Start Time: 5:00 pm EST/2:00 pm PST
Location: Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho
TV/Streaming: Watch ESPN/ESPN3.com
Series: App State leads 1-0 (45-28 win in Boone on Nov 29, 2014)
Line: Appalachian State -18
For The Mountaineers
App State suffered a home loss to Arkansas State last Thursday in a battle for first place. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 21-14 lead over the Red Wolves despite two turnovers which directly led to A-State scores, but the game turned around and the Red Wolves took it 40-27.
To keep pace in case Arkansas State slips up and have a chance at a 10-win season, the Mountaineers have to take care of business far away from home.
Despite giving up 40 and 41 points in their last two contests and having the offense stagnate last Thursday, the Mountaineers still lead the Sun Belt in Total Offense and Total Defense. The threat of quarterback Taylor Lamb (Sun Belt's most efficient passer), running back Marcus Cox (110.6 yards per game) and a battalion of wide receivers are still there.
The big question comes on the line as center Jesse Chapman went down during the third touchdown against A-State. His absence was noticeable as the line had a hard time against the Red Wolves.
The App defense will look to redeem themselves after being torn apart by Fredi Knighten. But that won't be an easy feat against Matt Lineham, statistically the second-best passer in the Sun Belt at 278.5 passing yards per game.
For The Vandals
Idaho let a 24-0 lead evaporate en route to a 52-45 defeat on Saturday at South Alabama. This was a week after having a 40-21 fourth-quarter led disappear en route to a 55-48 overtime loss at winless New Mexico State.
Once looking at 4-4 and a real shot at bowl eligibility, the Vandals are now 99% likely not going bowling with Auburn left on the schedule.
The Vandals bring a strong offense despite the dismissal of Dezmon Epps, who was the Sun Belt's leading receiver. Lineham will now look to Callen Hightower, Deon Watson and Trent Cowan as his primary receivers.
Despite being known as a passing team, running back Elijhaa Penny has quietly been averaging 105.4 yards on the ground per game, fourth best in the Sun Belt.
The big problems for the Vandals are defensively, as the team is ranked 9th in the Sun Belt in scoring defense (41.2 points per game) and total defense (486.4 yards per game).
What App State Has To Do To Win
The Mountaineers have to get into a rhythm. The offensive line has keep Lamb comfortable in the pocket and open up holes for Cox and the other backs on the ground. The defense might give up some yards, but the Mountaineers red zone defense is by-far tops in the Sun Belt and Idaho has kicked more red zone field goals than the rest of the league and field goals aren't going to win this game.
What Idaho Has To Do To Win
Lineham has to avoid throwing interceptions, but at the same time has to try the deep ball. Penny has to gain some tough yards and keep the sticks moving. A hurry-up approach worked against the App defense the last two weeks and would be foolish not to try. The Idaho defense has to keep the Apps out of the endzone and on the other side, has to finis drives themselves. A great performance from punter Austin Renkow would help the defense with field position to boot.
It looks like it'll come down to the red zone. App State can limit teams to field goals while Idaho has trouble doing that. Still, this could turn into a track meet and in that case, it'll come down to who gets the big stop. Sorry Vandals, no bowling this season.
Appalachian State 56 Idaho 26