Appalachian State and Georgia Southern have a rivalry known as “Deeper than Hate,” which should tell you everything you need to know about why you should tune into Thursday night’s game. The two schools were both FCS powers before moving over to the Sun Belt together in 2014. Since then, Appalachian State has gone 23-9, while Georgia Southern is just shy of that record at 22-10. Both teams also played in and won bowl games last season.
As for Thursday’s matchup, Appalachian State (5-2, 3-0) is one of three teams that are undefeated in Sun Belt play, while Georgia Southern (4-3, 3-1) has just one conference loss. Appalachian State leads the all-time series 17-13-1.
Appalachian State vs. Georgia Southern
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Appalachian State -5
Three Things to Watch
1. The potential return of Marcus Cox
One of the best running backs in college football, Appalachian State’s Cox has rushed for more than 1,400 yards in each of his last two seasons along with 28 touchdowns. This season he started off strong once again, averaging 5.7 yards per carry in three games before going down with a quad injury. In the meantime, sophomore Jalin Moore has kept the Mountaineers rolling, rushing for at least 100 yards in every game since Cox was hurt against Miami.
If Cox can return, he can provide Appalachian State with an incredible 1-2 punch in the backfield. The combo of Cox and Marshall would be a stiff test for Georgia Southern, who allows an average of 157.3 rushing yards per game.
2. Georgia Southern rushing game vs. Appalachian State defense
While the Mountaineers has an impressive running back duo, the Eagles boast the best rushing offense in the Sun Belt. Georgia Southern is averaging a whopping 263.9 yards per game, which also ranks them 10th in the FBS. The option-based attack uses a plethora of different ball carriers, with five different players, including Matt Breida, that already have 200 rushing yards this season.
The Eagles will face one of their toughest challenges of the year on Thursday, as Appalachian State’s defense is currently the class of the Sun Belt. The Mountaineers are giving up 124.4 rushing yards per game, good for 27th in the country against the run. One team will be coming off the field after this game wondering what went wrong on the ground.
3. Georgia Southern’s passing struggles
The Eagles are strange birds, if you will, in that the team is dominant on the ground but not so much in the air. The offense uses three different quarterbacks — Kevin Ellison, Favian Upshaw and Seth Shuman — but none have been particularly impressive this season. Georgia Southern is 118th out of 128 FBS teams in passing offense (155.6 ypg) this season. If Appalachian State can get Georgia Southern into third-and-long situations it will make the Mountaineers’ defense’s job much easier.
This game should be prime entertainment, with two bitter rivals fighting for their place in the Sun Belt pecking order. Each team features strong running games and solid defenses, which means this matchup likely won’t develop into a shootout. Appalachian State has the best defense in the conference and has done nothing to dispel the notion that it is the best team in the Sun Belt. Look for that trend to continue Thursday and for the Mountaineers to keep their unblemished conference record intact.