Here we go with Week 8:
#7 Appalachian State (5-2, 4-0 T1) @ Furman (4-3, 3-2 T3)
TV: WLOS Ch. 13 Asheville
Stadium: Paladin Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 3.27 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 5 points (rounded).
Series: Furman leads 15-21-3
Last Meeting: Appalachian 26, Furman14, October 25, 2008
Appalachian and Furman will meet for the 40th time on Saturday in one the most competitive series in all of college football. Furman is one of the few opponents that holds an all time series lead over Appalachian. The Mountaineers have won four straight in the series for the first time, but only one of those victories came in Greenville. The last time Furman beat Appalachian was in the 2005 regular season game, where Appalachian had a field goal blocked as time expired. This rivalry is one that has recently become less one-sided. The Mountaineers have won seven of the last eight meetings and eight of the last ten meetings between the two schools. Furman coach Bobby Lamb has been a blessing to many Appalachian fans since the 2002 game that was dubbed the “Miracle on the Mountain”. Since then, Furman seems to be cursed in this long rivalry. Will Halloween night be what Furman needs to reverse the trend?
Furman was put in very sticky situation by their schedule when they scheduled two FBS teams in Missouri and Auburn. That alone placed a huge emphasis on their conference schedule. Basically, if Furman didn’t win the Southern Conference, a birth to the FCS Playoffs were in serious jeopardy. Last week, Furman was upset by The Citadel, who was previously winless in SoCon action. Furman, now at 4-3, and most likely on the wrong side of the playoff bubble, still has to play FBS Auburn and three of their most fiercest rivals in the SoCon in Appalachian, Wofford and Georgia Southern. Finishing at 7-4 would be considered a success, but will probably still leave them on the outside of the FCS Playoffs. The situation isn’t any better for head coach Bobby Lamb. Making the playoffs are the benchmark for Furman fans and the Paladins have missed the playoffs the last two years and have a combined record of 13-10 in those seasons. A win over Appalachian is exactly what Lamb needs to turn back the dial on the hot seat on which he currently sits.
This year the Paladins have struggled in many areas, and most of those areas are on the defensive side of the ball. The Paladins are giving up 411.7 yards a game, which is good enough for last in the Southern Conference and 107th nationally. On the offensive side, Furman is respectable averaging just under 28 points a game, yet only runs the ball for an average of 146.6 yards per game, which is not what they are used to. Furman has always been a run first team, but the times of Louis Ivory and Jerome Felton are long gone. Fullback Tersoo Uhaa is second on the team in rushing with 327 yards and eight touchdowns, but has seen his role steadily decrease in each game since the start of the season. Uhaa has only 101 yards rushing in his last four games. Freshman Jerodis Williams is the speedster, who has a ten yard gain in every game this season, but probably lacks touches, as he only averages nine carries a game.
Senior quarterback Jordan Sorrells has been the most consistent part of the Furman offense. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes this year, with six of those coming in the last two weeks against Samford and The Citadel. Sorrells has thrown only five interceptions, but three of them came in two of Furman’s losses. Sorrells has completed 21 or more passes in Furman’s last five games and averages 33 attempts per game this season. His favorite receiver is Adam Mims, who has one third of Sorrells’ completions. Mims 50 catches trails only Elon’s Terrell Hudgins 71 catches for the SoCon lead. Mims only has one touchdown catch on the year, while tight end Chris Truss has six catches, three for touchdowns. Seven different Furman receivers have caught touchdown passes.
Last week against Georgia Southern, was the game that many of Appalachian fans have longed for. The Appalachian defense was dominant and offensively, the Mountaineers were able to coast throughout the entire second half. Appalachian has now registered over 600 yards of offense in three straight games. There is one team in the Southern Conference that hasn’t gained that many yards all season long. Overall, the Mountaineers are averaging seven yards per play. Devon Moore leads the SoCon in rushing yards and Armanti Edwards is the conference’s leading passer in yards per game. Brian Quick leads the conference in yards per catch and is second in receiving yards per game.
It has been a long time since I can remember an Appalachian defense that was so dominant against Georgia Southern. Usually these two schools light up the scoreboard in all aspects. However, Appalachian limited Georgia Southern to only 171 total yards and only 15 yards rushing. Who would have ever thought five years ago, that Georgia Southern would only rush for 15 yards in an entire game. The defense has finally stopped worrying about schemes and alignments and are just plain getting after it. Appalachian has some of the best athletes in the conference on defense and they are letting that athleticism dictate what happens on the field. We have now seen six straight quarters of football, where the Mountaineers have only allowed two offensive touchdowns. If they can continue this streak of steady defense, the sky is the limit, especially with the points the Apps have been scoring.
The series between Appalachian and Furman in the last ten years has been decided in games that generally come down to the final possession. Forget the 40-7 victory by Appalachian and this rivalry has been decided by an average of 4.4 points since 2000. In that span, Appalachian has won by one point on three different occasions. Furman’s two wins came by six points in 2001 and three points in 2005. However since 2005, when the spread offense became the norm in college football, Furman has been left behind in the old “I” formation and has only since has moved to a more pass-oriented spread offense. The problem is that they didn’t make a change quickly enough. When you think about Furman football, the average fan does not know what kind of offense they run and it is hurting them. Everyone knows Appalachian runs a spread, where quickness is a key. Since 2005, including this season, Furman has lost 13 SoCon games. In that same time, Appalachian has lost three. Time has passed Furman by and not much has changed this year. Furman no longer has a dominating defense that can wins games by itself. In fact, they are downright pitiful. Furman has only recorded five sacks on the season. You cant give quarterbacks all day to throw the ball, and certainly not Armanti Edwards. They have allowed 24.3 first downs a game to their opponents. Last week, the Furman defense was torched by the Citadel and its hard to teach defense in one week. It is a process. I think Furman will try and keep the ball away from Appalachian as much as possible. It is a bit of a broken record, but in 2008, Furman possessed the ball for nearly 35 minutes. It was the four turnovers that did them in. This season, in their four wins, they have four turnovers. In their three losses, they have six turnovers. They must take care of the ball in order to have a chance against Appalachian. The Mountaineers have not been the beneficiary of many turnovers this year, but luckily they have not missed them. Furman can afford to give the ball the Appalachian when they are averaging 37 points a game without getting turnovers. Appalachian will march up and down the field all day long no matter where the ball. No need to make it easier for Appalachian to put six on the board. I think Furman will take care of the ball better. They will mix it up in the passing game just enough to keep Appalachian off balance, but it in the end, I don’t there is enough Furman defense to hold Appalachian down. They are all close ones in Greenville, but I don’t expect the score to be indicative of how the game was played.
The First Pick: