Appalachian State (2-1) vs James Madison (2-0)
Saturday, September 24th, 2022 3:30pm EST
Radio: FLAGSHIP 97.3 FM (North Wilkesboro), 96.5
FM/1450 AM (Boone), 99.1 FM/1060 AM/1030 AM (Charlotte),
105.3 FM/1320 AM (Greensboro), 790 AM (Johnson City),
107.7 FM/1450 AM (Hendersonville), Varsity Network App
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 72.97
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 3.51 points
VegasInsider Line: App State -7
Series: App State leads 12-4
Last Meeting: James Madison 35, App State 32 September 20, 2008, Harrisburg, VA
Caught your breath yet? Maybe we can use a different lede next week. College football has been upside down through three weeks, and it seems as if App State has been in the center of it all. Forty-point fourth quarters? Check. Knocking off a top ten opponent on the road? We have that too. Winning on a hail mary touchdown pass? Why not. App State has played just three games with nearly a seasons worth of moments. What could possibly happen next? We welcome in an old rival that also plays the part of a conference newcomer. The Dukes landed in the Sun Belt East along with Old Dominion and Marshall. This will be the seventeenth meeting between the two schools and first matchup as conference opponents. Among the more recent FCS-FBS transitions, the Dukes have the pedigree, with two national championships, and a winning history. They were rumored to have declined an invitation to the Sun Belt years ago, but could not pass it up a second time. This will be the Sun Belt opener for the Dukes, and their fans could not be more excited to renew a budding rivalry.
For the Mountaineers, this will be the fourth game of the season this weekend, but the Dukes were blessed/cursed with a Week 3 bye after playing Middle Tennessee and Norfolk State at home to begin the season. Having an extra week to prepare for an opponent could turn out beneficial, but having one so early in the season might not be. This schedule is partially a result from existing contracts and changing conferences, and subdivisions with less than a year’s notice. James Madison is still in transition and will only play eleven games this year. That means a bowl game and a Sun Belt championship is not in the cards. The Dukes administration hopes to cut the transition period in half from two years to one year. In the meantime, they are playing for pride knowing that they have just the schedule in front of them to play. Transitioning is hard enough, and during the NIL and portal era, it has to be downright difficult for roster management and recruiting.
We can say that James Madison has played just two games this year, but really, it was maybe one and a half games. Against Middle Tennessee, the Dukes started somewhat slow, with a fourteen play drive to start the game that ended with a missed field goal. That drive ate up more than six minutes of game clock. They turned the ball over on their next drive, but then scored touchdowns on three of their next four drives. Those touchdown drives did not eat up a lot of clock, using less than four minutes each. The Dukes love pouncing on your defense when they think they have you on your heels. The threat of tempo exists, and when the quarterback sees something he likes, he’ll be aggressive and attack single coverage. The run-pass-option offense is still alive and well at James Madison. The Dukes worked the Middle defense early, keeping them on the field for thirty plays in their first three drives, and then sped up the pace with 29 plays on their next six drives. The defense has to stay ready for anything when the James Madison offense is on the field.
James Madison has run up the score and racked up a lot of yardage in their first two games. That includes eye-popping numbers that are likely unsustainable over the course a full season, especially when you get into conference play. Beyond outscoring their opponents 107-14, and giving up just 21 total rushing yards, the Dukes have yet to turn the ball over. Todd Centeio has been flawless at quarterback. He’s thrown for 452 yards in essentially three halves of football, completed 66% of his passes and has nine touchdown passes. He’s hard to get a hold of and will not give up sacks. He can scramble and extend plays. The main job of the defense will be to contain him in the pocket and make sure he does not get his feet set when passing. He’ll run on design plays and also bail quickly sometimes when his first read is not there. Centeio has 139 rushing yards in addition to his near perfect passing stats. His primary target has been senior Kris Thornton, who has already amassed eighteen catches in two games, along with 247 yards and five touchdowns.
At no point this past Saturday, did the Troy game feel like one that would be decided by whoever had the ball last. But that is exactly what it turned into. Each team had nine possessions. Both teams scored four touchdowns. The difference in the game was a field goal made and a safety given. Sure, that’s five points, and the final margin was four. A certain point after attempt was not necessary, nor remotely possible. In a game of who has the ball last, its best not to give the other team points. Troy punted just twice, but ultimately their opening drive interception led to App State points, they missed a field goal, and then gave up a safety. This game really came down to situational football. One play ultimately resulted in the final tally, but it was a mixture of just enough from App State that kept them within striking distance. Consider the Mountaineer defense that came through for three sacks and an interception of Gunnar Watson. On the flipside, Chase Brice was sacked once, threw two touchdown passes, and didn’t turn the ball over.
It’s fair to say, that Madison and App fans are really not quite sure what to think about their teams. And that is just fine. It’s still September. The Dukes have played two games where they thoroughly defeated their opponents. Norfolk State is 0-3 with losses to Marshall, Madison and Hampton. Middle Tennessee sports a 2-1 record, but all they have done is get spanked by JMU, and beaten two teams with 0-3 records in Colorado State and Tennessee State. Based on the App State results, a handful of plays in each game could have changed the trajectory in those contests. App’s record could be anywhere from 0-3 to 3-0, and it wouldn’t shock you. The reason why we watch, is to see if your team eventually evolves over the course of the season. Peaking in September will not do you any favors in November. Well, we also like to win. We want to feel good. James Madison also wants to feel good. They want to know that they made the right decision to enter FBS. They’ll hit some stumbling blocks. There is not a program out there that has not or will not. But they will also have those moments that validate that decision. Their schedule sets up nicely, with only five road games, but they are big ones, and every game is on Saturday. But keep an eye on a stretch of games where they are on the road four out of five weeks with a bye week sandwiched in. But this JMU team knows nothing about App State from the past. This rekindling of a predictive rivalry is among fans alone. Still, players on both sides of the ball have known nothing but winning within their program. Although Madison may have not been tested this year, they have known how to get it done for sometime. Conversely, App State has been tested several times in three games. Are we expecting a game into the fourth quarter? Is that more likely than a multiple score game going either direction? I believe so. But there is one theory at play here not many have touched on. The scoreboard said the Mountaineers scored more points last week. However, I think this team comes out and plays like they lost. Offense will be crisper and the defense will play better. That should be more than enough for a comfortable win.
The First Pick
Miracle Whip 28