Appalachian State (8-1, 4-1 Sun Belt) @ Georgia State (6-3, 3-2 Sun Belt)
Saturday, November 16th, 2019 7:30pm
Radio: Boone/Blowing Rock: WATA 1450 AM & 96.5 FM; North Wilkesboro/Hickory/Charlotte WKBC 97.3 FM; Asheville WZGM 1350 AM; Hendersonville WHKP 107.7 FM & 1450 AM; Charlotte/Gastonia WCGC 1270 AM; Charlotte/Rock Hill WAVO 1150 AM; Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point WSJS 101.5 FM & 600 AM
Georgia State Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 77.23
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 12.74 points
Line: App State -16.5
Series: App State leads 5-0
Last meeting: App State 45, Georgia State 17, November 17, 2018, Boone, NC
WxCrum Forecast: Sunny day turns into a clear night. Temps mid-50s to low 40s
This literally should not be happening, but you’ll hear no complaints. App State continues to make school history, and conference history, by finalizing their non-conference slate with 4-0 record. And yes, that includes wins over both major conferences in the south. On top of that, App State was ranked for the first time in the College Football Playoff rankings that were released earlier this week. Most were concerned about being ranked in the AP and Coaches Poll, but its the CFP rankings that really matter. Those fifteen committee members can decide your postseason fate prior to the conference doing so. But before we get there, we must get through the conference first. Beating both brands of Carolina is nice, but all they count for is a resume and program booster. At App State, they play for rings, and the next three games will decide whether the Mountaineers are worthy enough to play for that right again. This team has responded well after big wins already this season, and they will once again be quizzed on focus this week down in Atlanta.
Last week, this game had a high interest and plenty of significance. For App State to keep hopes alive to play in the Sun Belt Championship game, they had to get a win over Georgia State, and then potentially get help down the road from the Panthers. However, as most reading this were waiting on App State and South Carolina to kick off, both Georgia schools, the Eagles from Statesboro and Georgia State went on the road and lost. That put the Mountaineers back in the drivers seat for the east division. App State now finds itself a full game ahead of both schools with only three regular season conference games remaining. The game remains a must win, but the luster wore off a little bit of the nationally televised game.
The main reason for that? Panther senior quarterback Dan Ellington sprained his knee last week in the loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Ellington was the engine that made the Georgia State offense move. An above average passer with elite mobility, Ellington served as an excellent facilitator and secondary threat to one of the nations best rushing attacks. Without him, Georgia State will turn to a true freshman will little experience. Cornelious “Quad” Brown has played in all of two games for the Panthers this season. He is virtually an unknown besides looking at a roster card and two box scores. He also played in the blowout loss Georgia State was handed by Western Michigan. From what limited tape that exists, Brown appears to use his arm to throw the ball, more than he does his body. Most of his throws against Monroe were to the sideline against a defense that was laying back, trying to protect a lead.
Georgia State figures to lean heavily on their running game, especially more so considering their quarterback situation. The Panthers will miss Ellington’s ability to run. That’s not saying that Quad Brown will not, or can not run, but the Panthers are super thin at that position. They’ll likely try to keep Brown out of harms way. Ellington had run for 603 yards on the season, which is a large chunk of their offense missing. In the meantime, Tra Barnett looks to carry an even larger load than he has this season. Barnett is averaging just under twenty attempts a game, and carried 32 times against Monroe, with the majority of those coming in the second half after Ellington’s injury. Barnett also carried 34 times against Troy in the Panthers previous game. Barnett fumbled for the first time on the season against Monroe, which was a huge turning point in that second half.
Setting the final result aside, the App State offense was still underwhelming at times on Saturday in the win over South Carolina. The difference in the last two games, is getting those big plays in all facets of the game. That is what separates winning and losing. Nick Ross’ interception return for a touchdown was the defensive highlight, and Jalen Virgil’s 57-yard kickoff return was a huge play made by the special teams. Those plays helped springboard the Mountaineers to reach the end zone, one way or another. Because of those momentum swings, your offense is not required to do all the heavy lifting. Regardless, Darrynton Evans had a fabulous game with 117 total offensive yards on twenty-three opportunities. It was the defense, however, that completely shut down the Gamecock running game. South Carolina gained just 21 yards on 27 attempts.
Over the course of the brief App State-Georgia State history, the games have been severely lopsided in favor of the Mountaineers. Every game has been decided by at least two touchdowns. It seems Georgia State has always had a few decent pieces of a team, but never the whole puzzle. One year, a good offense, the next a pitiful defense, and everything in between. In 2019, it seemed that the Panthers had enough offense to overcome a very suspect defense. And then the injury to Dan Ellington happened. Now the offense is an unknown, which does not mix well with a defense that is 116th nationally, giving up 463 yards per game, and 6.8 yards per play. The Panther defense is not Louisiana-Monroe level bad. But something is to be said about a Panther offense that scored just seven points in the second half against the Warhawks last week. It looks like it could be a long night for the home team. The Panthers still control their own destiny despite being a full game behind App State in the standings. It seems like a tall task, but Georgia State is in the midst of their best season in their brief history. The Panthers have hit 6 wins for just the third time, and they have three games, and perhaps even a bowl to build on. Six wins makes you bowl eligible, but it does not guarantee you a postseason. With App State this week, South Alabama and their rivals from down south remaining, nothing is certain. A seventh win should be plenty to secure an Alabama bowl game. In the meantime, they are going to have to play the game of the season in order to beat Appalachian this weekend. That might sound odd considering they knocked off Tennessee. It’s not. They are not the same team that won on the road in Knoxville, in August. Especially not without their quarterback. Ellington was that important.
The First Pick
Tabby Cats 14