-yard pass and then get to watch (Kevin) run down the field and do all the good stuff.” Richardson did add to his rushing totals with 58 yards against NAU. Richardson now has 167 yards on the season, just 787 yards away from John Settle’s all time rushing record.
When it’s time to get in on this Saturday, which team will prevail? In order for Wofford to win, they are going to have to rely on the ground game. Keeping the ball out of the hands of Armanti Edwards and Kevin Richardson will surely help the cause for the Terriers. Wofford must sustain those long drives, you know twelve plays and longer. They must shorten up the game by taking their three or fours yards and liking it. Somebody in the Wofford backfield will have to light it up. Michael Hobbs is the most likely person to do it. Hobbs has breakaway speed that can run around the ASU defense if they are out of position. That is the key for the ASU defense. The front seven must play assignment defense. The onus is all on the defensive line to contain the traps and counters and it falls to the linebackers to stop the options and pitchouts. This is the kind of game where Corey Lynch, Pierre Banks and Jacques Roman end up with near double digit tackles. Offensively for the Mountaineers, They must control the tempo and sustain a couple long drives for themselves. Whoever has the ball in their hands must not make bad decisions with the football. Wofford leads the conference in turnover margin and interceptions. ASU must make Wofford beat them. If ASU does not turn the ball over, there should not be any problems. Wofford is talented enough to turn mistakes into points, but that offense is unlikely to explode for 40 points without some help. Wofford will hang close as long as ASU lets them. If ASU is able to throw the ball early, watch out, it will only make the running game work better in the late stages of the game. Wofford may have a decent team, but they are not quite at the level of Appalachian State.
The First Pick:
Appalachian Dog Pound 38