Appalachian Football @ #15 Georgia

Appalachian State (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) @ #15 Georgia (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
Saturday, September 2nd, 2017 6:15pm est

TV/Video: ESPN

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

Sanford Stadium

Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 92,746

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 70.30

Georgia: 83.70

Home: 2.41

Georgia is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 16 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: Georgia -14.5

Series: Georgia leads 1-0

Last meeting: Georgia 45, App State 6, November 9th, 2013


         The last time Appalachian opened a season with Georgia on the schedule, not as the opener, but on the schedule, it was Scott Satterfield’s first year as head coach. It has been a quick five years since 2013, and a lot has changed on the mountain. That 2013 squad wanted to finish their final season in the FCS with a 12-0 record despite being ineligible for any sort of post season play due to FBS transition. That dream quickly vanished, as Appalachian had one of their worst seasons in program history. At that point, App was forced to hit the reset and fast forward buttons at the same time. The purpose of the decision to accelerate experience among young players, brought visions of being in this exact scenario in 2017, with a chance to spring an upset, and build what could become a special season. It’s difficult to tell that story quicker. Presumably, two games this season could tell the story of this team, and define how good this Mountaineer squad really can be. One of those opportunities presents itself this weekend in Athens. The Bulldogs are coming off a sub par season, for Georgia standards, but a leap in results is expected now that Kirby Smart is in his second year as head coach. A healthy recruiting class and a boatload of returning talent has the experts thinking Georgia could make a run, but are cautious at the same time placing the the ‘Dawgs in the middle of the polls. Not too high, not too low. They could go anywhere from there, but its the Mountaineers who are looking to move up, and could move in that direction in a big way on Saturday. 

         Mark Richt could haunt the Mountaineers twice in as many seasons pending the result this weekend. Last year, Richt coached up his alma mater to big a win over Appalachian in Boone. This season, Smart’s alma matar could take most of Richt’s former players and humble the Mountaineers. Could be that Richt’s players are just made to beat Appalachian. Regardless of what happens, Richt has played a heavy part in these games. Richt was run out of town, and yet Georgia gave a Kirby Smart a bit of a leash while the ‘Dawgs regressed in 2016 finishing 4-4 in the SEC East, in a three-way tie with the likes of Tennessee and Kentucky. You know, that same Tennessee team that App pushed around on the opening Thursday night in 2016 despite losing. 

          Catching Georgia on the opening weekend would seem to give Appalachian a better chance of catching lightning in a bottle. But, that Tennnesee/App game last year could work in Georgia’s favor given the recency of that game. Kirby Smart has mentioned ad nauseum how he was able to watch tape of Appalachian last year while preparing for Tennessee, and spoken highly of how well the Apps played defensively. Smart knows a good defense when he sees one, as he coordinated the Alabama defense for eight years. 

           With an entire offseason to wander about a teams weakness or strengths, especially this Georgia team that has plenty of them, you won’t read anything groundbreaking before Week One. The “Dawgs have two very good tailbacks who they rotate in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Both could have opted for the NFL draft this past spring, but both were recovering form injuries from the previous season and wanted to improve their stock. Both would have been drafted. Chubb is fifth in active FBS rushing and Michel is 15th. Chubb has more career rushing yards than Todd Gurley, who many of you might be foolishly selecting in your fantasy football drafts. Appalachian’s run defense is no slouch and will be up to the challenge, considering how they contained Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara almost exactly one year ago. 

           The real question mark of the Georgia offense is what Jacob Eason does to improve off of his freshman season. Constantly harassed last season, Eason was either sacked or threw an interception in every game in 2016. He had a stretch in games two through six, where he threw an interception each week. He was sacked twenty-one times last year and posted four games with passer efficiency ratings under 100. He finished the season completing 55.1% of his passes, good enough for 10th in the SEC. Two Florida quarterbacks finished higher in that category. Needless to say, there is plenty of room for improvement for Eason. 

           We are all very familiar with the Mountaineer offense. You know about four year starting quarterback Taylor Lamb, and Jalin Moore, who looks to defend his Sun Belt offensive player of year honor in just his junior season. After 731 yards as a freshman, Moore exploded for 1,402 yards last season, giving him 2,133 yards in just just two seasons. You know about the offensive line that has three preseason all-Sun Belt honorees, including Colby Gossett and Beau Nunn on the first team. Last, but not least, Shaedon Meadors returns for his senior season also garnering a first team All Sun Belt honor coming off a forty-five reception campaign last year. 

          Although most of the fall news revolved around the offense, the Appalachian defense is locked and loaded for another spectacular season. After a season in which they allowed just under 18 points a game, and intercepted twenty passes, this group also returns a lot of talent. The defensive line is loaded with season veterans in Tee Sims, Myquon Stout and Caleb Fuller. Anthony Flory and Rashad Townes will step in for the departed John Law and Kenan Gilchrist. Clifton Duck, AJ Howard and Josh Thomas have also seen significant playing time while on the mountain. A lot of the newcomers, such as Flory and others who will get repetions in the secondary just needed to wait their turn. This Mountaineer defense doesnt rebuild, it simply reloads. 

