Here we go with Week 5
Appalachian State (3-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) @ Georgia State (1-3, 1-0 Sun Belt)
Saturday October 10th, 3:30 PM
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, WHKP 107.7 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490, WAZZ 94.3 Fayetteville; WPWT 100.7 Bristol
Surface: FieldTurf Classic HD
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
App State: 67.50
Georgia State: 44.02
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 21 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -16
Series: App State leads 1-0
Last Meeting: App State 44, Georgia State 0; November 1, 2014 (Boone, NC)
Weather: For tailgating purposes, Good chance of a passing thunderstorm 71/58
Try as some may, downplaying weather conditions in a football game isn’t the wisest decision. Doing so for a football game played in Boone, is even more foolish. Most of you have spent a significant amount of time the High Country and know that any given day can possibly be the most beautiful or miserable of settings. The Mountaineers have likely had their share of rain for a football season, and luckily, this week they get a reprieve in the form of the Georgia Dome. As much as elements in Boone can be advantageous for the home team, the same can be said for Georgia State and their indoor borrowed playground. Appalachian could not have asked for better conditions last season in their throttling of the Panthers. The somewhat unseasonable blizzard like conditions rendered the Panthers pass happy offense useless while Appalachian ran it down the throats of the visitors defense. Georgia State will look for revenge as their home turf provides a perfect venue for their offensive attack. Indoors, there are no elements to stymie a football and its path from the quarterback to a receiver. The wind doesn’t blow, the sun doesn’t get in the eyes of a receiver, and climate is controlled to a point of perfection. Forget everything that happened last year in Boone. That game was the exception and not the rule to how this Sun Belt rivalry, the closest geographically speaking, will play out.
It was expected that Georgia State would be vastly improved this season. Instead of getting behind early with lopsided losses, the Panthers had a good chance to get some wins against a few manageable opponents. On the opening weekend of the college football season, Georgia State played UNC-Charlotte on a Friday afternoon. In a game that the Panthers could not afford to lose, they did, all while embarrassing the conference and giving the 49ers their first FBS win, if you want to call it that. Georgia State could only muster twenty points despite turning their opponent over five times. The Panthers did win at New Mexico State the following week, earning their first Sun Belt victory, before regressing in their last two games, allowing a combined 102 points to Oregon and FCS Liberty.
So what can be made of this 1-3 Panther team? A team that arguably was thinking about 3-1 at this point, has not made progress under Trent Miles. Remarkably, Miles is still employed as a football coach at the Division I level. His two wins in 2+ seasons in Atlanta is a disgrace. In seven full seasons as a coach, his teams have finished with 1 win or less on four occasions. Barring an unforeseen turnaround, Miles and his Panthers will likely be heavy underdogs in the remainder of their games. It will be tough for an athletic director to believe that staying the course is what is best for their program.
For all of the flaws that Georgia State has as a program, the bright spot is quaterback Nick Arbuckle. The senior leads the Sun Belt in just about every meaningful quarterback category. Arbuckle’s 345.8 passing yards per game is also good enough to be 7th nationally. He is already thrown ten touchdown passes on the season and is on pace to throw thirty touchdowns for well over 4,000 yards. For all his chart topping numbers, Arbuckle isn’t perfect. Arbuckle has been very prone to throw interceptions throughout his career. Arbuckle threw seventeen intercpetions last year, or one every 25 attempts. This season he is only on pace for 15 interceptions and has only thrown a pick on every 30 pass attempts. Those interceptions don’t come in bunches, it just isn’t a part of running an offense that throws a lot. On top of throwing at least one interception in each game this season, that streak carries over into the last five games of the 2014 season. In his last nine games, Arbuckle has thrown fourteen picks.
Georgia State will throw the ball to pratically anyone in their offense. Thirteen different players have caught a pass this season, but the main share of targets goes the direction of three receivers. Penny Hart is their leading receiver as a freshman and is getting close to 100 yards receiving per game, Hart leads the team in catches, yards and touchdowns. Robert Davis is also active with twenty receptions while averaging close to 75 yards a game receiving. Arbuckle’s favorite target in 2014 was Donovan Harden, who just saw his first action of the season last week in the loss to Liberty. Harden pulled in 5 receptions for 179 yards, which included a 76-yard touchdown reception.
For Appalachian, this season has been a see-saw affair offensively. Taylor Lamb has had two ugly games, against Clemson and last weekend to Wyoming. One game had one of the better defenses in the country while the other saw what is likely to be worst weather conditions for throwing the football. Regardless, this team is not built to have Lamb go out and win the game. If he is throwing thirty times a game, the Mountaineers are in trouble. This team is built to run and run they will. The Mountaineers trail only Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt, averaging 298 yards a game on the ground. Oddly enough, Appalachian has used the running game to get down the field, but has been passing more when they cross into opponents territory. The Mountaineers have five rushing touchdowns on the season. Only two of those belong to primary running backs Marcus Cox and Terrance Upshaw.
For now the third straight week, Appalachian will face a defense that really struggles, and that might be putting it nicely. The Panthers are giving up a very balanced 494 yards a game, 205 on the ground and 289 in the air. Liberty was deliberate in beating up the Georgia State defense and basically did whatever they wished to the Panthers. The Mountaineers are likely to continue doing what they do best. Like I mentioned last week, until someone can prove you wrong, keep doing it. Taylor Lamb will get his chances to get back in a groove which is important once you enter conference play. The important part of this game is the momentum. Appalachian cannot afford to let Georgia State stick around. The Panthers passing game can score from anywhere on the field without notice. They run the ball basically to give their receivers a quick rest and show no intentions to establish a run game. That would play right into the Appalachian defense that has been stingy against the run, outside of last weekend. Georgia State is going to have to play perfect and keep from turning the ball over to have a chance. The Panthers have have shown that an Arbuckle interception will happen and they have also lost six fumbles on the season as well. The Mountaineers will likely score more points, but I forsee a dominant defensive effort looming for Appalachian. I’ll take the Mountaineers to end up +2 in turnover category and cruise to a three possession win.
The First Pick:
Stray Cats 24