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Previewing the 2018 Appalachian State Season: Jonesboro awaits

We move into weeks 4-6 as the Mountaineers begin their Sun Belt quest.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Appalachian State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Recap

Week 1 - Penn State-45 App St-17

Week 2 - App St- 36 UNCC- 14

Week 3 - App St- 31 Southern Miss- 24

Record: 2-1


Week 4 - vs Gardner Webb (2017 record: 1-10)

NCAA Football: Gardner Webb at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Appalachian State will close out the first month of the 2018 campaign with a date at home against the Runnin-Bulldogs of Gardner Webb from the FCS’s Big South Conference. The Bulldogs slumped to a 1-10 season a year ago without a win against a FCS or FBS team.

One key note is that the Dogs were competitive in some high level FCS clashes as a 3-point loss to SoCon champion Wofford along with a one-score loss to North Carolina Central and a one-point loss to Charleston Southern all could have changed a disastrous season into a more feel good year. Gardner Webb loses its heart and soul in QB Tyrell Maxwell who was a 1,000 yard rusher and passer and all signs point to a true freshman replacing him.

Jalin Moore could be the big game guy here and rush for well over 100 yards and a couple scores along with a short afternoon for Zac Thomas as App should be able to take care of business by the time the 3rd quarter rolls around.

Prediction: App St 49 - GWU 10 (3-1)


Week 5 - vs South Alabama (2017 Record 4-8)

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at South Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Sun Belt play arrives for Appalachian State in the form of the South Alabama Jaguars. South Alabama and Appalachian have split their only two meetings with USA winning in Boone in 2014 and App winning in Mobile in 2015. A lot of questions surround this Jaguars team coming into 2018 but the biggest is the arrival of just the second head coach in school history, Steve Campbell.

Maybe the biggest challenge for Campbell in 2018 is trying to breath new life into what was a dead South Alabama run game in 2017. The Jags only averaged 97.3 yards per game (fifth worst in FBS), on the ground and that was with the schools all time leading rusher in Xavier Johnson. The offensive line has also been a spot where consistency was hard to come by and that seems like a glaring issue heading into 2018.

Quarterback is also another postion up for grabs as Dallas Davis left the team in the spring and now the choice is either left for Cole Garvin or redshirt freshman Cephus Johnson to take the reigns. The defense seems to have upside with a secondary that has talent but the major thing needed is a good pass rush and that is what the Jags lacked in 2017.

This game depends on how many of these open questions have been answered for USA but I will go with Appalachian here at home on Homecoming Saturday at “The Rock”.

Prediction: App St 27 - USA 13 (4-1, 1-0 Sun Belt)


Week 5: @ Arkansas State (2017 Record: 7-5)

NCAA Football: Arkansas State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The two preseason Sun Belt favorites meet up for a Tuesday night showdown in Jonesboro. ESPN2 will broadcast what is sure to be one of the higher rated Sun Belt games of the season. This game has the makings for excitement and explosiveness especially with the Red Wolve’s leader in Justice Hansen running their high powered offense.

One big plus for this game is that App will have extra time to prepare for Arkansas State, as they have a bye week after the South Alabama game. App’s defense must minimize big plays if they want to walk out with a huge leg up in the Sun Belt title race. Defense is where the biggest hole also sits for State as big time play-maker Ja’Von Rolland-Jones has moved on and their is no specific linebacker combo to see heading into 2018.

I fully see this game coming down to the turnover difference as whoever commits the fewest will walk out with the win. The stage and the atmosphere of a early season conference game of this magnitude may lend better to Arkansas State than Appalachian State.

Prediction: Ark St 35 - App St-27 (4-2, 1-1 Sun Belt)


Next week we move into the true “meat” of the schedule with weeks seven, eight and nine on the docket as battles with Cajuns along with a longtime hated rival and a mythical rooster await.