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Preview: App State at UL-Lafayette

#GiveEmHell

The door was open before. Then, a rebuilding Arkansas State team ripped the door off its hinges and set the damn thing on fire.

Behind that door was the path for the App State Mountaineers, after an uneven 3-2 start, to capture its first ever FBS FB$ conference title. To be clear, the Sun Belt #FunBelt title picture is wide (expletive) open.

/fist bump to the motorcycle-riding A-State red wolf mascot/

/gives, um, ‘Howl’ a treat. good dog…/

Just four #FunBelt squads have winning overall records, and A-State isn’t one of them. At 4-1 (2-0 Sun Belt), Troy looks to be the class of the conference — just look at its non-conference schedule, very impressive. Then come 3-2 App and 3-2 Georgia Southern: both have looked great, and both have looked very average. Then there’s the curious confusing case of 3-2 South Alabama. The Jags defeated Mississippi State and San Diego State, on one hand. But the Jags lost 24-9 to the rather ordinary Eagles, slipped past Louisiana-Lafayette — more on them later — and eked by I-AA Nicholls at home.

/scratches head/

Lafayette beat the Jags, but got slaughtered by Boise State a seek before slipping by I-AA FCS McNeese State. UL-L also lost to New Mexico State, which at 2-3, doesn’t look to be any good.

Confused yet? Yeah…

…Look, all the Mountaineers can do is focus on the next game. And that means Saturday, wait, what? Oh (expletive)! Make that Wednesday night in metropolitan bumf*ck Louisiana.

Not only is the game available on ESPN2 for the entire country, good seats are still available at a bargain price. UL-L is whiting out Cajun Field for this one, folks.

/yawns…/

This Wednesday night will make it tough for some Mountaineer fans to make it through this one, with another day slaying the dragon ahead. It’s going to take some getting used to — but, hey, that’s the price of success playing Big Boy Football.

With a bye last Saturday, both clubs have had a long time to get ready for one another. The Cajuns haven’t played since Oct. 1, when they lost to the Aggies; and the Apps haven’t faced live bullets since the same day, when it rode a stingy defense to a 17-3 win over Georgia State.

It also rode its running game, the 36th-best in all the land — and that’s mostly without Marcus Cox. But on Wednesday night, the ‘Neers will face the Cajuns stout run defense. It’s the 27th-best in the country, giving up just 121 yards per game on the ground.

/cliche alert!/

Something’s gotta give, folks. That’s because App State pounds out 213 yards each outing on land. And…man oh man!…the Black and Yellow Gold might — might — have Cox back as its lead runner Wednesday night.

App State HC Scott Satterfield isn’t exactly Bill “He Has a Leg/Arm/Back/Brain” Belichick, but he did, via the Winston-Salem Journal, bob and weave a bit this week about whether his franchise RB will play against the Cajuns:

“Whether or not he plays or not remains to be seen, but he is very, very close,” Satterfield said. “It’s 100 percent that he’ll play in the Idaho game, which is our next game, and this game right here, it’s going to be very close. We’ll see where he’s at. Again, we don’t want to put him out there unless he’s going to be very effective.”

With the Apps’ passing game still struggling sputtering, this is one even a low-level analysts blogger can figure out: the Mountaineers have to run it early and often. And the coaching staff has to mix in ample amounts of Jalin Moore to keep Cox in one piece.

But, here’s the catch: While doing so, they have to get and keep at least one of the lethal-but-different backs in a rhythm. That’s how zone running schemes work, in part. If Cox is rusty early and Moore is effective, the young buck should get the lion’s share of the carries until No. 14 is back to #BeastMode.

This one also will pose another challenge to the embattled ball-hawking App State defense, which will face another solid passing attack. The Cajuns and QB Anthony Jennings throw it around for 215 yards per game; the Apps are giving up 250 yards each game up top.

/deep breaths, everybody…./

Jennings’ nearly 1,000 yards and 8 TDs are impressive. His 60% completion rate is…meh. And his 6 INTs are…enticing!

/flashes a knowing nod to the App State secondary/

Eric Boggs, John Law and Co., are going to have to be more of a disruptive force than we’ve seen previously this season. That means getting in Jennings’ face, forcing bad throws and knocking him to the turf.

In other words, it’s just another Saturday Wednesday night for an App State squad about which we still have lingering doubts questions aplenty.

Bottom Line: It’s all about the running game for the Apps offensively, and stopping the pass just enough. The Mountaineers will need to control the clock and force Jennings to throw them the ball. This feels like the kind of #FunBelt game that could become a shootout, with the first team to get a defensive score the likely winner. It also feels like a Trap Game Lite for App State…
Prediction: …And Vegas appears to be thinking the same, with the Mountaineers a 10-point road favorite. Your blogger guessed Sin City would have ASU a 13-point favorite. The Sun Belt has had no answer since midway through the 2014 campaign how to slow down the Apps’ running game. No reason that changes here, especially if Cox is back. It won’t be pretty, and in ugly games, kickers can be key. I’m betting Michael Rubino has a very good night, and makes (some of) you forget (a little) about Tennessee. Apps win it, 27-23. #GiveEmHell

–Appstradamus (On Twitter: @APPstradamus)

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