Arkansas State (5-3, 4-0) at Appalachian State (7-1, 4-0)
Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, N.C., 6:30 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports. Broadcast: ESPNU.
Series Record: App State leads 1-0.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
The only thing that would make this better would be if it were at the end of the season. There are two unbeaten teams in Sun Belt play and they meet on Thursday on national TV. The winner, no doubt, takes a big leap toward winning a conference championship. The Red Wolves have been a part of three of the last four and would love to get a fourth in five years.
Appalachian State started slow last year, finished strong and has carried that over to this season. The Mountaineers won last year in Jonesboro in a game that was a disaster for the Red Wolves, who lost a 20-7 lead in a series of miscues that started with the ejection of linebacker Xavier Woodson. With Woodson out of the way App State scored 30 straight points.
It is a contrast in styles with App State looking to run the ball and control the clock (they had it for more than 41 minutes last season) while A-State spreads to the field, plays fast and tries to get its playmakers in space. Defensively, the Mountaineers rank high in all categories nationally, including the most important, points allowed.
If this sounds like a broken record forgive us, but the A-State defensive front needs to control the line of scrimmage and slow the Mountaineers’ running game. They could not do that a year ago but lineman Robert Mondie and Waylon Roberson in the middle, and linebacker Xavier Woodson, could be the key there. Woodson played a little more than a quarter last year and Mondie and Roberson were at different schools.
The Red Wolves were able to move the ball a year ago even without JD McKissic but App State is a year older, stronger and better than a season ago.
Blaise Taylor is back returning punts and had a big game a year ago.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Arkansas State: Coach Blake Anderson said he liked the look on Fredi Knighten’s face in the victory over Georgia State. He said he felt like it was the Fredi he saw last year and he is finally back in flow after recovering from a strained groin that kept him out of three games. Knighten’s numbers were good vs. Ga. State but he did have three turnovers, none of which was his fault according to Anderson. A-State is 3-0 in his starts since returning.
When the A-State linebacker has a point to prove he usually does it well. He was tossed from the App State game a year ago for targeting so no doubt the junior will be ready to play this time around. He had 5 tackles in about 1.5 quarters last year. He will be vital in helping stop the Mountaineers running game.
Appalachian State: A year ago Marcus Cox ran wild vs the Red Wolves in that second half where everything worked for the visitors. He has 220-plus yards and was vital in the comeback victory. He is again having a big year with 917 yards rushing and 6 TDs. Q
QB Tyler Lamb has passed for 1,517 yards and has hit 98 of 164 passes with 19TDs and only 6 interceptions. He is not a big runner but can move the chains when needed with his feet.
FACTS & FIGURES
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Appalachian State is the first 7-1 team in Sun Belt Conference history with a 44-41 triple-overtime victory over Troy last Saturday. App State was tied with UL Lafayette’s 2011 squad for the best start at 6-1.The Mountaineers have won 10-straight Sun Belt games, fourth-longest and 13 of their last 14. The triple-overtime victory over Troy snapped a four-game losing streak in overtime games.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
A-State has won four consecutive for the first time since 2013. The Red Wolves stand 4-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2011 season when it went undefeated in Sun Belt. The Red Wolves completed October with a 4-0 record and ran its record in the month since 2010 to 15-2. Two of A-State’s last three wins came after it was trailing at the end of the third quarter. The Red Wolves have won 13 of their last 16 conference road games and are 13-3 record in November since 2011.
A-State’s Blake Anderson: They are really balanced offensively. Land goes a really good job of getting the game to play makers and they don’t turn the ball over. On defense they are stingy, run well. Stubblefield and I have talked Xs and Os a lot over the years. They want to establish the run, create explosive plays and not turn the ball over. They do look a lot like us in a lot of ways. Neither of us is huge up front but we are athletic.
Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield: There are a lot of things that they do well. They’ve been scoring a lot of points since their quarterback has gotten back. He missed a couple of games but since he has been back they have been playing well. Defensively, they fly to the ball and create a lot of turnovers.
Every game is a championship game especially when you are undefeated. We’ve played ourselves into that, and so have they. There are only 2 teams left that don’t have any losses and those are our 2 teams. It’s a huge game.