Here we go with Week 7
Idaho (4-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (4-2, 2-0 Sun Belt)
Saturday, October 22th, 2016 3:30 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 870 AM, 100.7 FM Bristol/Johnson City, TN
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 70.66
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 20 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -21
Series: App State leads 2-0
Last meeting: App State 47, Idaho 20, November 14th, 2015, Moscow, ID
If a football season were a mall parking lot, the Mountaineers just rolled over the speed bump and are on their way towards the second half of the season with games in six straight weeks. The Mountaineer defense is rounding into form after laying a zero on the Ragin’ Cajuns. More impressively, the Apps are doing it with a bunch of unfamiliar names in key spots. Linebackers Eric Boggs and John Law played minimally in the win over Louisiana, which paved the way for standout performances by their backups. Meanwhile, Idaho is rolling about as well as they ever have in the FBS. With four wins, the folks in Moscow are thinking about a bowl trip as they close their time at the FBS level. Pretty ironic, in the following season that Idaho announces to reclassify to FCS for football, that they have their best season in many years. Don’t blame Idaho for their geography. They knew when they joined the Sun Belt that is was going to be a short relationship, as the Sun Belt chose to go young and east for their future memberships. This will likely be the Vandals second and final trip to Boone for some time. They couldn’t have picked a better time of the year to visit, as the leaves are holding on for dear life and some Appalachian alums from far and wide make the annual trek to Boone for homecoming festivities.
Idaho’s football season has sputtered to an extent, but their big win over New Mexico State last week has garnered some attention. The Vandals hold a series lead over the Aggies by a count of 16-7. That makes up for over half of their all time wins over Sun Belt schools, which total 31, but not all count as Sun Belt league wins. The other three wins by Idaho this year are over UL-Monroe, UNLV and Montana State, which are a combined 7-13 on the season. Respectively, their Sagarin ranks are, 152, 114, and 187. Coincidentally, all those wins are by three points. But, just like Appalachian, the Vandals have two losses to Power 5 schools in Washington & Washington State.
By this point, most are familiar with Vandal quarterback Matt Linehan and his football family tree. We covered that two years ago and beat writer Bret Strelow did so more recently. Linehan has eight touchdown passes in seven games, but his passing numbers have not been fantastic. Linehan has only eclipsed 250 passing yards once this season, against NMSU, and half of those eight touchdown passes came last week as well. Linehan accumulated 476 passing yards against the Aggies and misfired on just seven of his pass attempts. He added a rushing touchdown and 28 yards on the ground in that win.
The Vandals will use five receivers on the field in many situations but three of their pass catchers make up for over half of their completed passes on the season. Deon Watson has caught 26 passes for 380 yards. Alfonso Onunwor sports a 27/283 slash while Trent Cowan adds 23/256. There is not a ton of difference between the trio. Watson broke out last week for 129 yards and a touchdown as did Onunwor, who had 117 yards and a touchdown. Cowan added 64 yards. All three performances were their season highs. Jordan Frysinger is sneaky, with only eight catches on the year, but averages 25.5 yards per catch, and has all of his catches in two games.
Appalachian took no prisoners last week in Lafayette. Several items are obvious, such as the shutout, the big day from Shaedon Meadors and the continued consistency from Jalin Moore. Not to be outdone, Colin Reed got his first start and found the end zone. Death, taxes, and App State tight end touchdowns are the only sure things in life. It’s nice to see that the Mountaineers can plug and play at several positions on both sides of the ball. The defense finished with ten tackles for loss and five sacks while keeping Cajun all-purpose threat Elijah McGuire to 53 yards on eleven touches. Overall Louisiana running backs could only muster 3.4 yards per carry. With only three points allowed in the last two games, Appalachian has vaulted to 19th in all of FBS in points allowed at 18.8 per game.
At first thought, the twenty-two point margin at open, now 21, that Appalachian was favored by in this game seemed like a lot for a team that has left half of the playbook in the locker room at halftime for most of the season. That’s not a bad thing really. Crusing to wins may be boring for the fans, but it is exactly what every football coach in America wants. Back to spread talk. The Apps pushed with the Vandals in 2014 with a seventeen point win, and covered a big 19.5 points last year in Moscow. In both instances, the Sagarin ratings were right in line with Vegas and that seems to be the case this season. This result all depends on how Idaho finishes their drives. It has been a season long issue until last week, that the Vandals move the ball between the twenties, until they get to the red zone, and the space to work with gets tighter. As the field shrinks, there is less space for all those receivers to run and Linehan seems to get antsy in the pocket. Linehan will roll out, further decreasing the size of the field to work with, and his accuracy suffers when he scrambles. Idaho also lacks the ability to run the football between the lines, which leaves them to pass into the end zone. Luckily, Idaho has one of the best punters and kickers in the country in Austin Rehkow, who has 14 field goals in 2016. He can keep them close early, but chances are you aren’t beating Appalachian with field goals. The odds of Idaho and their 105th best red zone offense facing off against the Mountaineers and their 21st best red zone defense spells trouble for the Vandals. The Mountaineers will impose their will on the Vandals and wear them out late in this one.
The First Pick