These two in-state programs meet for the first time since 2001
Wake Forest’s production on offense this season has been nothing short of outstanding. The Demon Deacons have outscored their opponents (Presbyterian, Boston College and Utah State) 131-27 to begin the season 3-0 for the 10th time in school history. Wake Forest is coming off a 46-10 home win against Utah State last week.
After an ambitious road trip to Georgia in Week 1 that resulted in a loss, Appalachian State (2-1) has won its last two contests. And despite holding on to beat Texas State 20-13 last week, the Mountaineers are outscoring opponents 74-20 in their last two games.
The Mountaineers and the Demon Deacons first met in 1975 when Appalachian State earned a 19-17 win. Their last meeting occurred in 2001, and Wake Forest walked away with a 20-10 victory. Wake Forest owns a 14-7-1 series advantage historically.
Wake Forest at Appalachian State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN3
Spread: Appalachian State +4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. When Wake Forest sees red
Part of the Demon Deacons’ offensive success this year can be credited to the unit’s efficiency in the red zone. Wake Forest is a perfect 14-for-14 when inside the red zone, the highest percentage in the nation. This is a big reason why the Demon Deacons are 18th in scoring (43.7 ppg) thus far in the season.
Appalachian State’s red zone defense sits at No. 39 nationally, as the Mountaineers have allowed three touchdowns and three field goals in their opponents’ eight trips. Against Georgia, the only other Power 5 member Appalachian State has faced this year, the Bulldogs went 4-for-4.
2. Mountaineer quarterback Taylor Lamb
Lamb became a household name in Boone, N.C., in 2014 after being named the starting quarterback, and he finished that season with 2,381 passing yards, 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He followed that up by leading Appalachian State to a 11-2 record while seeing a jump in both his yards (2,837) and touchdowns (31) even though the interceptions stayed the same.
Last season saw Lamb's numbers take a step back (2,281-15-8) as the Mountaineers went 10-3 and claimed a share of the Sun Belt title. Now a senior, Lamb is hoping to go out on top. He’s already off to a good start with 622 passing yards, six touchdowns and no picks. Through three games, Wake Forest has more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes allowed (two) while opponents have completed just 40 percent of their pass attempts.
3. Will Jalin Moore finally break out?
Moore is the reigning Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the year. Last season he ran for 1,402 yards and 10 touchdowns, but hasn't enjoyed the same type of success early on in 2017. He enters this game with just 125 yards on 31 carries, putting him third on the team behind Terrance Upshaw and Lamb.
After getting 13 carries against Georgia in Week 1, Moore had nine carries against both Savannah State and Texas State. He ran for a season-high 57 yards against Savannah State but was held to just 14 yards against Texas State last week.
While Wake Forest has been pretty stingy against the pass, the Demon Deacons have been a little more generous on the ground (130.3 ypg, 56th in FBS) so this would be a great time for Moore to put together a big game.
Only 86.2 miles separate these campuses, so the energy at Kidd Brewer Stadium should be tangible. After all, it’s been 16 years since these two in-state teams have met. Wake Forest is off to one of its statistically best starts in years, while Appalachian State has underwhelmed in its first three contests. Should this be the breakout game many hope running back Jalin Moore to have, the Mountaineers would get a much-needed offensive boost to keep this one competitive. If not, they could be in for a long night. Wake Forest moves to 4-0 by the end of this one.
Prediction: Wake Forest 31, Appalachian State 23
— 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.