Appalachian State did not win an undisputed Sun Belt title in 2017, nor did they escape being upset by a few mediocre teams. What the Mountaineers can claim, however, is that they’ve never gone down without a fight.
App State’s biggest losing margin came at Georgia in the season opener, a thrash-for-cash that almost turned into something else. The Mountaineer defense frustrated Kirby Smart’s powerful Bulldogs at several key points, but the team was unable to score points until it was too late. The offense wasn’t shut down, however, netting about 4.5 yards per play. QB Taylor Lamb would go on to have a fine season, passing for 2606 yards and 27 touchdowns. The squad won 5 of its next 6 and nearly knocked off Wake Forest.
Upcoming bowl opponent Toledo looked even better against its OOC schedule. Tulsa couldn’t stop Logan Woodside from passing at will – the 6’2″ senior nearly threw for 500 yards and connected on 6 touchdown passes in a 54-51 win. Perhaps more impressively, the Rockets led Miami 16-14 at halftime the following week before succumbing 52-30 to the deeper ACC squad.
The spread for the Dollar General Bowl is set firmly at a touchdown + XP and the action isn’t budging it. Toledo is the favorite to win in Mobile.
Who: Toledo Rockets vs Appalachian State Mountaineers
When: Saturday, December 23rd, 7 PM EST
Where: Ladd Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL
Lines: Toledo (-7) vs App St (+7) / O/U Total: (62)
Can Woodside be denied? The strong-armed, accurate upperclassman hasn’t been challenged by a defense since Ohio held Toledo to 10 points in early November. But the hosting Bobcats found a chalkboard advantage with their running game and controlled the ball all night, containing but not shutting down Woodside as the fatigued Rockets lost badly on a Wednesday. 2 fumbles contributed to the loss. It may not have been indicative of where the program is, considering that a MAC championship was soon to follow.
Like many a successful QB, Woodside is buoyed by a disciplined defense and a potent running game. Talented Terry Swanson has rushed for 1300+ yards in ’17 and the Rockets are averaging 5.3 yards per carry. The ‘D turned out an amazing performance against Western Michigan just a couple of weeks after the Ohio loss, picking off Reece Goddard twice and otherwise dominating the talented Broncos in a 37-10 massacre.
Can the Mountaineers compete? They’ve been a hard team to put away this season, but there are concerns about strength-of-schedule. App State finished with a share of the Sun Belt crown but avoided co-winner Troy and runner-up Arkansas State by virtue of a lucky schedule. In late October, the Mountaineers lost to lowly UMass.
Improvement came over the last 3 weeks. Star junior RB Jalin Moore had a field day with 200+ yards as the defense shined in a 31-10 win over Georgia State, and Lamb passed for 4 touchdowns in a season-capping 63-14 mauling of Louisiana. The Mountaineers are faster and quicker than the average Sun Belt contender. Woodside is getting more of the hype, but both offenses are hot going into the match-up in Mobile.
Both teams are extremely healthy, and there’s a chance of wet-yet-gentle conditions that might benefit the WRs as much as the defenders. With an O/U of (62) points between 2 teams with excellent RBs and even better quarterbacks, defense might have to take a back seat.
We’re expecting a free-wheeling, well-played game of opponents with lots to prove and not much to lose. If Miami couldn’t stop Woodside’s passes, neither with App State – if the Mountaineer offense had shaped-up any more to finish the season, it could star in its own Chuck Norris commercial. Each QB should be able to overcome talented defensive units for most of 4 quarters. A final score such as 38-31 is likely.
Bet the over (62) for a winner in Mobile.