Savannah State (0-0, 0-0 MEAC) @ Appalachian State (0-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Saturday, September 9th, 2017 3:30pm 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
Surface: Field Turf
Capacity: 24,150 (est)
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 68.75
Savannah State: 13.03
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 58 points (rounded)
Series: Appalachian State leads 1-0
Last meeting: App State 41, Savannah State 6, September 17th, 2011
Occasionally, it’s not your day. Forget about how well you prepared, how rested or how healthy, or what you had for breakfast. Sometimes that moment you walk into work, someone says something to you the wrong way, or messes up the report despite telling them how important it was to make it right. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t work out. So you rise and grind one more day, guzzle coffee the same way and hope the result is different. That is essentially what happened to the Mountaineers last Saturday. For every positive play, a negative closely followed. Now it does not matter what happens this weekend. No amount of touchdowns or scoring margin will help us change anything that has happened in the past. But we can look forward to the future. The athletic department has installed it’s largest set of temporary bleachers for the 2017 season and oh yeah, a brand spanking new video board awaits the fans this Saturday. This weekend also presents itself as a tune up game before conference play starts next weekend. It’s the last chance for the Mountaineers to get it right before the games really start counting. The foremost goal for this program every season is to win the conference championship and this season, it starts a week earlier than it ever has while Appalachian has been in the Sun Belt. One more game for certain true freshman to get the kinks out and gel with their new teammates and one last first time to start a season for outgoing seniors who have been a part of one the most memorable runs in program history.
Savannah State presents a bit of an unknown quotient for the Mountaineers. They only played ten games last year, and have yet to play a game this season. Last year the Tigers won three games, none of them on the road. They lost 54-0 in their opener at Georgia Southern in 2016, before anyone knew how terrible the Eagles were. The Tigers have won a total of seven games since the last time they played Appalachian in 2011, so getting three wins last year was a major improvement. Second year head coach Erik Raeburn was 78-13 at Wabash College, a Division III school located in Indiana, and led his squad to five playoff berths in eight seasons.
The strength of the Tigers is more likely their defense. Despite only two defenders being named to the preseason MEAC third team on defense, those two defenders made the second team last season at the end of the year. They like to blitz and will do whatever it takes to get to the quarterback. The offense leaves something to be desired, averaging just 14 points in 2016, and rushing for fewer yards last season as a team than App State’s own Jalin Moore. The Tigers managed just 12.1 first downs per game and just 3.9 yards per play over the course of the season. Expect improvements from Savannah State as they know the offense needs work. Quarterback TJ Bell returns as a dual threat option and will handle a load of the offensive burden.
Last week the Mountaineers were without two of their main playmakers in the passing game due to injuries. Having known that last week, might have made this prediction a little different. Although passing the ball is not a huge part of the App offense, it is a part that needs to be a threat. As the first half grew on last week, it was evident App had zero intentions of throwing the ball vertically down the field, opting for safer attempts to the sideline or to running backs in the flat. A vertical threat is essential and without it, the Mountaineers became very predictable as the game progressed. It appears that Shaedon Meadors might be out for an extended time while Darryton Evans could be back much sooner. That leaves a lot heavy lifting in the hands of some true freshman to get a lot of experience early in their career.
Because the passing game was so inept and careful, it took a major toll on the App ground game. Georgia made sure that Jalin Moore didn’t beat them. Much like last year, after Moore replaced an injured Marcus Cox, he was a little impatient waiting for his running lanes to develop. Timing is everything in the zone blocking scheme and Moore seemed too excited last weekend. Sometimes it takes a few games to really start clicking. I would expect to see Moore get back to form this weekend, and hopefully we can see some depth at the running back position later in the game.
There is not a ton to be said about analyzing a game that will more than likely lead to a very lopsided score. Before those who panic get my attention, I am fully aware that Howard beat UNLV this past weekend. Yes, that same Howard the Mountaineers have played in the past, but UNLV is nothing near as talented as the App State is. If UNLV were to come to Boone, you are more than likely looking at a three score margin. Some indexes have UNLV rated behind several, as in closer to twenty, FCS schools. Its not happening this weekend. Just as App can be a bought game for some schools, it works the same for Savannah State. I would like to see the Tigers win the rest of their games, after Saturday of course. The question is not how, but by how much. I do not believe in the fifteen years I have been writing this little Wednesday night think piece that I have seen the Sagarin rankings have such a large spread between App and its opponent. When App faced Campbell in 2014, the expected margin was 34 points. The Mountaineers went on to win 66-0 in a game that was interrupted by a severe thunderstorm. In 2011, the Apps had 49.5 point expected margin, and didn’t get there against Savannah State. I can’t bring myself to pick something outrageous, but if App is running base plays and the Tigers cant stop them, it will get out of control quickly. Usually the App coaching staff is not one to run up a score for the sake of it. We tend to get the game under control and coast. I feel like that is a more likely outcome. Give me the Mountaineers by six …. touchdowns.
The First Pick