          Just about anything and everything that can be said about the first week of college football has been printed or spoken over this long summer stretch. The college game lost a lot of great players last year to the NFL and graduation. This could be one of the more wide-open seasons we have seen in awhile. Nobody knows if Georgia has what it takes to ascend to the top of the SEC or remain in the middle of a crowded SEC. A lot was said about Tennessee last season before the games actually kicked off. The Vols were the potential title contenders. It wasn’t to be. Georgia could make a run, and I hope they do, you know after losing the first one, right? I like the chances the Mountaineers have on Saturday. Georgia likes to be a balanced team, and to extent, so does Appalachian. But both squads have the ability to punish you if they see a weakness. Speaking of weaknesses, I can’t stop thinking about that Georgia offensive line. It’s easily the most glaring going into this game this weekend on both teams. Even this week, the ‘Dawgs have been rotating lineman during practice, in the name “getting guys reps”. Thats good fluff for the media, that I believe  translates to this: We’re going to be grading our guys from the first snap, and whoever plays well during the game will get more playing time”. I truly believe Georgia is concerned. Before the season is done Eason is going to need time to throw. Georgia simply can’t ask Chubb and Michel to carry the load all season long. It might be enough this Saturday, but not for the duration of the season.  If App wants to be successful, I think they follow a very generic “Tennessee” game script, playing possession football and leaning on their defense. Taylor Lamb is going to need a big day, whether with his legs or his arm, and I don’t have a preference. 
The First Pick

Hair of the Dawg 27

Mountaineers 24

Men’s Basketball @ Georgia

7:08am: #AppStateMBB is getting 12 points today down in Athens with no word on the status of Mike Neal. At least none that we have seen.

Georgia has four players scoring in double figures this season and their only win was over Wofford, while losing to Davidson.

7:16am: I think this line could move a half point before tip. Not a lot of NCAA games on the card today. Right now, I am leaning toward a UGA cover

10:44am: #APPvsUGA spread has dropped to 11.5. As I expected it to do. Could see it go to 11, but I don’t think it moves more than that.

10:52am: #AppStateMBB is 13-4 ATS as a road underdog of 9.5 to 12 points since 1997.

3:40pm: Line hasn’t moved this afternoon off of 11.5. Money line payouts haven’t budged either. #APPvsUGA #ncaabb

4:47pm: Late money coming in on Georgia pushes the line back to 12. That’s going to be my pick, for Georgia to cover the spread.

Appalachian Football @ Georgia

Here we go with Week 10:

Appalachian State (2-7, 2-4 SoCon) @ Georgia (5-3, 4-2 SEC)

Time: 12:30 pm

TV/Video: ESPN GamePlan, ESPN3

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Sanford Stadium

Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 92,746

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 48.73

UGA: 83.93

Home: 3.49

Georgia is favored by the Sagarin ratings by38.5 points (rounded).

Series: First Meeting

Last Meeting: n/a

WXAPP’s Athens Gameday Weather Trends

Mostly Sunny, Lower 60’s at kickoff, Mid 60’s by the end of the game

            Growing pains are never easy. Sometimes the same mistakes are made over and over and learning from them is easier said than done. The Mountaineers seem to be repeating history with each passing loss. With a team full of freshmen, mistakes are unavoidable. Making mistakes are what they do more often than making the right play or read. Saturday’s loss was a good game to watch from a football perspective, but not from a black and gold point of view. The difference was the turnovers. Both teams turned the ball over once with the Mountaineers offense sputtering with a punt following their takeaway. Chattanooga took advantage on their interception, by returning it for a touchdown. Unfortunately, that was the difference on the scoreboard. Another crummy way to end a game, by letting it slip away late. There is no cure to being young, other than dealing with it. At this point in the season, we are almost at a loss for words. Going back to drawing board is getting old, but still a necessity. This week the Mountaineers have to dig real deep, and look for some motivation as they travel to one of college football’s most mystical stadiums for a battle in which they are severely overmatched. Georgia is constantly stocked with some of the best talent in the country at all positions, but has had plenty of issues having one of those truly special teams over the years. They are comparable to those Appalachian teams prior to national championships as they are never an easy win and always considered one of the best. Finally these two schools will face off after the game being moved to different seasons on two occasions. We’ll just say the Dawgs were avoiding the Mountaineers, waiting until the time was right.

