When and where: November 9, 2019, Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC, 7:00 PM ET
The Appalachian State Mountaineers face a tall task of going on the road to Columbia on Saturday for a head-to-head meeting with the South Carolina Gamecocks. After losing their first game of the season to Georgia Southern, the Mountaineers could use a pick-me-up victory over an SEC opponent. Although South Carolina has struggled this season, they have also competed against the best teams in the country. They own a win over Georgia, and they recently handed Vanderbilt a 24-7 loss. This will without question be the toughest opponent Appalachian State has faced this season.
Can the Mountaineers get back into the top-25?The guillotine came down on the Mountaineers last Thursday after a surprise upset loss at home to Georgia Southern. Despite averaging 38.5 points per game, they were held to only 21 points in a game where quarterback Zac Thomas went 25-of-51 passing for 271 yards, three touchdowns and a 49.0 completion percentage.
They’ve benefitted from a relatively weak schedule in the Sun Belt Conference, but things are about to open up in a whole new way when they go on the road to take on South Carolina. Thomas has done a great job of limiting turnovers and making good use of his legs to escape in the open field whenever the pocket closes. He has rushed for 303 yards and four touchdowns on the season, making him a viable threat to spy in the backfield. South Carolina has actually struggled in stopping the run with opponents averaging 141.0 yards on the ground against them.
As expected, Thomas, along with tailback Darrynton Evans, will be counted on to carry the offensive load on Saturday.
The defensive load falls on the shoulders of Akeem Davis-Gaither, Jordan Fehr and Noel Cook in shutting down South Carolina running back Tavien Feaster. They have to take away quarterback Ryan Hilinski’s safety net, which is the South Carolina rushing attack, to truly make a dent in their offense. However, it isn’t just Feaster. The Gamecocks have a stable of monsters in the backfield with Feaster, Rico Dowdle and Mon Denson.
Injuries continue to ravage the GamecocksSouth Carolina is two wins out from securing bowl eligibility, and while it remains a long-shot at this point, there is no doubt Saturday’s game against Appalachian State is the easiest left on the regular-season schedule. Next on the itinerary is a road trip to Texas A&M before returning home to finish things out with a meeting against Clemson.
Not only is the schedule a huge hurdle for the Gamecocks to clear, but they’re also accumulating injuries at an alarming rate at every skilled position on the offense. Even the offensive line is banged up. It has been nothing but bad news for Hilinski all season. Things may not get any better on Saturday with Feaster being questionable with a groin injury and Dowdle working through a knee ailment.
Yet, the Gamecocks will lean on experience against better opposition to help try to propel them through the Mountaineers. Perhaps the biggest issue for South Carolina will be slowing down a run-heavy offense averaging 232.6 yards per game. This is where reality is destined to tell the early story of the game. South Carolina has been soft against the run, but they are also facing much better opposition. If they can shut down the Mountaineers on the ground, it’s going to be a long night for Thomas and company.
If the run game is compromised, the Gamecocks will have to dig deep in the depth chart, while also leaning more on Hilinski’s arm and the big-play capability of wideout Bryan Edwards.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Mountaineers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games against a team with a losing home record.
- Gamecocks are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games in November.
- Gamecocks are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games against teams in the S-Belt.
- Gamecocks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games.
- Gamecocks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.