Editor’s Note: Georgia Southern’s student newspaper, The George-Anne, and The Appalachian agreed to exchange columns discussing Thursday’s highly anticipated Sun Belt matchup.
Check out the Head to Head response column by Robert George, Sports Editor at the George-Anne at Georgia Southern.
Unlike when the Mountaineers and Eagles met last season, a 34-13 stomping in Statesboro, App State is riding a hot streak, having won 11 of their last 12 games, including eight straight wins over Sun Belt opponents.
Georgia Southern brings an option-attack to Boone that has been pretty much unstoppable this season, averaging 399 yards per game on the legs of running backs Matt Breida, Wesley Fields and L.A. Ramsby, as well as quarterback Kevin Ellison.
But I say ‘pretty much’ intentionally.
Georgia Southern struggled mightily to run the rock against the “other” Mountaineers of West Virginia, a team App State is far closer to talent-wise than other Eagles opponents this season. West Virginia’s defense, which isn’t even currently ranked in the top 50 in NCAA rush defense, held Breida and company to 195 yards in a 44-0 blowout.
That doesn’t bode well for the Eagles, as App State’s Mountaineers currently sit at No. 16 in the nation in rush defense and No. 1 in the conference, allowing only 109 yards per game.
And while many in Statesboro could rebut by saying that App State was rolled over by Clemson — like the Eagles against West Virginia — one of those opponents has been trending upward in the national rankings, while the other has been in a relative free fall.
That aside, the Georgia Southern defense is no slouch, either, against the run, ranking second in the conference behind App State allowing only 135.7 yards per game. I expect them to focus on stopping running back Marcus Cox, which could play right into the Mountaineers hands, as they’ve employed a well-balanced offensive attack as of late.
With the reemergence of wide receiver Malachi Jones in recent weeks, quarterback Taylor Lamb could be in for another big day against an Eagles defense that is “boom or bust,” having accumulated 11 interceptions but also having surrendered 12 touchdowns.
In the matchup between an unstoppable force and an immovable object that will likely decide the fate of the Sun Belt, my bets rest on the App State defense and a home crowd that will have Kidd Brewer Stadium rocking.
Column by: Chris Warner, Sports Editor