            It has been difficult seeing Appalachian struggle to stop a team that is dependent on aspect of their game. Many games this season, the Mountaineers could have focused on one player to contain defensively and it would have dramatically increased their chances of winning. Jacob Huesman did to the Mountaineers almost exactly what Darien Robinson of The Citadel did. He didn’t force the action, and let the game come to him. Nothing Chattanooga did last week was special in the least bit. Huesman ran endlessly it seemed, always getting enough yards to move the chains and shorten the game. He averaged 8.2 yards per rush, while the remainder of the Mocs averaged 3.2 yards per carry. The Mountaineers couldn’t contain him. Huesman didn’t throw a lot, but when he did, it was worked well enough to keep the defense honest. Huesman completed thirteen passes to seven different receivers and both of his touchdown passes were over twenty yards.

            The Mountaineers looked decent on offense, but unlike the previous week, they could not hit the big play in the passing game with regularity. There were a couple twenty yard plays, but the thirty, forty and fifty yard gains were absent. Kam Bryant continued his streak of being incredibly accurate. He completed 72% of his passes in the game, which actually lowered his completion percentage for the season. Bryant has completed 73.2% of his passes on the season, and if he keeps pace for three more games, would break a record that goes all the way back to 2009, when Armanti Edwards completed 68% of his passes for the season. Bryant has now thrown a touchdown pass in seven straight games and has eclipsed 250 yards passing for the third straight game. Marcus Cox continues to churn out the yards. His 29 carries were the most in a game in his short career, and fell one yard short of tying his career high in rushing yards in a game with 158 on the ground. Cox scored three touchdowns, another career high for a single game, and now has fourteen combined scores on the season.  Cox is 296 yards away from breaking the school record for rushing yards in a season by a freshman, which is also held by Armanti Edwards when he ran for 1,153 yards in 2006. Edwards had the benefit of playing in three more games than Cox will this season.

            Georgia entered the season ranked fifth by the Associated Press and were considered by many to be a national championship contender. That goal took a small hit when they lost on opening weekend to then #8 Clemson and the injury bug caught up with them midseason in stunning losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt in consecutive weekends. In Georgia’s first four games, they were averaging 42 points a game, and since then have fallen to just under 27 points per contest in their last four games. The Dawgs needed overtime in Knoxville to get past Tennessee and a game winning drive last week in the fourth quarter to defeat Florida. The Bulldogs have played fourteen true freshmen this season at some point, and ten of those have been on the defensive side of the ball. In the defensive secondary, Georgia has used five different lineups in eight games. In all, Georgia has started 17 different players for the first time of their career this season.

             The Georgia injuries have not been as plentiful on the offensive side of the ball, but they have hit the Bulldogs in some very key places. The one that has gained the most attention is tailback Todd Gurley, who is likely to play this weekend. Gurley is going to be a problem for the Mountaineers if he is at full strength. He is only a sophomore and list of accolades are already a career’s worth of work for any average player. The most important superlative that stands out: Gurley is only the second Georgia running back to gain 1,000 yards as a freshman. The other guy was Herschel Walker. Gurley is a sure fire draft pick, likely the first running back taken, whenever he decides to leave school. He is 6’1 and 232 pounds and has 4.4 speed as well. Appalachian has to hope he is limited, or that the Bulldogs try to save him for #7 Auburn the following week.

            As if Gurley was not enough offense, the Dawgs also have Aaron Murray at quarterback, who is one touchdown pass away from tying Danny Wuerffel’s SEC career record. Murray has been a four year starter and is another future NFL draft pick. Murray has 18 touchdown passes in eight games this season and will likely get a huge roar from the Bulldog faithful when he breaks that record on Saturday. Murray and his offense have been quick starters all season, scoring nearly a third of their points in the first quarter. However, Georgia’s offense tails off as the game wears on. Sixty percent of their points scored this season have come in the first half of games. Meanwhile, the Georgia defense has had trouble finishing in either half this season, giving up 64% of their points in the second and fourth quarters. If the Mountaineers want to compete, they must find a way to get the offense going early, and keep the Bulldogs at bay at the start of the game. Recent FBS games at Florida and Virginia Tech may remind Appalachian fans how important it is to get off to a good start. In both of those games, the Mountaineers were steamrolled by the end of the first quarter. In neither of those games did Appalachian score a meaningful touchdown. That is the basics of this game on Saturday. Appalachian must avoid the early onslaught and contain Georgia as best they can. The Bulldogs are so young and hobbled on defense and the Mountaineers must attack on offense, especially in the passing game. Marcus Cox might be the key for the Mountaineers though. It is doubtful we see another game with close to thirty carries, but he needs to be effective enough to keep Georgia and their defensive line away from Kam Bryant. The Bulldogs have sacked opposing quarterbacks 23 times this season, which is second in the SEC. Georgia does give up 7.5 yards per pass play, and 31.6 points per game on the season, which are both dead last in the SEC. Both teams are in the red on turnover margin, the Bulldogs giving the ball up six more times than their opponents and the Mountaineers are three in the hole. Georgia most likely will win this game going away, but Appalachian will have their chances to stick around and keep the Georgia faithful uneasy.


The First Pick:

Hair of the Dawg        42

Mountaineers              21