Here we go with Week :
#10 Appalachian State (5-2) @ Furman (3-4)
Surface: Natural grass
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.08 points
ASU is favored to win by 16 points
Series: Fu leads 21-13-3
Last Meeting: ASU 40, FU 7
When the season started everyone was looking at Furman and Appalachian State, thinking they would decide this weekend who would be the conference champion. Who would have ever seen this one coming. Instead of deciding first place, these two will fight it out being tied for 6th place in the Southern Conference. It has been a good long time since a Furman and Appalachian game was almost meaningless. Don’t tell that to Furman. They still remember the beating they took last year in Boone. The game last year was an anomaly compared to how these games have played out in the past. Furman head coach Bobby Lamb is on the hot seat and part of the problem is that he has had trouble beating Appalachian State. Appalachian probably cannot afford a loss to Furman if they want to have any chance at home games in the playoffs. Don’t go telling me this game has no meaning.
To say that Furman has had an up a down season is an understatement. After beating Presbyterian in the opening week, Furman suffered consecutive losses to Hofstra, Clemson and Wofford. Since the loss to Wofford, Furman has won two out of the last three, with wins over Coastal Carolina and Chattanooga last week. Two weeks ago, Furman lost to The Citadel in overtime 54-51.
Appalachian fans have been wondering since 2004: When is Jerome Felton going to graduate? Well, this is the year Felton graduates along with fellow tailback Cedric Gipson, who have been running hard through Appalachian lines for 4 years now. Although it seems like Felton has been around forever, his stats against the Mountaineers are not as gaudy as some may believe. Felton has carried the ball at least one time, in every game that he has played in his career except three. Two of those games were against Appalachian, in 2004 and 2006. Against Appalachian in 2005, where the two schools met twice, Felton carried 36 times for 177 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. In the case of Cedric Gipson: 40 carries for 176 yards and two touchdowns in 4 career games against ASU.
In 2007, Felton is taking the lion’s share of carries for the Furman offense. Felton’s 100 carries this year is over double the carries that second leading rusher Gipson (48) has received. On the season, Felton has 376 yards and 5 touchdowns while Gipson has 220 yards and one touchdown. Also getting touches for the Paladins are Stephone LaFrance with 42 carries for 192 yards and Mike Brown, 27 rushes for 155 yards.
Renaldo Gray and Jordan Sorrells have split time at quarterback this season for Furman. Sorrells has not seen much playing time since the Wofford game and has only thrown 4 passes in the last month. Gray had a great day against The Citadel when he threw for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns and also ran the ball 12 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. Gray’s favorite target on the season is receiver Patrick Sprague, who also had a field day against The Citadel. Sprague caught 9 passes for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Bulldogs. On the season, Sprague has 37 catches for 580 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Say what you want to about the reason Appalachian fell to Georgia Southern, but one thing is certain: It was not pretty. Gone are the days in college football where 35 points will be more than enough to win a football game. Everywhere across the nation, scoring is up, and part of that is due to backing up the kickoffs to the 30 yard line. Touchbacks are way down and when you give good speedy athletes chances to make plays, they will. With the shorter kicks, offenses have shorter fields to work with, thus more points. Sure, I would like to think that scoring in the 30’s is plenty, but those days in college football are gone.
It can be argued that the play of one particular athlete on a field can cause a team to lose, but certainly not win. Some critics say that Armanti Edwards’ arm is not quite there yet. It showed with two very untimely interceptions, with one being returned for a touchdown. But it also can be said that some athletes take games into their own and single-handedly beat teams. Jayson Foster was the example of that to the ASU defense. However, without Armanti Edwards rushing for a school record 220 yards, what chances would ASU have had at all against Georgia Southern? In a comparison, when Armanti Edwards has run the ball the most in his short career, its been when his completion percentage has been lower. Edwards had 29 carries against GSU and connected on 10 of 21 passes (47%). Last year against GSU, Edwards ran 26 times and was 11 for 21(52%) throwing the ball. Against Coastal Carolina in the playoffs, 19 carries for Edwards, 14 for 28 passing. See where I am going with this?
It is also true that the Apps’ young defensive needs to grow up in a hurry. It is not going to happen overnight though. There will be growing pains, but as a fan you can only hope the worst is behind you. It is obvious what kind of running team the Mountaineers have struggled with. The misdirection option that Wofford and Georgia Southern run are hard for anyone to stop, especially a young defensive line. Furman and Michigan prefer the isolation runs between the tackles and the occasional stretch run to the sideline. ASU contained the Michigan run when it was needed. Furman has some quick players, but has nowhere near the overall speed of the likes of Michigan or Georgia Southern. It is pretty obvious that Jerome Felton will get his share of carries up the middle and Cedric Gipson will dot the “I” and get the option plays to the outside. This Furman team will make you play assignment defense more so than any other opponent on the schedule. What I feel the Mountaineers need to do is use all the talent on the field. Put the ball in the hands of the players who can make plays. That means all the players. This might be the week that ASU breaks out the two-headed quarterback. I feel as if Trey Elder and Armanti Edwards will get their chances this week against Furman. This way both players are fresh and whichever has it going on this week will most likely get the snaps. Defensively, I am not asking for ASU to shut down the Furman offense, but to contain it. I like ASU sending a message this week that they are not finished with the season. Before this season, Furman was the last FCS team to defeat ASU, which has only won three games all time in Greenville. I think ASU will be alright this week, but Furman will give it what they got. Look for ASU to air it out often in this game and work the running game in as needed. Another key in this game will be turnovers. Both teams are turning the ball over more than they are taking it away. Last year in Boone, it was a turnover that broke the game wide open. Wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case on Saturday.
The First Pick:
Big Bad Yosef 35
White Horsemen 21