With a slate of big college football games ready to go this weekend, don’t lose track of the Sun Belt Conference and two of the nations best teams record-wise. That’s right, 7:30 kickoff on ESPNU this Thursday may be one of the best games, if not the best game, this weekend. Newly ranked No. 25 Appalachian State heads down south to face Georgia Southern in a big conference matchup. App State enters play Thursday with a 5-1 record, while Georgia Southern is 6-1. Both teams are 3-0 in Sun Belt play.
No. 25 App State
App State is more than just the team that knocked off Michigan on the road a few years back. After a 45-38 hard-fought overtime loss at Penn State, the Mountaineers haven’t looked back. They’ve ripped off 5 straight wins behind a defense that doesn’t allow much of anything. 15.7 points allowed per game and 294.8 yards allowed per game is impressive in any era of college football, but especially in an era of West Coast, air raid offenses and little to no defense. App State sets the tone with their defense. But their offense is no slouch either. Led by the dual-headed running attack of Darrynton Evans and Jalin Moore, App State has gone for 265 yards a game on the ground. In his first year starting, Sophmore QB Zac Thomas has thrown for at an efficient 1,146 yards, 11 touchdowns, and just 4 picks. The Mountaineers balanced attack has put up just under 500 yards a game. The real challenge for App State will be stopping Georgia Southern’s triple-option attack.
Georgia Southern has gotten back into the triple-option attack that won them national championships at the FCS level. The Eagles have averaged nearly 276 yards a game. Quarterback Shai Werts leads the team with 542 yards. Running back Wesley Fields has rushed for 472 but is coming off a groin injury that kept him out of last week’s Sun Belt Conference win over New Mexico State. Fields’ status for Thursday night is not yet known. Perhaps one advantage for the Eagles is their first-year Defensive Coordinator Scot Sloan, who is in his first season with Georgia Southern after spending the previous 8 at none other than App State. Georgia Southern’s lone loss this season came on the road against Clemson, but they haven’t gotten the same respect as App State. No AP Top 25 votes this week after becoming bowl eligible. However, the Eagles did receive 2 votes in the coaches poll. App State represents a big game for Georgia Southern to put themselves on the national radar.
As I said before, this will be one of the best games on the slate this weekend. App State opens as 10 point favorites on the road, a big spread to cover with two evenly matched teams. I think the home field advantage in Statesboro will give Georgia Southern an early lead, or at least keep it close. However, I think App State is the better team and will pull away in the end once they can figure out the triple-option. App State won last year’s meeting 27-6, but that was against a 2-10 Georgia Southern team. I’ll take App State, but in a close one. Something like 34-24 in favor of the Mountaineers. Either way, we have some great action coming from the Sun Belt East on Thursday night.