Here we go with Week 7:
#2 Appalachian State (4-2, 2-0 T2) @ Georgia Southern (3-3,1-2 T5)
Stadium: Paulson Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.78 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 4 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Series tied 11-11-1
Last Meeting: GSU 38 ASU 35, October 10th 2007
Rivalries are what college athletics are all about. There are teams you play within the conference every year, but its those couple of schools, for whatever reason, that have always stuck out through the years. If you want one, look no further than Georgia Southern and Appalachian State football. The series is dead even. Its has back and forth that way for a couple of years now. Sometimes things happen during a rivalry that makes it extra special each time the series is renewed. Eagle fans will never forget the goalpost incident of 2003 after ASU snapped a four game Southern win streak. Georgia Southern returned the favor in 2007 by dancing on the ASU field after a three point win over the two-time defending champions. That is what makes it all so fun. Traditionally this game is always a fight for conference and playoff positioning. Rarely does one team have three losses heading into this game. It would not matter though. If these teams were winless, the intensity would still be the same. Something about these schools on the gridiron, always brings out the best in each team.
Every year it seems, when you talk about the Georgia Southern football team, the conversation always starts with the quarterback position. Over the years, the Eagles have had some great athletes lining under center. Greg Hill, JR Revere, Jayson Foster are a few that have given plenty of defensive coordinators nightmares over the years. The Georgia Southern record book is littered with their names. Antonio Henton is another Eagle quarterback that will try to match the numbers of his predecessors. Henton, a transfer from Ohio State, is one of the first true dual threat quarterbacks that Southern has had in a few years. Henton is a good passer with a strong arm and is equally as dangerous on the ground. He is very similar to James Madison‘s Rodney Landers, who he outweighs by 15 pounds. Henton has scored 13 total touchdowns on the year is Southern’s leading rusher at 58 yards per game. Henton completes right at 57% of his passes and his only downfall is the six interceptions he has thrown in six games. Four of those interceptions have come in the last three games against conference opponents Chattanooga, Wofford and Elon.
I will repeat myself, Henton is leading rusher for the Eagles at 58 yards per game. When is the last time you could say that about a Georgia Southern football team. As a team, Southern is averaging only 155 yards on the ground. Gone are the days of 400 yard rushing games week in and out. The Eagles are also getting outrun by their opponents by over 30 yards per game. The Eagles have been allowing 454 yards a game on defense, last in the conference. At 30 points a game, the Southern defense is ranked eighth in the conference. They have also given up more first downs (24 per game) than any other team in the conference. No wonder Southern isn’t running the ball like they used to. Give credit to the “Hatch Attack” offense, but you also have to give credit to the Southern defense for not stopping opposing offenses.
Just when Mountaineer fans thought the offense had been corrected, along came Samford, easily the most underrated team in the conference. Two first quarter fumbles puts the Apps in an early hole that they eventually recovered from. Samford was able to deliberately run their offense. They were trying to burn clock and run trick plays from the kickoff. Once it was all said and done, Armanti Edwards emerged once again as the conference offensive player of the week after throwing for 307 yards and adding another 63 yards on the ground in a four touchdown effort. Edwards has thrown seven touchdown passes compared to zero interceptions, including a sparkling 77% completion percentage in the last two games. In his two career games against the Eagles, Edwards has averaged 180 yards rushing and 194 yards passing per game.
The Appalachian defense woke up just in time against Samford. Samford was close to adding to their lead when Cortez Gilbert blocked a field goal attempt that kept the deficit at seven points. The offense scored on the next series. The Mountaineers held the Samford offense to only 16 yards in the second quarter. The Samford offense converted their first four third down conversions in the opening quarter. After that, Samford converted only 4 for 15 for the rest of the game. The defense also held the Samford rushing attack to 4.1 yards per carry, and only allowed 376 total yards on 78 plays(4.8 yards per play). Leading the defense was sophomore linebacker DJ Smith who tallied 12 solo tackles which was enough to win the defensive player of the week in the conference.
This game will be a high scoring affair without any question. Although Appalachian appears to have a better defense, nothing can make up for the second straight week on a long trip, coupled with the Statesboro heat. Although the forecasters are not calling for temperatures like we have seen in the past, the heat is still an issue in south Georgia. Also, both Appalachian and Georgia Southern are last in the league in time of possession. For Appalachian its all about the quick strike offense. For Georgia Southern, although their defense cant seem to get anyone off the field, they still average 33 points per game. Another key will be the fact the both Appalachian and Southern are two of the league’s most penalized teams in the league. That means lots of clock stoppages and more chances for offensive plays. Also, Georgia Southern is also one of the worst teams in the league in a category I like to call the pass protection ratio. It is not completely scientific, but work with me. Southern quarterbacks have been sacked 14 times and have thrown 7 interceptions compared to 188 attempted passes, for a percentage of 11.1%, which represents the chance that a Southern quarterback will be intercepted or sacked on each passing attempt. (Wofford leads at 1.8%, while Chattanooga is last at 15.9%). Basically, more interceptions leads to more changes of possessions which leads to more clock stoppages. Throw in the fact this game will be televised and you are looking at a very good chance that this game may take three and half hours to complete. The better conditioned team may win. Both of these teams are also filled with youth, although I suspect that Appalachian has more experience in key positions to pull out a victory. Appalachian is only 3-8 all time in Statesboro and have never won two in a row in Paulson Stadium. I feel that streak will be broken this weekend.
The First Pick: