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Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers Preview and Prediction

Matt Breida

Matt Breida

Scott Satterfield is calling upon Appalachian State fans to pack The Rock Thursday night for the first of three straight home games that could go a long way toward determining the Sun Belt champion. Georgia Southern comes to town sporting a 3-0 league record, and Satterfield wants to make sure his Mountaineers (5-1, 2-0 Sun Belt) have the best home-field advantage possible, especially since ASU and the Eagles won enough games last year to be bowl eligible but weren’t able to go, thanks to their first-year FBS status. Both hope to win their sixth game Thursday and take steps toward a postseason invitation.

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While it’s still early, and Arkansas State looms as a big threat down the road, this is the type of game both schools hoped to play when they made the decision to leave the FCS ranks. Both teams hope to ride their trademark ground attacks and control the ball enough to grab their sixth win of 2015

Georgia Southern at Appalachian State

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV: ESPNU

Spread: Appalachian State -6

Three Things to Watch

1. In a Rush

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Both teams want to control the clock and move the ball on the ground, although GSU’s option attack (399.8 yards/game) is more committed to the run than the balanced ASU offense. Look for Matt Breida (880 yards, 10.4 ypc, 11 TDs) to get the bulk of the work for the Eagles, although three other GSU runners have topped 300 yards for the year. Marcus Cox (687, 5.9, 4) leads the Mountaineer attack, which averages 284.5 yards per game on the ground. The key is whether Georgia Southern can get comfortable running the ball against an Appalachian State defense that surrenders only 3.2 yards/carry and 109.0 yards/game on the ground.

2. Master Thieves

Whichever QB decides to pass during the game had better watch out. Both teams boast defensive backs with five interceptions so far this year. ASU cornerback Latrell Gibbs not only has a handful of picks, he also has returned two for touchdowns. Meanwhile, Eagles senior safety Antonio Glover has five steals of his own, as part of GSU’s 11 interceptions. Although neither team is likely to unfurl an aerial circus, turnovers could be huge in this game.

3. Crank Up the Calculators

Both teams have been piling up the points in recent weeks, and it’s unlikely either defense will be able to control the other’s attack. ASU has averaged 44.0 points in its last four games, all wins, while the Eagles have put up 48.4 ppg over the last five weeks, during which they are 5-0. Vegas isn’t going to up the over-under from 61 to 90, but expect plenty of yards and points.

Final Analysis

Both teams are itching to continue their success and become bowl eligible, especially after missing out on the postseason in 2014. Obviously, each should get its sixth win soon, even if it doesn’t win Thursday, but accomplishing the feat against an old rival would be plenty of fun.

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GSU must prove that it can pass a little to complement its run game, and that’s not guaranteed, since QB Kevin Ellison completes only 46.7 percent of his throws. If the Eagles are only able to run it, they may struggle against the relatively stout ASU defense. Appalachian State has a more balanced attack, but it’s passing game isn’t going to dazzle. Still, the Mountaineers have enough balance to prevail in what should be a fun game to watch.

Prediction: Appalachian State 38, Georgia Southern 34

— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.