Here we go with week 11
Louisiana-Lafayette (4-6, 3-3 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (8-2, 5-1 Sun Belt)
Saturday, November 28th, 2:00 EST
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
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Field Turf
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 71.14
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 20.5 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -23.5
Series: App State leads 1-0
Last meeting: App State 35, Louisiana 16 November 22nd, 2014, Lafayette, LA
In the past twenty days, the Mountaineers have played exactly one football game. That equates to a lot of time to rest, watch film and practice. It serves almost like a minicamp of sorts to iron out all of the wrinkles and sharpen the tools for a stretch run that likely includes three football games over a four week period of time, give or take a couple days. A lot attention has been paid to bowl scenarios and matchups in the down period we have had without football. A lot of uncertainty can be cleared up this weekend as Appalachian can help it’s own cause by winning and eliminating Louisiana from bowl contention. Almost hard to even fathom the kings of the Sun Belt over the past few years not being considered for a bowl game, but it’s the truth. The Cajuns had played in and won four straight bowl games in their backyard and it’s very likely, that one of their biggest rivals will be playing in a postseason game in “their” city. The Cajuns, however, still have plenty to play for. Their season isn’t technically over just yet. They still control their own bowl fate in terms of getting to six wins, but in order to get there, they’ll have to deal with twenty-two Mountaineer seniors who want a win in their final game at The Rock.
Lousiana’s troubles in 2015 can be attributed to several different factors. The Cajuns have fielded several different starting lineups on the defensive side of the ball. Not once this season have the Cajuns fielded the same starting eleven in two games on defense. Louisiana has constantly been forced to rotate players in and out due to injuries and poor play. Seven different defensive backs have started a game. Seven is also the highest number of starts for any player at one position in the secondary. The boundary corner and the field corner have flipped sides of the field. Eight different players have started at linebacker and seven different players have started on their three man defensive line.
The perpetual lineup changes have led to a lack of chemistry that has really shown the last two games. South Alabama and New Mexico State put up the most yards that Louisiana has surrendered all season long. The Jaguars gained 495 yards while the Aggies accumulated 498 yards of total offense. In those two games, the Cajuns secondary gave up six touchdown passes combined. Take it a step further, and the Cajuns have allowed 12 scoring passes in their last four games. Last week, New Mexcio State completed just sixteen passes, but twelve of them went for first downs.
The quarterback position is a true head scratcher. Louisiana likes to use a two quarterback system, but it’s like nothing you have ever seen. The Cajuns do not lean on a hot hand, or use a quarterback based on an opponents weakness. They just use them recklessly. They will change quarterbacks in the middle of a series, and even in the same sequence of downs. The “passing” quarterback, Brooks Haack has more interceptions than touchdown passes. The “running” quarterback, Jaelen Nixon has more touchdown passes than Haack on thirty-four fewer attempts. Nixon is the team’s second leading rusher with 403 yards.
One constant for Lousiana has been Elijah McGuire, the junior running back who is rewriting the Cajun record book. McGuire is a big play threat every time he touches the ball. McGuire is 71 yards from eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards on the season. But, McGuire on the road this season has not been the same player as he has been in Lafayette. In his five road games thus far, McGuire has 296 yards, just under 60 yards per game. McGuire gains 3.5 yards per carry on the road this season, while his numbers at home are nearly double, at 6.7 yards per tote. Only two of his twelve rushing touchdowns are on the road. The only part of his game that improves on the road are his receiving statistics, gathering 23 of his 29 receptions away from home.
The Mountaineers have been known to gamble this season, with their fake punts and field goals. Perhaps the biggest gamble of the season was giving Marcus Cox a week off in the game against Idaho. Cox was suited up, but the Mountaineers had looked lackluster on offense the previous two weeks. Instead of asking his star to gut it out, Scott Satterfield looked to the healthier options at running back. Terrance Upshaw got the start, but was quickly supplanted by Jalin Moore. On the second drive of the game, the Apps turned to Moore who ran six times for forty-eight yards on a nine play drive that culminated with a Mountaineer touchdown. The gamble paid off and Jalin Moore became a household name.
Louisiana has one road victory this season. It was a two point win over Georgia State, a game in which Panther head coach Trent Miles foolishly attempted a fake punt deep in his own territory with the lead. That allowed the Cajuns to kick the game winner and hold on. Georgia State did everything right that day and Louisiana, everything wrong. The Cajuns got the win but they didnt deserve it. In every other road game, they have lost by at least a touchdown this season. If you would have told a Cajun fan at the beginning of the season that they would lose to New Mexico State and beat Georgia State by two, they would have laughed at you. In fact, the Cajuns have only looked like the team we thought they were going to be in two games this season, in wins over Texas State and Northwestern State. The Cajuns will show flashes of brilliance here and there with the talent providing glimpes of their potential. Those big plays have not been there consistently. Luckily, the Cajuns are still in position to extend their season, but it makes one wonder if last weekend’s loss may have been too demoralizing to recover from. For Appalachian, the beat goes on. The Mountaineers looked like the team that started the season in the win over Idaho and two weeks to mend should do their bodies good. The Cajuns gave up chunks of yardage on the ground in their last two games to South Alabama’s Xavier Johnson and New Mexico State’s Larry Rose III. Louisiana’s weakness in the last handful of games plays right into the Mountaineers hand. Expect to see Appalachian win to send the seniors off in style.
The First Pick: