By Paul T. Choate
Nov. 1, 2012. The Southern Conference’s best ranked offense and best ranked defense are set to square off on the gridiron this Saturday when the No. 15/14 Appalachian State Mountaineers (6-3, 4-2 SoCon) travel to Statesboro, Ga. to take on No. 2/1 Georgia Southern (7-1, 6-1 SoCon).
This is a must win game for the Mountaineers in terms of their having any hope of claiming their seventh SoCon Championship in the past eight years. Additionally, a Georgia Southern victory would earn them the SoCon Championship for the second year in a row.
The loss to Wofford on Oct. 20 left some in App Nation fearing the Mountaineers playoff hopes had been dashed. That is, in fact, not the case just yet. Appalachian likely needs to win at least one of their final two games, this Saturday or Nov. 10 against Furman, in order to make it into the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs. The 20-team playoff field typically looks at seven wins as a benchmark to get in.
The Mountaineers bring the best offense in the conference and the 10th best in the country to the table in terms of total yards per game, averaging 465.9. Additionally they are second in the conference and 21st in the nation in passing yards per game, averaging 268.9, while Georgia Southern sits dead last nationally in passing yards per game with only 53.4. That isn’t to say the Eagles can’t score points though. They rank second in the country in rushing yards per game with 387.1 and actually score more points per game than ASU does, 34.9-32.7.
What the Eagle’s do really well is prevent the other team from scoring points. They are currently holding opponents to 16.5 points per game, good for best in the SoCon and sixth best in the nation. Although ASU puts up huge numbers in terms of total yards, they could hit a brick wall at Paulson Stadium on Saturday, as the Eagles are currently holding teams to 279.9 yards per game, good for best in the SoCon and fourth best in the nation.
Certainly some good news for the Mountaineers is that starting quarterback Jamal Jackson is expected to play. Jackson was injured during last Saturday’s win over Western Carolina. He was cleared by the medical staff to play in the second half, but Head Coach Jerry Moore elected to keep him out the rest of the game just to be on the safe side. In a surprise performance during that game, backup quarterback Logan Hallock came in and completed 20 of 21 passes — the first 21 pass attempts of his career at ASU — throwing two touchdowns and accumulating 230 yards.
This Saturday’s matchup is the third time in a row ASU and GSU have squared off when one of the teams was ranked No. 1 nationally. Ironically, the No. 1-ranked team has lost the matchup the past two games, first when No. 1-ranked ASU lost 21-14 to GSU in 2010, then when ASU knocked off No. 1-ranked GSU last season 24-17.
The visiting team has won the last three matchups between the two schools, but on the other side of the coin the Mountaineers have never defeated a No. 1-ranked opponent on the road.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. For those who want to travel to Statesboro for this one, tickets are still available for $30 at georgiasoutherneagles.com. The game will not be televised, but ESPN3 will air the game online. You can also listen to the game live for free on the radio at WATA-AM 1450 or WKBC-FM 97.3.
For more information on all ASU sports, visit goasu.com.