Last Updated: 2017-08-30
The population of Boone, North Carolina would completely fit inside Kidd Brewer Stadium. When the Appalachian State Mountaineers are playing at home, it is one of the best home field advantages among Group of Five conference teams and the team has responded over the last couple of seasons in a big way. The Mountaineers are 21-5 over the last two years and are staring down the barrel of another really successful season. Head coach Scott Satterfield inherited a pretty good FCS program from Jerry Moore, but the program’s success at the FBS level has been very impressive.
The Mountaineers are 20-4 in Sun Belt Conference play over the last three seasons and have beaten MAC opponents in bowl games each of the last two seasons. This is a program that has had some NFL-level talent over the last few years and a program that isn’t afraid to step up in class and challenge teams from the ACC and SEC in non-conference play. Once again, the Mountaineers are the front-runner in the SBC and a team that has a chance to play on New Year’s Day.
Lofty expectations now come with the territory for the Mountaineers. Over at 5Dimes Sportsbook, it’s hard to get value on Appalachian State with a season win total of 9 and the over juiced at -175. Keep in mind that the win total odds are only for the regular season and do not include the postseason.
||@ Texas State
||New Mexico State
||@ Georgia State
Total Expected Wins: 10.15
The contributions made by Marcus Cox to Appalachian State football will live on forever. The four-year starter ran for 5,103 yards and topped the 1,000-yard mark every year as a Mountaineer. Somehow, he went undrafted. Lost in Cox’s shadow last season was Jalin Moore, who actually ran for 1,402 yards on 237 carries. He had 5.9 yards per pop to Cox’s 6.4 yards per pop, but he did that as a true sophomore and was the Offensive Player of the Year in the Sun Belt Conference. Moore has rushed for over 2,100 yards in his two years, so topping Cox’s record will be hard, but the drop-off at running back is nowhere near what we would expect at a Group of Five school when a program leader leaves. The Mountaineers did lose some talent on the offensive line, but Satterfield, recruits well in the trenches and has a second-year OC that has been an offensive line coach.
Taylor Lamb may have regressed last season at the quarterback position. In 2015, Lamb threw for 2,387 yards with a 31/9 TD/INT ratio. Last season, Lamb only threw for 2,281 yards and a 15/8 TD/INT ratio. His completion percentage was about the same, but the Mountaineers were a really run-heavy club under a new OC with a rushing background. Without the complement to Moore, perhaps Lamb and the Mountaineers throw a bit more. Lamb takes care of the football, can run a little bit, and will become the program’s second-most accomplished passer early in the season if he stays healthy. The Mountaineers ran for 251 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry last season. With Lamb’s mobility over the last three years, the Mountaineers have only allowed 16, 11, and 11 sacks.
This year could be a little bit of a challenge for defensive coordinator Nate Woody. Last season, the Mountaineers returned eight starters. In 2015, they returned 10 starters. This season, the number drops to seven starters, but the guys that were lost were very important. Kennan Gilchrist was the team’s top linebacker and Dezmin Reed was second on the team with six sacks. Appalachian State’s defense actually went backwards in some respects last season, allowing 0.5 more yards per carry and 0.3 more yards per play.
Despite the losses, this is a strong group once again. The Mountaineers had 20 interceptions last season against 12 touchdown passes allowed. They still held opponents below four yards per carry for the second straight season. Appalachian State’s recruiting level is so much higher than most of the Sun Belt Conference, so they’re able to retool and reload. Though the defense lost some starters, no level of the defense has fewer than two returning starters, so there’s still experience throughout the defense. The Mountaineers allowed just 12 points per game in conference play and just 279 yards of offense to the opposition.
Which brings me to my next point…the schedule. Appalachian State avoids Arkansas State and Troy. Georgia and Wake Forest are on the non-conference schedule, but the Mountaineers will be favored at home over Wake and could sneak up on Georgia. Even if they don’t upset Georgia, it’s hard to see another loss on the schedule, with App State a clear favorite in the other 11 games, including a double-digit favorite in every Sun Belt game based on my power ratings.
Win Total Pick: Over 9
If you think about this number as 9.5 -125 on the over, which is effectively what it is, there’s some value left because this team is very unlikely to lose three games. Each half-win in a win total is worth about 50 cents of juice. The Mountaineers play an extremely weak conference schedule, with two bye weeks since there is no conference championship game in the Sun Belt. The talent on this team relative to the teams that the Mountaineers will face in Sun Belt play is significantly better. Laying -175 on any win total is extremely hard, but this looks like a decent spot if you’re going to do it.