Here we go with Week 11:
Western Carolina (1-8) @ #7 Appalachian State (7-2)
TV: ESPNU Tape Delay
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin ratings:
Home advantage: 2.47 points
ASU is favored to win by 29 points
Series: ASU leads 52-18-1
Last Meeting: ASU 31, WCU 9
Finally in the mountains of Boone, NC, the weather has turned cooler and it will feel like football weather for the first this year, just in time for The Battle for the Old Mountain Jug which will be renewed for the 72nd time. Seems like each time the weather turns brisker, the race for the Southern Conference crown heats up. There is still a chance that four teams can lay claim to the title of 2007 Southern Conference Football Champions. One of those teams is Appalachian State. Since falling to Georgia Southern, ASU went a perfect 2-0 in its toughest road stretch of the season and in doing so jumped right back into the conference race. Western Carolina has been out of it since the season started. Their lone win was against Presbyterian and since have had five straight losses, all to conference opponents. We all know the cliché though: “Throw out the records when these teams play”. It still rings true, because this is more than just another team trying to knock off the two time defending national champions. These are teams that are trying to beat each other for bragging rights. They are trying to beat each other to tell their grandchildren that they won. They are trying to beat each other, because after its over, both teams want the same thing. When the game is over, they want the Old Mountain Jug.
Western has been preparing for the Appalachian game for a long time. It will have been over two weeks since Western last played, when they had a thrilling second half comeback fall short against Wofford. Western was down by 34 points at halftime and everything that could go wrong did for the Catamounts on that Thursday night. Before that game, Western was 6-0 all time on Thursday night games. Western scored 41 second half points before losing 47-44. Western shower serious signs of life in that game. It was as if they forgot they were playing another team. They ran circles around the Terrier defense. Western quarterbacks accounted for five touchdown passes and no interceptions.
The quarterback I fear the most from Western’s stable is Adam Hearns. Why do I fear Adam Hearns? It is the same reason every defense in the nation fears Armanti Edwards. Hearns has a tremendous ability to use his feet in the pocket in order to convert first downs. If you look at his numbers, he has gained 346 yards on the ground. He has lost 162 of those yards due to sacks though. He had a 4 game stretch before the Wofford game where he lost all but one of those yards. Take away yards lost due to sacks, and the guy is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Against Wofford, Hearns was very efficient with 10 carries for 53 yards. Against Elon, Hearns threw for a career high 310 yards with three touchdowns. Todd Spitzer has been very consistent while filling in for Hearns. Spitzer has completed 58% of his passes for 1021 yards and seven touchdowns. Spitzer’s three interceptions all came in one game against Eastern Kentucky. When Spitzer is in the game, he is not running, chances are that he’ll be in there to throw. It does not matter who is in a quarterback for the Catamounts. Both quarterbacks will throw the ball to Eddie Cohen who averages 6 catches a game for 107 yards receiving.
Appalachian showed against the Citadel that they are still the team to beat. ASU ran up 439 yards rushing the ball showing the team speed can be unmatched in the Southern Conference. Armanti Edwards showed he is still the most dangerous quarterback in the division with his school record 291 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. Edwards became just the sixth Mountaineer to accumulate over 5,000 yards for a career in just his 20th career game. Edwards also became ASU’s leading rusher by a quarterback for a career. It would be scary to think about what Edwards would have been able to accomplish this year if he was healthy. Oh yeah, he is just a sophomore.
Defensively for the Mountaineers they were lead by true freshman DJ Smith, who highly resembles Mountaineer Hall of Famer Dexter Coakley. Smith carried the Apps with a team high 13 solo tackles which also included an interception return for a touchdown and half of a sack. Quietly, the Mountaineer defense has been coming around the last couple weeks and they lead the conference in points allowed. In the third quarter against The Citadel, the Bulldogs drove into Mountaineer territory 3 times, ran 30 plays, and only came away with 10 points.
Western Carolina has certainly had their struggles and part of those struggles can be blamed on a very young defense. Western has allowed every team that has beaten them to score at least 38 points. Western is giving up nearly 41.5 points per game and that is not going to get it done anywhere. Western gives up 217 yards rushing a game and 423 yards total, which puts them 98th best defense in the country.
This game still scares me despite how both teams seasons have gone. Some have mentioned how this game reminds them of the 0-10 VMI team that beat ASU in overtime in Kidd Brewer Stadium. I think this is totally different though. This Western team probably played their best football while making their comeback against Wofford. ASU is arguably playing its best football of the season right now after being beat up for most of the season. It does make a difference when a team is unhealthy, but eventually someone has to play. Although ASU has been worn down in the earlier parts of the season, I see something similar to a rebirth. I think it happened in the fourth quarter of the Georgia Southern game. I don’t know what it was, but whatever it was, it worked. ASU’s offense is looking darn near close to the offense that blasted every team in their way during the 2006 playoffs. As for the defense, Jerry Moore would say that it’s the tenth game of the year, you are not freshman anymore. I think ASU needs to play with their foot stuck to the accelerator. I am not asking for them to run up the score like some have suggested, but more importantly, play for sixty minutes. Western has shown that they are not going to give up and they certainly will not have any quit in them with the Old Mountain Jug on the line. Western’s coaches may have their jobs on the line this week. In Cullowhee, nothing screams job security like beating Appalachian State. Western has nothing to lose. Their season is almost over, and like most years, they will be at home for Thanksgiving. In Cullowhee, the turkey tastes ten times better when you have beaten Appalachian State. I’ve never eaten turkey in Cullowhee, but I think everyone follows me here. Western can’t stop the run and I have a feeling ASU knows how to run the football a little bit. In his career, Kevin Richardson has run for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns in two games against Western Carolina. Richardson is only 242 yards away from John Settle’s record. That total is high, but its not out of reach this weekend against the nation’s 107th ranked rushing defense.
The First Pick:
Yosef’s Jug 45
Cherokee Boy’s Club 25