Appalachian State enters tonight’s game with Georgia Southern with a winning record, yet the Mountaineers have their fewest victories at this point since going 4-8 in 2013. Last week's 52-45 loss to Louisiana Monroe dropped Appalachian State to 5-4 overall but 4-1 in Sun Belt play, which is good enough to tie for second place. What’s more, Scott Satterfield’s team needs just one more win to qualify for a third consecutive bowl appearance.
Meanwhile, Georgia Southern comes to Boone, North Carolina, still in search of its first win. Head coach Tyson Summers was fired on Oct. 22 after an 0-6 start and things have gotten any better for interim head coach Chad Lundsford. Georgia Southern is 0-2 under him following last week’s 21-17 home loss to Georgia State.
Appalachian State holds a 17-13-1 advantage in head-to-head meetings with Georgia Southern. The Mountaineers have won five of the last six matchups with the Eagles’ last victory coming in 2014.
Georgia Southern at Appalachian State
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Appalachian State -17.5
Three Things to Watch
1. A salivating Appalachian State defense
The Mountaineers boast the Sun Belt's second-ranked total defense at 384.1 yards per game. That number is also good enough for 55th in the FBS. The Mountaineers are among the top 20 teams in the nation in sacks with 26 (tied for 17th) or 2.89 per game.
Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts could be in for a miserable night Thursday behind an offensive line that is tied for 119th in sacks allowed. The Eagles have already given up 25 sacks in eight games (3.13 per game). Only nine other teams have given up more and all but one of those (Florida, 26) has played in at least one more game than Georgia Southern.
2. Georgia Southern defensive back Monquavion Brison
Brinson, a cornerback, has been a bright spot during an otherwise dismal season for the Eagles. Brinson tallied six tackles and deflected a pass in last week’s loss to Georgia State, and his propensity to find his way to the football isn't new.
Brinson is tied for third in the Sun Belt with eight pass breakups. He’s also recorded three interceptions, which ties him for fifth. His 11 total passes defended (PBUs plus INTs) are second only to Appalachian State’s Tae Hayes (14). Brinson will look to add to his total in both categories while making things difficult for Mountaineers quarterback Taylor Lamb.
3. Georgia Southern's rushing attack
For all of the Eagles’ flaws this year, enough can't be said for their rushing attack, which leads the Sun Belt and is 33rd nationally with 201.9 yards per game. While Georgia Southern has found no problem on the ground, much of the damage hasn't come in the red zone, as the Eagles have just 10 rushing touchdowns despite all of their carries (424, tied for 14th in the FBS).
Junior running back Wesley Fields lead the team with 494 rushing yards and three touchdowns with Werts the top ground gainer in terms of yards per game (64.7). Senior L.A. Ramsby also has gotten his share of carries as he has 377 yards and two scores on 90 attempts (4.2 ypc).
Appalachian State has done a decent job against the run, holding teams to 155.7 yards per game and just 12 rushing touchdowns in nine contests. There’s no mystery when it comes to what Georgia Southern likes to do on offense, so it’s just a matter of whether the Eagles have find running room or the Mountaineers can hold their ground.
If you're an Appalachian State fan, while this season has offered its share of disappointments, a trip to the postseason is still very much a distinct possibility. A win Thursday night would clinch bowl eligibility and the Mountaineers couldn’t ask for a better matchup than winless Georgia Southern.
The Eagles have already had one coaching change and will likely undergo another once this season has come to an end. But there are still four games to play and don’t expect Appalachian State to have any pity on its conference mate. The Mountaineers keep pace in the Sun Belt standings and become bowl eligible in a big way Thursday night in front of the home crowd at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Prediction: Appalachian State 38, Georgia Southern 14
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.