#25 Appalachian State (5-1, 3-0 Sun Belt) @ Georgia Southern (6-1, 3-0 Sun Belt)
Thursday, October 25th, 2018 7:30pm 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
Surface: Shaw Legion 41 synthetic turf
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 78.66
Georgia Southern: 63.90
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 12.5 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -8.5
Series: App State leads 19-13-1
Last meeting: App State 27, Georgia Southern 6, November 9th, 2017, Boone, NC
WxCrum Forecast: Rain chances increasing through the evening
We are all so lucky that we get to have this experience once a year. No matter which team is up or down in any given year, nothing really changes. App State and Georgia Southern teeing it up always brings out the best and worst of both fan bases. Whether App fans want to believe it or not, we have somewhat missed the Eagles feeling good about themselves. At the end of day, that is what makes this rivalry. It can be argued that the stakes could not be any bigger this week than they have before between these two schools. Multiple times, one has knocked off the other while they were the top-ranked team in FCS. Multiple times these teams have met with the inside track to a conference championship on the line. Multiple times, one team had more riding on the game than the opponent. It’s a bit different this time, because as much as things stay the same, they also change. Never have App and Southern played with a conference championship game potentially in the balance. Never have they played with a school ranked in the AP Top 25 and never has the slimmest of chances of a New Years Day bowl even been slightly considered. This game might be different, it might be the same, but none of that is considered when these teams are between the lines. It’s all about beating Georgia Southern.
The last time we saw Chad Lunsford, he was still the interim coach for Georgia Southern. A long time assistant, but never once a coordinator earned the right to lead the Eagles based upon his five week audition. He signed a four year contract nearly double the base salary of the fired Tyson Summers and went to work quickly on getting back to the Georgia Southern basics. Lunsford first hired Scot Sloan away from App State to be his defensive coordinator, and then quickly followed that up by hiring his offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse away from New Mexico. With DeBesse’s hiring, the Eagles were somewhat getting their option offense back.
Like Louisiana, the Eagles have been sliding for a couple years, but appear to getting things turned around. The Eagles of the last few seasons would not be 6-1 even with the schedule they have played to date. They easily returned the favor to UMass, who had waxed the Eagles in Amherst last year. Following a loss to Clemson, Southern pulled off the early shocker of the Sun Belt slate with a last minute comeback over Arkansas State. That’s when most began to take notice. Their next three opponents were not exactly intimidating, and they took care of business, which a included a close win over perennial Sun Belt cellar dweller Texas State. Southern pulled away from South Alabama in the second half in Statesboro and benefited from three New Mexico State turnovers in their win last weekend.
With the option being back, you get to see more things like, the leading rusher being the quarterback. The majority of the offense does run through Shai Werts, but his production has declined since the beginning of the season. After 75 carries in the first four games, Werts has just 29 carries in the last three contests. He suffered an injury to his chest in the Texas State game but did return later in that tilt. His rushing average dipped from 95 yards a game in the first four, to 57 yards per in the last three. Werts might have been limited by design last week, as the Eagles still rolled up a season high 389 yards on the ground.
Southern’s second leading rusher Wesley Fields sat out against New Mexico State with an injury after having his most usage in a game against Texas State with 26 carries for 93 yards. Fields has 472 yards and four rushing touchdowns in six games. Filling in for the injured Fields was redshirt freshman Logan Wright, who ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns on seventeen carries. Wright only had nine carries prior to last week. Senior Monteo Garrett also saw a season-high seventeen carries which he converted into 76 yards vs New Mexico State. Sophomore slot back Wesley Kennedy III, who also handles kickoff returns, added 97 yards on sixteen carries.
Now that we mentioned every Eagle running back, it’s time to mention our own. Darrynton Evans stepped right in and scampered his way to 183 rushing yards and two total touchdowns in his first action as the main ball carrier. That performance was good enough to be named the Sun Belt’s co-offensive player of the week. Evans now leads the team with 425 rushing yards. In his last two games, Evans has toted the ball 42 times for 298 yards including three total scores. His style is completely different to what fans have been accustomed to for several years. Visually, it will take some getting used to, but arguing with the results will get you nowhere.
The biggest cliche in games where the intensity and emotions are heightened has something to do with “throwing out the records.” It might be old and tired, but generally, it is pretty dead on. It can be tough to look at a bunch of statistics with a run heavy team such as Georgia Southern to get a read on them. Most of time when Georgia Southern is a really good football team, they have been at or near the top team in the nation running the ball. Insert the fifth ranked rushing team in terms of yards per game. On the other side, App State is the seventh best in the same category. Southern has about ten more yards per game, while the Mountaineers boast a better yard per carry average by almost a whole yard (0.95). Otherwise, when you play a run heavy team, and that team is 6-1, their statistics are going to look good. They don’t give up a ton of rushing yards because teams are playing from behind. They’ll have a ton of rushing yards, and they’ll throw the ball around when you least expect it and they’ll be pretty efficient when they do it. If this game will be affected by wetter than usual weather, it will be the team that is better passing the ball that will prevail. Yeah, you read that right. The beauty of that is the offense knows where they are going, and the defense has to react. I expect a bounce back performance by the Mountaineers in the passing game, despite the conditions. The first team to thirty points will take this one.
The First Pick
The Stink 20