Here we go with Week 10
Appalachian State (7-2, 5-0 Sun Belt) @ Troy (7-1, 4-0 Sun Belt)
Saturday, November 12th, 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
Veterans Memorial Stadium Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 72.18
Troy is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 1.5 points (rounded)
Series: App State leads 3-2
Last meeting: App State 44, Troy 41 (3OT), October 31st, 2015, Boone, NC
The Sun Belt will not hold a conference championship football game until 2018, but in the meantime, Appalachian and Troy are the closest you can get to such a game. Without a true round robin schedule, this game doesn’t act as a de facto championship, as those pesky Red Wolves of Arkansas State loom next week for Troy, and sport an unblemished conference record. There still exists a really good chance that a split conference title will occur. Arkansas State will be rooting for Troy this weekend with plans to knock them off next Thursday, and Appalachian will be doing the same in reverse, hoping to beat Troy , and hope the Trojans respond a few days later. Either a tie for first or second place will likely occur between these three teams and create a pecking order as the bowl season plays out. Neither wants to travel terribly far, or play in the Dollar General Bowl just days before Christmas. Thus, the importance of this next week in the Sun Belt. For Applachian, this game is about more than just a bowl spot. It’s all about winning a conference championship. The Mountaineers have finished second twice in their first two seasons in the Belt. It’s time to take that next step in their nearly unmatched transitional success at college football’s highest level.
A challenge like this is what dreams are made of for every player and coach. Beating up on teams that have less talent will only take you so far. Troy and Appalachian are clearly the two best teams in the Sun Belt this season. Forget about the records, and compare these two teams statistically and they are near images of one another. Both teams can run the ball, and stop the run. Both create issues on defense with turnovers, sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The difference in a game where matchups are so close on paper comes down to execution in key situations where an offense throws something at a defense they are not ready for. Simply running your offense in a game of this magnitude won’t get either team any where close to winning a title.
The majority of Troy’s success is due to the consistency of their offense. It might take them a couple series to figure out what is going to work well against your scheme, but they’ll find it and attack. The Trojans have three games with 300 yards passing and four games where they have eclipsed 175 yards rushing. They have scored on the ground and in the air at least once in every game. The task for Appalachian is real, but they must depend on what got them to this point: running to the ball, finishing each tackle and leaving no doubt.
Beyond steady play, Troy likes to push the tempo on offense. Constantly, Troy wants to get on the ball after a gain, by avoiding a huddle and trying to snap the ball before the play clock hits twenty seconds. On many occasions, receivers are not running routes to get open, but really to make the defense cover a part of the field that will not be targeted. Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers rarely works through his progressions, rather focusing on throwing the ball to a spot and putting the onus of making a play on his receivers. Coach Neal Brown knows exactly how important Silvers is to the team and wants to keep Silvers upright in the pocket, and the best way to accomplish that is for Silvers to get rid of the ball quickly.
Unlike Texas State, the majority of Troy’s passes lands in the hands of two receivers. Emanuel Thompson and Deondre Douglas lead the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns, but seven other receivers have played in every game. Nine different pass catchers have caught touchdown passes and seventeen have a caught a pass throughout the year. Watch out for Tevaris McCormick, who has three touchdowns on just fourteen receptions, and averages over eighteen yards per catch. Jordan Chunn gets all the love running the football, averaging 112.4 yards per game and has an impressive 899 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Hs is a bigger back that churns out 5 yards per attempt, and has a touchdown in every game this season, except Clemson. Oddly enough, Chunn has alternated his four 100-yard rushing games this season. He would be due for a 100-yard game this weekend, but three of his four such games have occured on the road.
The Mountaineer running attack has really rounded into form with back-to-back games right at 300 yards on the ground. The effectiveness of Marcus Cox and Jalin Moore cannot be understated. Moore has extended his streak of 100-yard games to six, and has at least one 20-yard run in each games. After shouldering a heavy load of carries in his first two starts against Akron and Georgia State, Moore has only one 20+ attempt game in his last four and is gashing defenses to the tune of 7.3 yards per carry during the same time frame. Cox has returned with renewed sense of urgency from his injury, also racking up seven yards per carry in his last two games. Cox has 100 yards rushing in every game he has finished this season, excluding Miami where he was injured.
Something is going to give on Saturday. If Troy’s fourth ranked run defense can hold Appalachian to anywhere near their defensive average, it will not be a game that Appalachian wins. Stubbornly, the Mountaineers will run until it works. The Apps have called at least 37 running plays in every game, and five times have run 47 times or more. Last year, the Mountaineers totaled 248 rushing yards against Troy. That is the Mountaineers identity, and it’s not going away just because of some numbers that Troy has accumulated against a less than impressive schedule. Five of Troy’s eight opponents are ranked 104th in the country or worse running the football. New Mexico State (104th), Idaho (106th), South Alabama (114th), Massachusetts (122nd), & Georgia State (126th) are all averaging 134 yards a game or less on the ground. Austin Peay, Troy’s opening game opponent, is 47th of 122 teams in the FCS at 165 yards per game on the ground. The Apps will get theirs on the ground, which in turn always helps the passing attack. In turn, Troy will get their passing yards. We all know Appalachian doesn’t mind giving up a play or two in the middle of the field, but clamps down at the right time. Outside of their Power Five opponents, both teams will be facing their toughest test of the season, but it’s the Mountaineers that have been tested more often this season and last. Troy is good, but they aren’t great yet, and they will not be sneaking up on Appalachian like they did last season.
The First Pick