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Playoff Action is Back at The Rock

app-state-vs-idaho

Let the consternation end. Appalachian State is hosting a playoff game at The Rock on Saturday. And App Fans could (fingers crossed!) be treated to two more before Thanksgiving.

/pauses to let that sink in/

There has been some kvetching on App State Twitter — yes, that’s a thing, smartass — and elsewhere on the Internet Cyber Domain Of Hate And Pettiness. Your blogger suspects there was ample kvetching and griping in living rooms around App Nation as the Mountaineers chose to work on its struggling sluggish slightly improving passing game while cruising in the second half of a 24-0 win business-like beatdown last wednesday night in Lafayette, La.

(Trust me, it’s out there. You have Google, use it. Your blogger has a day job, and a spouse, and a dog, and a beer habit to attend to.)

This line of complaining isn’t new, it was there before and after the jump out of I-AA FCS. And, full disclosure: Your blogger was sympathetic for a while, though pumped for more national television appearances and exposure. What flipped this App Football fan to all in on this FB$ move were the looks on the Mountaineer players’ faces after they won the Camellia Bowl.

/chills/

Rather than call names or spit #HotTakes toward those who pine for those SoCon battles with Furman and title-pretender Elon — /that cheap shot will never get old, even once App takes its rightful place in the AAC and the Phoenix Torched Birds are still a CAA doormat…/ — allow your favorite mildly tolerable blogger to offer a different perspective.

First, take a gander at the Sun Belt #FunBelt standings after Troy found a way to escape the Jags of South Alabama on Thursday night with a 28-21 comeback win.

 

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We’ve got ourselves a classic five-horse race, with at least three teams now on the outside, led by South Alabama, capable of playing spoiler on any given Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday on the ESPN family of networks likely your laptop, tablet or phone.

App-stradamus looked at the remaining schedules for the Big 5 so you didn’t have to. Idaho, even with Saturday’s big colossal match up with App State (3:30 p.m., ESPN3), arguably has the easiest path to the #FunBelt title. The Vandals’ lone other tough tilt likely would come at home against Mississippi State- and San Diego State-killer South Alabama, which is having a tougher go of it in conference play at 0-4. But the Jags always seem to play gritty and hang around.

Arkansas State, which the “experts” told us was rebuilding, plays 6-1 Troy and just about the rest of the non-Sun Belt contenders, giving them the second-easiest path to the trophy. And the Wolves have a win over the #Stink already. But with six games left, the chances for a stumble are very real.

Then there are Troy and those smelly Eagles. Each has two games remaining against teams in the Sun Belt’s upper-crust. The Trojan Men have a win against Idaho — /no, You Da Ho!/ — in their back pockets, giving them a little room for error. #Stink plays App and Troy, and has a Big 5 loss already, complicating its path to the championship.

Then there’s the toughest path. You guessed it, owned by the Mountaineers. With games against a much-improved Idaho squad, then at Statesboro in primetime on ESPNU and at Troy, the Apps have lots of work to do.

It begins Saturday at chilly and blustery Kidd Brewer Stadium against a Vandals team that Coach Scott Satterfield this week called “the most complete” Idaho team the Apps have faced since moving to the FB$ level.

/gulp/

The Vandals, which is a great Group of Five moniker, literally could steal the conference title — with a little help from New Orleans. (That’s where #FunBelt HQ is. Yeah, I had to look it up, too.) This assist came in the form of a schedule that consisted only of Troy and App State. No #Stink. No A-State.

And they look legit, or, well, Sun Belt-legit. Meaning they can run it, they can throw it, they can put up points, and they can get just enough stops to challenge anyone else in the #FunBelt. But they don’t scare you.

QB Matt Linehan has thrown for 1,589 yards and 8 TDs. But his completion percentage is just 58.4% and he’s tossed 4 picks. But the Vandals can hurt you up top, with three receivers amassing 23 or more catches already, including leading WR Deon Watson (26 catches, 280 yards, 14.6 YPR).

/Mr. Duck, get some rest. We need you to quack at least once after an INT/

But the Vandals run it more than they throw it (253 runing plays vs. 243 pass attempts), led by Aaron Duckworth’s 491 yards on 102 totes, with 4 TDs.

Some pro-bono advice, Apps: Do not take these guys lightly.

Troy seems to have provided the blueprint for taking down Idaho, via ESPN.com:

“Troy (4-1, 2-0 Sun Belt) out-gained Idaho 530-255, limiting the Vandals to just 89 net rushing yards.

“Silvers was 31 of 42 passing for 373 yards, but was intercepted twice.”

Slow down Duckworth? We suspect (read: hope!) the country’s 28th-best rush defense (134.7 YPG) is up to that.

Troy threw for all but 157 yards of that impressive haul at the Kibbie Dome. Is the country’s 112th-ranked passing offense up for a day like that? This blogger isn’t so sure, especially with some Boone gusts in the forecast.

But Troy did pound out nearly 160 yards that day. And, well well well, look who’s likely back! Last season, Jalin Moore gashed the Vandals for 244 yards rushing while filling in for Cox.

We know who these 4-2 Mountaineers are: They run a lot. They throw a little. And they swarm on defense. So we know the cocktail Coach Visor and Co. will likely deploy Saturday. (This Satterfield Watcher expects the Visor will see what QB Taylor Lamb and those up-and-down WRs can do in the wind.)

The #FunBelt version of the playoffs begins in mere hours. These aren’t the Paladins or Phoenix or Terriers, we know. But if you can’t get up for a game like this, which could be the first of several elimination games, perhaps it’s time to retire that tailgate gear. For everyone else, be loud and disruptive.

Prediction: Vegas is playing games, with the Apps a 21-point home favorite. Three TDs seems like…a lot…as Idaho tries to keep its title hopes alive. But it’s that App State D and the two-headed running attack behind the #BandOfBrothers that should be the difference. Mountaineers 28, Vandals 17. #GiveEmHell

–Appstradamus (On Twitter: @APPstradamus)

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