Here we go with Week 7:
Georgia Southern (4-3, 3-1 T3) @ #8 Appalachian State (4-2, 3-0 T1)
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 3.50 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 3 points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 11-10-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 37, Georgia Southern 36, October 18, 2008
There is not one opponent that brings out the best in an Appalachian game day like the Black Saturday opponent. On Saturday, Georgia Southern pays a visit to Boone in a game where college football clichés are abundant. Throw out the records in this one. There is no love lost between these two fan bases. There are not many on either side that will admit that they enjoy the presence of the other. About as far as compliments go, each will say that the other has a great game day atmosphere. From the tailgating to the tradition rich programs, that’s about all they will say. More times than not, this game has had some dramatic finishes blended in with very few outright blow outs. Georgia Southern fans will never forget 2003, when Appalachian broke a four game losing streak in the series that ended with a wild celebration outside of Kidd Brewer Stadium. Appalachian fans will never forget the embarrassment of 2004, a big win in Statesboro for the Eagles. And in just the last three years, Appalachian has snared two tough games in Statesboro, one in overtime, the other a one point victory, and Southern snapped Appalachian’s thirty game home winning streak the last time they paid a visit to the High Country. I am sure another amazing chapter will be written this weekend between these two hated rivals on Black Saturday.
Georgia Southern, for a few years now, has not been the same program that it was during the 1990’s. It started going down hill during the 2005 season. Mike Sewak took a 4-2 team to Boone to play Appalachian, who was 3-2. Both teams could ill-afford a loss for it would put them in danger of making the playoffs, especially since both teams had one conference loss. Southern was averaging 37 points a game and had scored 45 or more in the three previous games. Appalachian had just lost a nail biter to Furman. Appalachian dominated Southern in a 24-7 win and Appalachian went on to lose to only more team the rest of the season. Southern went on to win the rest of its games before being exposed in the first round of the playoffs to Texas State by a score of 50-35. Sewak was fired and Georgia Southern football has not been the same since. Chris Hatcher is trying to turn things in Statesboro, but the Eagles have not made the playoffs during his tenure. In fact, Southern has not won a playoff game since 2002.
Chris Hatcher has brought in his famous “Hatch Attack” offense which is much different than what we are used to seeing from Georgia Southern. It is a spread based system that utilizes some principles of the West Coast offense. Don’t get me wrong though, they will run if you let them. Adam Urbano has 104 carries for 528 yards on the year, but 32 carries and 153 yards came last week against Chattanooga. Urbano also scored two of his five touchdowns against the Mocs. Lee Chapple has taken over at quarterback and fits into Chris Hatcher’s offense just fine. Chapple is one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the conference completing 65.8% of his passes. However, his nine interceptions and twenty three sacks are a cause for concern. Either Southern receivers can’t get open or their offensive line is weak. Seeing that Chapple is only averaging just a shade over five yards a pass makes one think it is a little of both. All of Southern’s starting wide receivers are freshman. The Eagles have also started three different players at left tackle, which is a right-handed quarterback’s blind side, and plan to start three sophomores on the offensive line this week.
Appalachian has continued to have some of the same problems hold them back all season long. The Mountaineers have struggled to score in the first quarter. The Mountaineers have only scored 17 first quarter points all season, while giving up 51 points to their opponents. This has been the trend in every game this season. They Apps have made and attempted more field goals in 2009, (11-15) then they did in all of 2008 (8-12). Their red zone efficiency has also declined from 2008 where they scored touchdowns on 77% of red zone drives compared to 63% in 2009. Defensively, they have given up way too many big plays. Wofford scored three touchdown on plays that went over sixty yards. As the second half started in Spartanburg last week, Appalachian had only forced four turnovers on defense. In the second half, Appalachian picked two passes off and recovered two Terrier fumbles.
I feel that second half might be the turning point for Appalachian this year. Wofford scored on its first possession of the second half, after receiving the kickoff, then Appalachian shut them down for the rest of the game. The emotion was back. The offense clicked as Armanti Edwards absolutely shredded the Wofford secondary for a second straight year. Last year, Brian Quick caught three touchdown passes against Wofford. He added two more on Saturday. Mark Legree intercepted three passes last year against Wofford and collected another two on Saturday. The Mountaineers scored 24 unanswered points and turned what appeared to be a sure loss into a comfortable win.
Every football team has its ups and downs. At this level of football, no team can play their best for 11 straight weeks. It takes time to develop chemistry, even if some of the pieces to the puzzle are the same as they were a year before. Both Georgia Southern and Appalachian have hit the midway point of the 2009 season and hope to add to their victory total this week. Southern has their backs against the wall. They are one loss from being all but eliminated from postseason play. Does Georgia Southern know how to become mentally prepared for this game? They are starting exactly two seniors on the offensive side of the ball, and they are both lineman. Defensively, they are starting four seniors. This inexperienced team has shown itself throughout the course of the season. Southern has not lost two games in a row, but neither have they won two in a row. They have alternated wins and losses all season. Last week they won at home. Southern is also 1-3 on the road this season, with the win coming against Wofford. They have only averaged 14.5 points on the road this season. Each time the Eagles have scored 20 or more points this year, they followed it the next week by scoring two touchdowns or less. Southern scored 30 points last week against Chattanooga at home. All the trends point to a lowly offensive performance this weekend and a loss for the Eagles. Appalachian, on the other hand, started slow this year and didn’t take advantage of opportunities in the opening games. Since then, they have won four straight ball games, including two gut checking road conference wins. The offense is continuing to gel and the defense might just be getting their act together. The biggest point of the game this weekend will happen in the second quarter. This season, Southern has been outscored by a touchdown a game in that quarter, while Appalachian has outscored their opponents by four points. Appalachian has also held their opponents to 10 points per game in the second half. If Appalachian can overcome their sluggish starts and jump on the Eagles early, this game could become ugly. The defense must also contribute. They must disturb the rhythm of Lee Chapple by getting in his face early and forcing him to rush his passes. Southern will have to try and limit Appalachian on offense as the Mountaineers have scored 100 points on Southern the last three years. I think the Mountaineers are stronger across the board and are more experienced and I think that will lead them to a victory. However, I would not expect a big score here as both teams have combined for 97 penalties this season for 881 yards(ASU 47-441, GSU 50-440).
The First Pick: