Here we go with Week 5
Georgia State (0-3, 0-0 Sun Belt) @Appalachian State (2-2, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Saturday, Octber 1st, 2016 Noon EST
TV/Video: American Sports Network/ ESPN3
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: 68.19
Georgia State: 55.63
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 15 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -19
Series: App State leads 2-0
Last meeting: App State 37, Georgia State 3, October 10th, 2015, Atlanta
That sweet taste of victory is comforting and normal. The first month of the season ended on hard earned high note. Appalachian flexed its Group of Five muscle for its fifth straight win over a peer school, and second over the MAC in disposing of Akron in a high scoring affair. The concerns of an unhealthy Mountaineer offense were cured by an Akron defense that hasn’t had an answer for any of their opponents this season. App rang up 587 total yards, making it the third straight game where the Zips had given up more than 550 yards in a game. No Marcus Cox? No problem. Jalin Moore steps in and totes the ball close to forty times for 257 yards. The App State train is rolling again and it doesn’t matter who is on board. The focus now turns to the Sun Belt schedule, where the sights are firmly set on a championship. Georgia State gets their first crack at Black Saturday, and another chance to erase the zero from the win column. Not only are the Panthers sporting an 0-2 record against the Mountaineers in their short rivalry, but Georgia State is looking for their first win of the 2016 season. The odds are long that it happens this weekend, and the sledding doesn’t get any easier for the remainder of the season for the Panthers, who have had a week off since their last game.
The Georgia State Panthers were really hoping their program was turning a corner at the end of 2015, as they won their final four games to become bowl eligible and represented the Sun Belt in the Cure Bowl. More unlikely, was that the Panthers knocked off Georgia Southern in the final weekend of the regular season to get their sixth win. However, since that four game winning streak, Georgia State has put together another four game streak, all losses, including their bowl loss. In those four games, the Panthers have only eclipsed twenty points on one occasion, in their opener this season against Ball State. In that game, GSU led off the game with an interception return for a touchdown, but couldn’t hold on despite taking the early lead.
A lot has been made about the loss the Panthers suffered to Wisconsin in Camp Randall. Blindly comparing the 44 point loss that Akron suffered to the Badgers, and the narrow six point margin that Wisconsin edged Georgia State by is doing the game of football a complete injustice. Between the two teams, there were only 21 possessions in the entire game. Wisconsin ran 43 plays in the first half, yet only could manage two field goals. The Panthers ran 27 plays, punted twice, fumbled, and missed a field goal. Wisconsin was running basic plays, and kept Georgia State close enough to keep it interesting late. Akron played a terrible game against Wisconsin, trailing 16-0 before their third possession and never had any momentum.
Part of the Georgia State struggles can be attributed to their quarterback play. It has not been easy replacing Nick Arbuckle in Atlanta, but Utah transfer Conner Manning is doing his best. His results this season have been a little bit of a mixed bag. Remove the lopsided loss at Air Force, and Manning is completing well over 65% of his passes. He has gone eleven straight quarters without throwing an interception and threw for 269 yards against Wisconsin. His arm isn’t overpowering, but he knows what he can and can’t do. In 2015, with Arbuckle, the Panthers averaged 8.8 yards per pass, but that number has fallen to 6.2 yards per attempt this season with Manning.
The injury to Marcus Cox suddenly became an afterthought after what Jalin Moore was able to do to Akron. The luxury of having a loaded stable of running backs certainly bodes well for Cox, who can likely take his time getting back to near full health. After this weekend, Appalachian will have eleven days before a road trip to Lafayette, and another ten days before hosting Idaho. After what Cox did to the Panthers in 2014 in Boone, GSU focused on Cox in 2015, limiting him to only 81 yards on nineteen carries. A two-headed attack against Georgia State on Saturday might be more successful with Moore and Darryton Evans carrying the load against a defense that is giving up 325 yards per game on the ground. Ball State had 58 yards rushing at half against Georgia State before the Fightin’ Cardinals buried the Panthers for 267 yards on the ground in the second half.
Perhaps we can give Georgia State a slight benefit of the doubt for all the chunks of yardage they allowed on the ground this season. Ball State figured it out, while Air Force and Wisconsin just ran their offense as they saw fit. Trent Miles has had two weeks to think about Appalachian and to figure out a way to get his Panthers to be better on defense. It gets to a point for Georgia State, and other Sun Belt programs for that matter, they might try anything to get a win over Appalachian. Miles is in his fourth season and has won just seven games in that span. It’s not all doom and gloom for Georgia State, as they have two decent receivers who will help Conner Manning, in Penny Hart and Robert Davis. Manning and Georgia State need to get more vertical in the passing game, as that is where Mountaineer opponents have found some success. Manning has only been sacked four times this season, but has been hurried quite often. Manning will stand in the pocket and take the pressure, but it exposes him to many hits, and his passes are way off target. Georgia State needs to find some type of running game this season. They have been abysmal with only 137 yards on the year, only averaging 2.2 yards per carry. Last week we mentioned Akron’s time of possession being second to last in the country. Well, guess who is dead last? You guessed it. Georgia State. Football is easy. If you can run and stop the run on defense, you have a good chance, but the Panthers can’t do either this season, and that won’t help them win a game in Boone.
The First Pick
Southern’s Daddy 13