Here we go with Week 8
Georgia State (1-7, 0-5, Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (2-5, 1-2 Sun Belt)
Saturday, November 1st, 3:30pm EST
TV/LIve Video: ESPN3
Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WGVZ ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 54.20
Ga State: 45.37
AppState is favored by the Sagarin Rating by 12 points
Sportsbook: AppState 10.5, O/U 70.5
Series: first meeting
Last Meeting: n/a
After another extremely long second bye week, Appalachian Football will start its season for the third time this Saturday. In all seriousness, the double bye is odd. Had this bye come after a loss we would likely have all wished the season be over. But this bye came after Appalachian’s first FBS win as an FBS program. Finally, we have most of the “firsts” out of the way. The only one left to accomplish is the first home win over an FBS program. Enter Georgia State, the startup program who might still be searching for their first quality win in program history. An overtime win over South Alabama in 2011 might be their crowning achievement, when they were still considered an FCS program. The Panthers are still a win short of dozen in their programs history, in which over half of those wins came in their inaugural season in 2010 with a schedule that featured only a handful of Division I games. However, Georgia State is one year ahead of Appalachian in their FBS infancy. Georgia State would be bowl eligible this season in only their second year in the Sun Belt if they would have qualified, but that ship sailed past them last weekend with their in state rivals Georgia Southern captaining the vessel. It has not been an easy time for Georgia State on or off the field. It takes time to build a program from scratch. Eleven wins in four and half seasons is part of it. The other part is the lack of fan support and facilities to call their own. And that is why they decided to hire Appalachian’s former athletic director, with his “experience” in building an FBS program. Appalachian’s pieces to the FBS puzzle were there, just needing to be placed accordingly, while Georgia State is still looking for all the pieces.
It would be entirely too easy to poke fun at Georgia State for an entire article, so we’ll stop shortly. Is it getting old? Of course. But there is one story you might not have heard about it. Living in the world of twitter, you would have discovered that a large group of Ga. State and Ga. Southern students never made it out of the parking lot last weekend to make it inside the Georgia Dome to watch their rivalry football game. Playing football indoors probably is big reason. Last weekend, the weather was perfect for football, but not indoor football. Getting an outdoor stadium will go a long way to building a gameday atmosphere for Ga. State.
Besides being a startup program that continues to build in many ways, Georgia State has been able to assemble a decent offense down in Atlanta. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle is All-Sun Belt caliber player. His 309 passing yards per game leads the conference by 40 yards per game and his sixteen touchdown passes are also tops in the conference. He is the leader of the Panther offense that can easily light up the scoreboard, but the issue with Ga. State this year and every year has been their defense.
Many of you may have watched the State/Southern game last weekend. It was a perfect chance to gauge the Panthers and Eagles to compare where Appalachian stands. It was evident from the start, that the Panthers had no answer to the option attack from the Eagles. Southern ran all over the Panthers to the tune of 613 yards. It was a complete team effort by Southern, not just a dominating performance by one player. The State defense is undersized and probably too young to truly defend an option offense. In their 3-4 formation, all of the Panther starting lineman are sophomores and their nose guard comes in at 285 pounds. Even one of the Panthers’ safeties was mentioned as being benched this weekend after his poor play against Southern.
Nearly a couple weeks ago, Appalachian ran for 441 yards against Troy, technically a better run defense than Ga. State from a pure numbers standpoint. But, both defenses have been run on fairly easily, both giving up close to six yards per carry and both over 240 yards allowed rushing yards on the season. The Panthers also have allowed 24 rushing touchdowns on the season, which is second worst in the league. Their red zone defense is second worst, only to Troy and the Panthers have also given up the most red zone touchdowns in the Sun Belt. On top of the worst turnover margin in the league, the Panthers also give up more first downs, third down conversions and points than any team in the conference. Its bad football at its absolute best.
Generally, getting a bye after a get-the-monkey-off-your-back win would seem to be poor timing. With Appalachian scoring 101 combined points in the prior two games, the preference would be to continue playing rather than sit for a week. However, in this case, I believe the timing worked out for the Mountaineers. Instead of getting to high, the Apps have had some time to reflect and focus on the next task at hand.
Appalachian’s win over Troy came in a truly dominating performance. Four players rushed for over 80 yards, led by Marcus Cox who had 123 yards and three touchdowns. Ricky Fergerson had a 68-yard run that catapulted him to his first career 100-yard performance. Taylor Lamb scampered for ninety-eight yards and Terrance Upshaw added eighty-two yards. All four averaged 7.5 yards per carry or more. For the season Cox now has 569 yards rushing and is just a few yards off pace for another 1,000 yard season. If Cox were to eclipse that mark, it would more impressive than last year, when he had the majority of the carries, compared to this season where he has rushed on just 37% of the Mountaineers running plays.
Without question, Georgia State is going to put up some points. Their offense is relentless. Nick Arbuckle attempts 37.5 passes per game at a 61% completion rate. He spreads the ball pretty evenly to his top four receivers, who have caught 137 passes on the season combined. Donavan Harden is leader of the bunch, with 45 catches for 707 yards and seven touchdowns, which are all team highs. The Panthers do not have much success on the ground, and that is putting it nicely. As a team, they have only managed 3.1 yards per carry, which is abysmal at the collegiate level. Appalachian was able to shut down the Troy rushing attack and limit the Trojans to only 79 yards on the ground after Troy had a season high on the ground against New Mexico State the previous week. The Appalachian defense attacked the ball against Troy as well, coming up with two aggressive interceptions from Latrell Gibbs and returning one fumble for a touchdown. The Mountaineers have been very successful this season turning opponents turnovers into 104 points. Of the 53 points scored against Troy, twenty-eight came off the Trojans miscues. Georgia State has committed 18 turnovers of their own this season and have allowed 105 points off of those turnovers. If that trend continues, the Mountaineers may very well be on their way to their third victory of the season as long as they can avoid their own mistakes.
The First Pick: