Appalachian State (3-2, 1-0) at Louisiana-Lafayette (2-3, 1-1)
Start Time: 8:00 PM ET
Location: Cajun Field in Lafayette, Louisiana
Series: App State leads 2-0
Weather: Clear and pleasant, 70’s throughout
Line: App State by 10, O/U at 49
The second (and final) installment of Wednesday Night #FunBelt comes in south-central Louisiana as Appalachian State goes to visit Acadiana Country. Two years ago, the Mountaineers went to Lafayette as 10-point underdogs. Now they go as 10-point favorites.
The first meetings between the two sides in 2014, a 35-16 upset for App State, snapped a six-game winning streak for the Cajuns while propelling the Mountaineers to their fifth win in a row. Ever since, the two teams have gone on different paths.
Louisiana, once the crown jewel of the Sun Belt, has gone 8-11 since with a rotating number of quarterbacks plus NCAA sanctions including vacating 22 wins (including one win from that 8-11 mark) and scholarship reductions. App State has gone 15-4 since, winning the 2015 Camellia Bowl and has had the same starting quarterback all that time.
There are several big questions going into this game. The first two involved two of the top four active NCAA all-purpose yards leaders in #3 Marcus Cox (5,307 yards) and #4 Elijah McGuire (5,183 yards).
Will Marcux Cox play and if so, how much?
It was figured that Cox, injured since the Miami game on September 17th, would be back by this point. But the status is still up in the air. Scott Satterfield has said Cox is “very, very close”.
App State, although missing Cox, has seen back-up Jalin Moore run for 406 yards on 57 carries in the last two games. Still, those 24 times Cox has rushed for over 100 yards in a game are dearly missed. Also, Cox is 436 yards away from the App State rushing record.
How healthy in Elijah McGuire?
After being injured at Tualne on September 24th, McGuire was limited at New Mexico State, only going for 20 yards on six carries. Unlike the Mountaineers, the Cajuns seem to need McGuire as the second-best rusher, Darius Hoggins, only has 114 yards on the season to McGuire’s 517 yards.
McGuire isn’t just a rushing threat, but as a receiving and special teams threat, coming into this game 50 yards away from the Cajuns’ all-purpose yards record and a touchdown away from the school’s scoring record.
Are The Mountaineers Vulnerable?
Despite being 3-2 and their two losses to Tennessee and Miami, App State hasn’t been the dominant team they were in 2015. The 17-3 win over Georgia State on October 1st was a sluggish offensive performance that was 0-0 at half and saw touchdowns only on a long Moore run and near the end of the game.
The Mountaineers are 122nd in third down conversions out of the 128 FBS teams at 28.4% conversion rate. The defense has carried the team for the most part, but Akron showed there’s holes to be found.
All The Cajuns’ Hopes Put On Jennings
The state of the the quarterback position in Lafayette has been simplified due to injury. This is Anthony Jennings’ team now. Back-up Jalen Nixon came in relief in each of the last two games, briefly in overtime versus Tulane and most of the game versus New Mexico State. However, Nixon broke his ankle in overtime versus NMSU and his career is over.
That leaves the team to the LSU transfer Jennings, who is around a 60% completion rate for eight touchdowns, six interceptions and 12 sacks. Mark Hudspeth says it’s Jennings’ team now, so for better or worse, that’s how ULL will go.
The Cajuns have one of the top havoc defenses in FBS with 16 sacks so far. The Mountaineers nine interceptions are also one of the bigger numbers in FBS. Both defenses have given up yards this season, but can come up with a huge play when needed.
Last season, App State sacked Louisiana six times, many of which were drive killers. While Jennings is a better athlete than then-starter Brooks Haack, he is sack and mistake prone. With offensive line one of the thinnest positions for the Cajuns, they need to get creative in order to move the ball consistently.
The Mountaineers showed at Akron they can throw the ball on a soft secondary. Louisiana’s secondary ranks worse than the Zips so the ULL linebackers will need to help out to force Taylor Lamb into longer and lower-percentage passes.
With a home whiteout, Louisiana is asking their fans to wear white and will keep their tradition of debuting new threads for a weeknight home game. This year is an “iced out” theme with the Fleur de Lis featured.
With the home team wearing light colors, the visitors will weak dark colors, although with one slight tweak.
Cox or not, it’s hard to see ULL stopping App State most of the night. There are big plays to be had for the Cajuns, but ball control and a physical front seven bodes well for the Mountaineers.
App State 45 Louisiana 22