GAME PREVIEW: Appalachian State at Coastal Carolina

Appalachian State at Coastal Carolina
When: Saturday, Nov. 21st, 12:00 PM EST
Where: Brooks Stadium, Conway, S.C.
TV/Streaming: ESPN2/WatchESPN (subscription req’d)

The only two teams in the Sun Belt without a conference loss will meet on the teal field in Conway, S.C. this Saturday.

Coastal Carolina comes into this game not only undefeated in league play but also undefeated overall. The Chanticleers have big road wins against the the already crowned Sun Belt West champions of Louisiana, as well as the Big 12’s Kansas.

Appalachian State comes into this game with one loss early in the season at another current undefeated team in Marshall but the Mountaineers have won all other contests on their slate.

The series between these two newly created Carolina rivals has been one-sided thus far with the Mountaineers having won all six prior meetings. This includes App State winning last year in Boone, 56-37. Below are some highlights from that last meeting:

This year’s meeting will basically decide the winner for the Sun Belt East Division.

The two teams lit up the scoreboard last year but this year’s game probably will be more defensive in nature. Here is the statistical breakdown of the two teams below:

The contest will feature the top two scoring defenses in the Sun Belt in No. 1 Coastal Carolina at 16.3 points per game allowed and No. 2 App State at 16.9 points per contest surrendered.

However, this Sun Belt East Division showdown also features two of the top three scoring offenses in the Sun Belt this season in No. 1 Coastal Carolina at 37.9 points per outing and No. 3 App State at 32.1 points per game.

Appalachian State Mountaineers (6-1, 4-0 SBC)

The big question coming into this game will be the health of QB Zac Thomas. Thomas left the Georgia State game last week via ambulance, following an out-of-bounds hit. Head coach Shawn Clark officially calls Thomas’ status a “Saturday decision,” so we do not know at this point if he will play.

The Mountaineers eked out a 17-13 win last week and if Thomas can not go, will turn to Jacob Huesman. His only career start came, ironically, in a 2018 win at Coastal after a game-ending injury to Thomas the week before.

App State is also injured with a couple of its top specialty offensive players in WR Thomas Hennigan, as well as RB Daetrich Harrington. Hennigan is listed to start this week but Harrington is not in the App State two deep roster.

The defense has come up big for the Mountaineers and were really key to winning last week’s low scoring game with Georgia State. It was very good in both the running and passing games.

This week, stopping the Coastal running attack will be key for the Mountaineers as Coastal likes to run first. Coastal has averaged better than 6.0 yards per carry and scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game thus far.

Key Players: RBs Marcus Williams Jr. and Camerun Peoples

App State RB Marcus Williams, Jr.

Williams and Peoples should both see a lot of action each in running the ball. With QB Zac Thomas’ availability and health unknown, the Mountaineers will need to use its running game on offense and both of these backs will need to come up big in this game to give the Mountaineers a shot on the road.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (7-0, 5-0 SBC)

The Chanticleers are currently ranked No. 15 overall in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. This ranking eclipsing the previous Sun Belt record of No. 19 set by Appalachian State last season and Louisiana twice this year.

Coastal Carolina is off to a 5-0 start in conference play for the first time since joining the Sun Belt as a full-time member in 2017.

The 7-0 start is tied for the best overall Sun Belt start, which it tied App State from a year ago with the same record.

The Chants this season have been fairly balanced between the run and pass, having rushed for more yards than passed for in three games, while passing for more than running for in the other four contests.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall has become a the huge key for the Coastal offensive success. As a passer, he’s completing 69.6 percent of his throws (12th in FBS) for 14.8 yards per completion (13th) and a 16-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Opening up that passing game is Coastal’s rushing game, averaging 203.3 yards per game, but it’s a methodical, grinding attack that wears down opposing defenses. There’s nothing shocking about the Chanticleers’ 4.9 yard-per-carry average, and their nine 20-plus yard running plays is middle of the pack in the Sun Belt. They have explosive running threats, but it’s more about those 42-43 rushing attempts per game jabbing a defense into position for knockout shots.

Key Players: CJ Marable, Reese White, and Shermari Jones

Coastal Carolina RB CJ Marable

The three-back rotation of CJ Marable, Reese White, and Shemari Jones have combined for 947 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, with Marable the versatile inside/outside ball-carrier, while White and Jones are excellent straight-ahead, single-cut runners. This trio getting yards on the ground against a stiff App State defense will be key for Coastal to stay undefeated.

Fearless Prediction:

This game will definitely not be the high scoring affair the two teams had in their meeting last year. The two team’s defenses are seasoned now and have shown they can stiffen up against strong offenses. The key to the winner will be which defense can get more turnovers and should not forget about special teams in this one as it very well looks to come down to a final possession type of game. App State has won this league the last four seasons and while it looked average in its last game, the Mountaineers will be up for this game. I like the Mountaineers to narrowly upend the Chanticleers in a game that will come down to the end. App State 31 Coastal 27