College football’s conference titles won’t be decided for another week or 2. FBS “state” championships, however officially or unofficially recognized, will be determined in a flurry of games beginning on Thanksgiving and wrapping-up on Saturday night when the Arizona Wildcats visit Sun Devil Stadium.
It’s not surprising that a lot of the non-state rivalry games get overlooked on, well, Rivalry Weekend. But out of the corners of their eyes, a few administrators and coaches participating in the marquee match-ups might be keeping tabs on a little old Sun Belt contest in Alabama. In fact the Sun Belt game’s guests have prohibited the North vs South Carolina game from actually being a state-title event at all – the former team has already earned the honor.
Appalachian State is 10-1, and the Mountaineers are still in the running for a New Year’s Six bid. App State visits Troy on Friday night as a 2-touchdown favorite, but the proud Trojans are playing for bowl-eligibility.
Who: Appalachian State Mountaineers at Troy Trojans
When: Friday, November 29th, 6 PM EST
Where: Larry Blakeney Field, Troy, Alabama
Lines: Appalachian State (-13.5) at Troy (+13.5) / O/U Total: (62.5)
For a time this fall it appeared as if Troy’s offense was glued back together. When Kaleb Barker passed for 6 TDs in a 63-27 thrashing of Texas State on 11/16, it was the 5th game in a row in which the Trojans scored 30+ points. Shai Werts of Georgia Southern punished Troy with 3 touchdown tosses in the previous game, but the Trojans stunted Werts in the ground game and prevailed 49-28 behind D.K. Billingsley’s terrific rushing day and veteran defensive lineman Marcus Webb’s 3 sacks.
Then it all came unraveled against a big, physical team at Louisiana-Lafayette. The near-50 point losing margin is deceiving in the sense that no particular facet of Troy’s offense was shut down for all 4 quarters. Billingsley found daylight on several nice carries. But the OL couldn’t protect Barker, who threw interceptions and finished sub-50%. Trojan boosters had to be even more concerned with a defense that couldn’t stop anything on the ground.
It’s a bad idea to handicap anyone on the basis of their lowest moment in a season. Especially when the team is 5-6 and can still qualify for a bowl game with an upset victory on Senior Night. There are a few Sun Belt teams we’d envision getting pushed out of a postseason logjam of 6-6 in a given year, but Troy is a well-known brand and not among them. Trojans will play in December (or even in 1 of those funky January mid-major games) if they beat App State.
Easier said than done. Appalachian State is ranked #21 currently, but the Mountaineers would probably be in the top 10 if not for their lone loss of the autumn vs GaSo. Considering how powerful the Black & Gold has looked in ’19, it was almost a let-down to see App State “only” beat Texas State 35-13 last weekend.
No big thang. The Mountaineers also own a 34-31 win at North Carolina, a 20-15 win at South Carolina, and a tough 17-7 result over the same Ragin’ Cajun squad that whipped Troy soundly.
It’s strange that the spread is moving in the direction of Friday’s favored visitors because the betting public tends to value receivers highly. App State is dealing with some bad news about a key WR on the squad:
Corey Sutton, an App State wide receiver, announced through Twitter on Sunday that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Sutton was injured during the second quarter against Texas State. He was blindsided with a hard hit after he made a reception and weaved for some running room. He went down holding his left knee. Sutton was on the sideline for the second half using crutches. Sutton leads the team in reception yards (601) and receiving touchdowns (seven).
The wide receiver is a redshirt junior. He sat out the 2017 season to comply with NCAA rules after transferring from Kansas State. Sutton had 44 catches for 773 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018. He was the first wideout to register a double-digit touchdown season since Brian Quick in 2011.
(Coach) Drinkwitz didn’t know any specifics during Saturday’s postgame press conference. He typically provides injury news and updates at his Monday morning press conferences. But Drinkwitz’s response to a Sutton question made it sound like the junior wouldn’t return.
The crucial WR injury has at least affected the Over/Under line – currently falling at (62.5). Why would a majority of gamblers agree that Troy has a better chance to stop Appalachian State with Sutton missing, yet put even more stock in the Mountaineers in the point-spread market?
If Troy can occasionally commit 1 extra defender against the run, that will indeed slow down the Mountaineers on the road. I’m not drawn to the Under, however, because Sun Belt games can turn into shoot-outs very quickly and because if the Trojans fall behind in a must-win contest, Barker’s big arm will take the hosts down swinging.
I can imagine the squads walking off the field congratulating each other after a tense 10 or 12-point result.
Take the hosts to cover (+13.5).