We saw Wake Forest last week fly around and really make life difficult for UNC’s freshman quarterback Sam Howell. App State will look to cause some similar disruption. They may just find success as UNC has multiple injuries on their offensive line and in the Wake game were down to one player with more than eight games experience.
If there is one thing that concerns me about an offense is cluster injuries on the o-line. The Mountaineers defensive line is headed by 305 pound redshirt freshman Jordan Earle in the interior. This is a unit according to Steele “should just be strong as last years version and will use multiple fronts.” The Mountaineers feature a line-backing core which Phil Steele says is “talented and deep heading into 2019.” Five of their six linebackers return including the defenses leading tackler.
UNC can not afford to get off to the same type of slow start they did last week vs Wake Forest. They were out-gained 304-71 and were down 21-0 after two quarters. Now, Wake’s defense was a concern for me in that game so I was a bit surprised with their first half effort. It seemed like they really let off the gas defensively in the 2nd half as there was some allowing UNC to get back into the game that seemed over at halftime. I am not worried about that type of let down defensively, App State has shown a history of getting up for games against Power 5 schools. App State is off a BYE and got passed their two “tune up games” relatively easy, they should be firing out of the gates with plenty of energy and tempo.
I really like this spot for App State for multiple reasons, and when we look at App States recent games against power 5 opponents they hung around in all of them and gave themselves chances to win these games. In 2016, a missed FG gave Tennessee the victory over App State in OT, in 2017 App State lost to Wake Forest 20-19, and last season took Penn State to OT before falling 45-38. They seem to get up for these games and playing in state North Carolina will be no different. These schools recruit a lot of the same area talent, would not be surprised if some App State players were overlooked by UNC recruiting wise.
App State returns ten starters on offense and will be one of the best in the Sun Belt. They bring back four starters who combine for 96 career starts and are poised to one of the top lines in their conference. This App State team will look to attack North Carolina similarly to how Wake did and should see success against UNC’s secondary. They return several top receivers as well as a grad transfer from Western Michigan. Eight of the Mountaineers top nine pass catchers from last season return including two versatile pass-catching running backs. Quarterback Zac Thomas is being given more leash in this pro style offense.
Last year he stepped in for Taylor Lamb and threw for 21 touchdowns and just six interceptions, I look for him to be even better this season and considering the talent coming back the chemistry should be there as well. I think App State to keep this game close and I give them a decent shot at winning outright.
App State +3
I also am playing on the ML +125
Follow Tom on Twitter @TheJudgeSports. NCAAF: 12-4-2 +9.72u, NFL: 3-1 +2.19