Sun Belt Showdown: Georgia Southern Eagles vs Appalachian State Mountaineers
One of college football’s crustiest rivalries renews its annual subscription of hate Thursday Night on ESPNU.
Birds @ ‘Neers, Thursday November 9th, 6:30 CST at Kidd Brewer Stadium, broadcast on ESPNU
Sun Belt rivalries fall into two categories: Recent Rivalries like South Bama vs. Troy and Georgia Southern vs. Georgia State, and Ancient Rivalries like Arkansas State/Louisiana and Appalachian State/Georgia Southern. On Thursday, the nation is treated to the latest installment of a rivalry whose emotion is diagnosed as #DeeperThanHate.
Is the hate between the Mountaineers and Eagles really deeper than standard-grade hatred? Well, somebody did hate enough to make a t-shirt.
And honestly, is there a better and more succinct college football slam than “crAPP State?” Or #FailSouthern? Go ahead, ESPN. Tout the World’s Biggest Cocktail Party or whatever you want to call Michigan vs Ohio State. Mountaineers vs. Georgia Southern is on Thursday night, y’all, though it should be held at dawn, with the visitor’s choice of pistols, bicycle chains or hammers.
When last these titans met
Welp, it wasn’t pretty. Appalachian State strutted into Statesboro and out gained the Eagles 498-159, sauntering away with a spiritually bruising 32-10 victory (and signaling the downfall of Georgia Southern’s dominance). Mountaineers QB Tayler Lamb (6-2, 200) threw for 199 yards, but also ran for 94 and a pair of scores.
The Eagles have landed. Face first.
At 0-8, Georgia Southern enters the game completely out of hate-shape. The Eagles have already canned head coach Tyson Summers, and interim coach Chad Lunsford has provided essentially the same results as Summers.
Some argue that Summers’ drift from the triple option doomed the Eagles, but one also must take in account the massive amount of talent that has left the roster since the program’s recent glory days: Ironhead Gallon (LB), Willie Upshaw (QB), Matt Breida (RB), Younhoe Koo (K), Kevin Ellison (QB), Andy Kwon (OL) and Darius Jones (S) are all gone.
In their place, lots of freshmen, including starting QB Shai Werts (5-11, 190). Werts has had his moments, flashing speed and a surprisingly strong arm. But he’s still a true freshman, and without a deep offensive line or a posse of senior leadership to reduce the pressure. As a result, Georgia Southern ranks dead last in the Sun Belt for total offense and points scored.
Yeah, but Appalachian State is not without problems.
The Mountaineers, thought to be the cream of the conference in the preseason, are coming off a two game losing streak to UMass and ULM. For the first half of the season, a strong defense has made up for Appalachian State’s inconsistencies on offense. But that same defense is showing signs of vulnerability when pitted against high-powered offenses.
Against New Mexico State, the Mountaineers gave up 31 points and 532 yards.
Versus Coastal Carolina, it surrendered 434 yards and 29 points.
In the loss against ULM, App allowed 52 points and 569 yards.
What was projected to be one of the Sun Belt’s strongest defensive units has struggled in conference, despite a career year from DL Tee Sims (conference leading 8.5 sacks). The problem may lie in the secondary. Despite co-leading the Sun Belt with 12 picks, the defense has allowed 13 passing TDs and ranks 74th nationally in defending the pass.
A one-sided rivalry is boh-ring
By mid-season of 2016, it was clear that the Eagles were on the slide. This winless season confirms it. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers (despite the results of its last two contests) have emerged as consistent Sun Belt contenders, winning a share of the title in 2016 and vying for a repeat performance this season.
Hate is supposed to transcend records, but it’s far more satisfying to trump an opponent at his best than it is to pile on with everyone else. Still, even on a Thursday night, we will likely see an appropriate amount of seething in Boone. It’s still must-see TV.
The Mountaineers are an 18-point favorite at home. Taylor Lamb is still an elite conference QB, and Jalin Moore is picking up steam as one of the conference’s better offensive threats. The defense has holes, but the Eagles haven’t the talent to exploit them. It only has history and fury. That won’t be enough.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.