It's been a tremendous year for first-year head coach Eli Drinkwitz and the Mountaineers (10-1, 6-1 Sun Belt), who secured a second consecutive 10-win season last week with a victory over Texas State, along with a spot in the Sun Belt title game in back-to-back years. Now all that is left to be decided for Appalachian State is who will host next week's conference title game against Louisiana. A victory over Troy on Friday means the Mountaineers will be at home once again, as would a Ragin' Cajuns loss.
As for the Trojans, it hasn’t been as smooth a ride under first-year head coach Chip Lindsey; Troy sits at 5-6 (3-4 Sun Belt) after receiving a thorough beatdown last week at the hands of Louisiana. That said, an upset over Appalachian State secures bowl eligibility and a chance at extending the season.
Appalachian State at Troy
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. ET
Spread: Appalachian State -13
When Appalachian State Has the Ball
The Mountaineers will be without one of their best offensive playmakers as the school announced this week that star receiver Corey Sutton will miss the remainder of the year with a torn ACL suffered against Texas State. The redshirt junior led Appalachian State with 601 yards and seven touchdowns in just nine games and will be sorely missed, as he provided plenty of length (6-3) to the receiving corps. The good news for the Mountaineers is that plenty of depth remains behind Sutton with Thomas Hennigan and Malik Williams capable of picking up the slack. Both have already recorded more than 40 receptions on the season. Jalen Virgil and former Western Michigan transfer Keishawn Watson will be counted on as well in the passing game during Sutton's absence.
While the passing game will take a hit with Sutton out, this offense is built to run the football, leaning on the shoulders of star rusher Darrynton Evans. The junior running back ranks 14th nationally with 1,168 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season, boosted by his 154-yard, three-TD performance a week ago against Texas State. Evans and Co. should finally plenty of room to run against a Troy defense that allows 154.5 rushing yards per game and has given up 21 rushing scores in 2019.
When Troy Has the Ball
What in the world happened last week to the Troy offense? For just the second time all season, the Trojans scored fewer than 30 points in a game and were held scoreless after kicking a field goal on the opening drive. Senior Kaleb Barker, who came into the contest as one of just seven quarterbacks in the country averaging 300+ passing yards per game, had a season-low 81.1 quarterback rating, as he threw for just 178 yards and two interceptions in the blowout loss. The Troy running game did its part, rushing for 156 yards at a 4.5-yard average, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
Things won’t get any easier on Friday, as Appalachian State ranks first in the conference in total defense, first in pass defense, second in rush defense, and second in scoring defense. Barker and the passing attack will have to be better if Troy has any shot at the upset.
Had Appalachian State entered this week with nothing to play for, Troy might have a puncher’s chance at pulling the upset. But the Mountaineers are one of the most well-rounded teams not only in the Sun Belt but nationally as well. Expect the Trojans to bounce back after last week’s ugly showing, but that still won’t be enough to topple the best team in the conference.
Prediction: Appalachian State 38, Troy 20
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.
(Top photo courtesy of @AppState_FB)