Appalachian State (4-1, 2-0 Sun Belt) vs. Louisiana (3-3, 1-1 Sun Belt)
Saturday, October 20th, 2018 3:30pm 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
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 80.79
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 26 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -25.5
Series: App State leads 4-0
Last meeting: App State 63, Louisiana 14, December 2nd, 2017, Boone, NC
WxCrum Forecast: Mostly Cloudy, AM drizzle possible, Winds increasing, Temps in the 50’s
Major test number one is out of the way. It took some time for the cold engine to start, but once it did, it ran like a charm. The Mountaineers fell behind 6-0, but responded on the next drive to take the 7-6 lead. Immediately following another Red Wolves field goal, the Mountaineers responded again, to take a 14-9 lead. From that moment, it was cruise control, and Arkansas State is still looking for answers. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers march on to another conference game, with another extended break. Besides the fallout from losing a great team leader and star running back, to the scuttle of trying to crack the Top 25 for the first time in school history, a lot will have happened between playing games. Focus could be tough when your mind is racing several different directions. Last week’s game is over and the team can’t rest on just one big win. Several more games are ahead of us, all against teams that want their shot against the Mountaineers. The Cajuns are 0-4 against App State. Georgia Southern has lost three straight in the series. Coastal is 0-4, Texas State 0-3 and Georgia State 0-4. From here on out nothing will be easy, and the week to week approach is paramount to this team’s success.
New Louisiana athletic director Bryan Maggard did not waste any time firing Mark Hudspeth. He informed the once popular coach that he would no longer be the head coach the following morning after App State’s seven touchdown win last season. By the end of the next business week, Maggard tabbed one Billy Napier to the Cajuns’ 26th head football coach. Napier is the former Furman quarterback who was infamously involved in one of the most memorable plays and radio calls in Kidd Brewer Stadium history. That result from sixteen years ago has nothing to do with this weekend, but it just had to be mentioned.
The Cajun’s were sliding for the past three years under Hudspeth and his ouster was imminent. The program that was considered one of the top teams in the Sun Belt is no longer. Currently, the Cajuns hold the top spot in the Sun Belt West but that seems like they are just renting space. A porous defense with no depth is unlikely to hold up against the some of the stronger offenses in the conference. The schedule does not do any favors for the Cajuns either for the next few weeks. After travelling to Siberian North Carolina they return to Lafayette for Arkansas St and then hit the road to Troy. If the Cajuns plan to go bowling, they cannot afford any missteps.
Louisiana was tabbed to finish fourth in the West division when the coaches cast their ballots back in July, but nobody expected the type of dominance we have seen from the East Division. The Cajuns lost at home to second year Sun Belt opponent Coastal Carolina about a month ago in a game that the Chanticleers dominated at every statistical level including possessing the ball for over 38 minutes. But the Cajuns have had a couple “get right” games the last two weeks against two of the worst teams in FBS; hapless Texas State and a very young New Mexico State.
The Cajuns sport a three-headed rushing attack in Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell and Raymond Calais. They have combined to run 185 times for 1,355 yards. They make up 90% of the Cajuns rushing total for the season. All three are averaging well over 6.5 yards a carry and have combined for thirteen touchdowns. Ragas and Mitchell are similarly sized weighing in right around 220 pounds, while Calais is smaller at 180 pounds. Quarterback Andre Nunez is one of the more accurate passes in the country, completing 68.3% of his passes. Nunez has eleven touchdown passes on the season, but five of those came last week against New Mexico State in their lopsided win.
The Mountaineers throttled Arkansas State last week but it came with a huge cost. Jalin Moore suffered a severe ankle injury that will cost him the remainder of his Black and Gold career. Enough words cannot be said about Jalin Moore, and I’m not going to try, but it will be tough not talking about his performances for the remainder of this season. However, it opens the door for others to step forward and show they can handle a bigger load. Several different backs will get their shot to fill the absence, and it might take some time to figure that all out offensively.
Besides Moore’s injury, the story of last Tuesday night was the Mountaineer defense. The Red Wolves were limited to 117 yards on the ground on thirty-seven attempts. Justice Hansen was 25/40 passing, but was held to just 209 yards and App State picked him off three times. Three field goals are not going to beat the Mountaineers. UNC-Charlotte tried that same strategy and it did not work.
Louisiana will be a formidable opponent this weekend. Probably more so than Arkansas State was last week. The Red Wolves are trending down, but have not bottomed out as of yet. Louisiana hit rock bottom last year and are working their way back up the Sun Belt ladder. The Cajuns have their limitations this season, but are trying to minimize those weaknesses with their offensive style. They simply do not have the horses on defense to run the offense Napier would like. In turn, the Cajuns will try to shorten this game on Saturday significantly because they have to. They cannot afford to have the nations 116th ranked rushing defense and 103rd ranked passing defense on the field for a long time. The Cajuns are giving up close to seven yards per play. Their best defense will be their offense. Speaking of offense, everyone is curious to see what kind of changes, if any, that the Mountaineers make considering the running back situation. I think everyone gets a chance, and it would not seem prudent to let one man carry the entire load. Considering the issues the Cajuns have in the secondary, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mountaineers decided to air it out a little more than usual and put pressure on Louisiana to score every time they have the ball. That would give the running game some live game experience to work out any kinks and potential rhythm issues. Eventually the Mountaineers will fail to cover a spread, as they have in eight straight games, but I’m not doubting them this weekend.
The First Pick
Mild Peppers 20