Here we go with Week 4
Appalachian State (1-2) @ Akron (2-1)
Saturday, September 24th, 2016 3:30 EST
TV/Video: American SportsNetwork/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, WHKP 107.7 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490, WAZZ 94.3 Fayetteville; WPWT 870 AM, 100.7 FM Bristol/Johnson City, TN
Surface: Prograss artificial turf
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 67.56
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 4 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -6
Series: first meeting
Last meeting: n/a
After the one of tougher slates in recent memory to begin a season, Appalachian finishes off September with a road trip to Akron for its final non-conference game of the season. After this weekend, it’s all Fun Belt, all the time. The record the Mountaineers currently have is not a huge surprise, but the way the season has unfolded seems slightly unfulfilling. After a strong start at Tennessee, and a less than impressive win over Old Dominion, the Apps fell completely apart last weekend against Miami. The bright spots were few and far between and it didn’t appear the Mountaineers could do anything right. Throw in the injury to Marcus Cox, and the fans left Kidd Brewer with a really empty feeling last Saturday. It’s pretty obvious this team is in dire need of a win, just to get that feeling back before the games really start counting in conference play. To be honest, this game is about as close to being a must-win game as you can get. Another poor showing could create some panic among the natives, while a win would flip the script and provide some much needed momentum. Luckily, all the excitement of Volunteers and Hurricanes are behind us, and App can focus on good, old-fashioned boring football.
For the majority of their existence, Akron football has been a major afterthought in the state of Ohio. The school holds a losing record all time, although only 17 games below the .500 mark. The Zips not only won their first bowl game in school history in 2015, but also won their first postseason game in school history as well. Akron previously lost the 2005 Motor City Bowl, and lost an opening round game in the I-AA playoffs in 1985. The 8-5 record that Terry Bowden led Akron to in 2015 was their first winning season since the 2005 season. It was the 7th winning season in Akron’s history since they made the jump from I-AA to I-A in 1987. Akron has been a member of the MAC since 1992 while serving as an independent for their first five years in FBS.
Akron’s season thus far has been quite interesting. The Zips started slow before eventually dispatching VMI 47-24 in their opening game. Akron only led by two points entering the fourth quarter, before scoring three unanswered touchdowns. Wisconsin rolled up 586 yards of offense on the Zips the following week en route to a 54-10 win. The win over Marshall garnered a lot of attention due to the lopsided score. Marshall jumped out to a 21-7 lead after the first quarter, until Akron scored 34 points in the second quarter and cruised to a 65-38 win. Akron was the beneficiary of a short fields and Marshall turnovers in a quarter where the defense and special teams both scored.
Akron lives by their quarterback play. Thomas Woodson is averaging 298 yards passing a game through the air, but suffers under pressure. Wisconsin sacked Woodson three times and intercepted him once in holding the junior to 108 yards. Woodson threw for 407 yards and 379 yards against VMI and Marshall respectively. All ten of his touchdown passes came in the two Akron wins. Woodson is a true pocket passer and looks more like a fullback at 6’1 and 233 pounds than he does a quarterback. His favorite targets are JoJo Natson and Jerome Lane, who have been on the receiving end of six touchdown passes. Natson is a small guy who can really run, while Lane provides a big target at 6’3 and 220 pounds.
The obvious major concern for the Mountaineers this week is the availability of Marcus Cox, who is the bread and butter of the Mountaineer offense. His backups have potential, but have been shaky in limited action this season. Jalin Moore improved as the game went on last week, but has been generally been too antsy. Behind Moore, is freshman Darryonton Evans who has shown potential, but is still very raw. Josh Boyd returned to practice this week after a injury sustained in fall camp. It remains to be seen how close Boyd is to game shape and conditioning. Whichever back gets the load will need to keep the chains moving in a positive direction to relieve pressure off Taylor Lamb, who is off to a very slow start.
Akron provides a challenge to Appalachian’s defense that was certainly exposed once again by an up tempo offense. The Zips love the big play and have no intentions of using the clock to their advantage. Akron is currently 127 out of 128 teams in time of possession, but it has been working for them. To only posses the ball for 22 minutes on average and still manage to put up over 40 points a game is saying something. Conversely, Appalachian is one of the leaders in the country controlling the clock and will need to use that to their advantage, not only keeping Akron off the field, but scoring when they do have the ball. The idea of a high scoring game does not play in App’s favor at this point. Akron is pretty sloppy in all areas of the game outside of their offense. They are the 3rd most penalized team in the country, have allowed the 5th most first downs, and are one of only 11 teams in the nation allowing over 500 yards of offense to their opponents. Only six teams have had two extra points blocked, including Akron, and place kicker Tom O’Leary has missed another extra point opportunity. The best path to victory for Appalachian will be to contain the Zip offense. Akron will certainly test the Mountaineers deep based on what Miami was able to do, and the big ball is such an important part of their game. Appalachian must play a better game in the secondary and keep receivers in front of them and be crisper while substituting or else it could be another long day.
The First Pick