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Previewing the 2019 Appalachian State season Part 4: All roads lead to Troy

And down the stretch, App comes.

NCAA Football: New Orleans Bowl-Middle Tennessee at Appalachian State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Recap

Week 7- App 38 - South Alabama 14

Week 8- App 28 - Georgia Southern 21

Week 9- South Carolina 27 - App 21

Record: 8-1, 5-0 Sun Belt


Week 10 @ Georgia State (2018: 2-10)

NCAA Football: Georgia State at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Shawn Elliott is trying to build something in Atlanta.

Last season’s GSU offense had their best statistical performance since 2015, averaging 24 points per game. Dan Ellington returns to lead the offense at QB and will have to seek a new go-to target on the outside as Penny Hart is gone. The entire O-line is virtually back and they have plenty of returning depth behind them, so the biggest question mark will be the running backs. Dan Ellington was the leading rusher on the team last year at 625 yards. Something has to be done.

Nine of 11 return on defense, but it’s a unit that ranked dead last in the Sun Belt in 2018 in total D. The Panthers D gave up over 400 yards per game and 37 points per game a season ago and for them to have any chance at being competitive, those numbers must come down. A pass rush must be generated as the front line of the defense only managed 13 sacks last year. Leading tackler Ed Curney returns to head up the unit at linebacker.

As a former Mountaineer, Elliott is going to get fired up to play Appalachian State, but playing and competing are two different things right now. I expect some improvement out of the Panthers, but not enough for a win over App State.

App 42 - Georgia State 17 (9-1, 6-0 SBC)


Week 11 vs. Texas State (2018: 3-9)

NCAA Football: Texas State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

San Marcos has a new head man on campus and there seems to be a freshness in the air.

Head coach Jake Spavital comes in and brings a new OC in Bob Stitt to revitalize the offense that has seen its fair shares of struggles. A two-man QB battle has emerged and nobody seems to know who will take the reigns Tyler Vitt has the most experience but Montana transfer Gresch Jensen has the ability to make a strong case for the job.

One thing going for the Bobcat offense is seven of the top eight wideouts return to help either QB in the new offensive attack. Defense is where Texas State hangs its hat and boy does the linebacking combo of Bryan London and Nikolas Daniels pack a punch.

The duo combined for over 200 stops a season ago and look to build on that heading into 2019. All four starters in the defensive backfield return to head up a unit that ranked 5th in pass coverage a year ago.

Texas State is my sleeper pick to make the biggest leap forward in 2019 in the Sun Belt. I think you will see a collectively better unit and it will produce more wins in return. This will be Senior Day for Appalachian State who has beat Texas State by an average of 21 points the last 3 games. I expect a close game through the first half with Appalachian State pulling away down the stretch to send the seniors off right.

App 35 - TxSt 17 (10-1, 7-0 SBC)


Week 12 @ Troy (2018: 10-3)

NCAA Football: Troy at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Another team with a new head coach.

Neil Brown exits to West Virginia and Chip Lindsey enters from Auburn. All signs pointed to a QB battle between Kaleb Barker and Sawyer Smith until Smith left town for Kentucky and now its all left to Kaleb Barker. Barker was super effective a season ago, throwing 13 touchdowns and only 2 INTs before his season-ending injury. Running back BJ Smith - a First Team All-Sun Belt pick - returns to his role as the stud in the backfield but comes with a high end partner in Jabir Daughtrey-Frye.

Five starters return on defense, but the biggest piece in leading tackler Tron Folsom has transferred to Colorado State. New D coordinator Brian Blackmon will have to find a way to keep the second best defense in the Sun Belt among the best defenders in the league. A lot also departs in the defensive backfield in Blace Brown and Cedarius Rookard, but overall the unit will look to still be fearsome to opposing QBs.

Every year, Appalachian State seems to have the talent to make people wonder if it has a chance to run the table in the Sun Belt. However, they always seem to drop the ball somewhere down the line.

The midweek game against Louisiana has a lot of experts thinking that is where the first Sun Belt L comes, but not me. I believe if it does come, it will be at Troy one day after Thanksgiving. This is still a good Troy team and I feel they will be prepared and will have the edge simply because of the home field advantage.

Troy squeaks out a win against App State in a down-to-the-wire OT win.

Troy 41 - App 38 OT (Record: 10-2, 7-1 SBC)


With the regular season in the books, who knows how things shape out to see who represents the East Division in the Sun Belt title game?

A 7-1 record in the conference could still be enough to host the second title game in conference history.

Whatever happens this season, looks to be a promising year in Boone and big things could be on the horizon. #TrustTheVisor