UL-Lafayette at #21 Appalachian State
Time: 10:30 AM CST
Spread: APP -6.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Appalachian State Mountaineers finished 11- with a lone 3-point loss to Georgia Southern before concluding its season with four-straight victories. It will host UL-Lafayette as 6.5-point favorites in the Sun Belt title game at 10:30 AM CST on ESPN.
App State is ranked No. 21 in the AP polls and it has won its past three games by 22 points or more. The over/under for this game is set high at 57.5 points according to NCAA football oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Appalachian State was dominant this year. It did it on the heels of a top-20 rushing offense that generates 226.0 yards per game, helping App State average 38.9 points per game. Meanwhile, it limits opponents to just 18.8 per contest, good for a win differential of +20.1 points.
The Mountaineers get plenty from starting QB Zac Thomas. He threw for 2,427 yards at a 63.8 percent passing clip with 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He was also sacked just 1.2 times per game while posing a rushing threat of his own. Thomas rushed 82 times for 387 yards and a second-leading seven touchdowns. Lead rusher Darrynton Evans rushed 217 times this season for 1,250 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards-per-carry. No. 2 running back Marcus Williams Jr. rushed for 520 yards and four touchdowns with a 5.3 yard-per-carry average. The Mountaineers tallied 5.3 yards-per-carry as a team and scored 31 rushing touchdowns.
Its pass offense is headlined by a trio of receivers who all topped 500 yards on the season. Thomas Hennigan lead the way with a team-leading 54 catches for 673 yards and four touchdowns. Corey Xavier Sutton led the way with seven touchdowns on his 41 catches for 601 yards, and Malik Williams caught four TD passes for 560 yards on the season. App State caught 26 TD passes and averaged 12.1 yards-per-reception as a team, with all four of its top receivers averaging at least 11 per catch.
Kicker Chandler Staton hit 63 of 64 PATs, but he was just 9 of 14 on field-goal attempts. Three of his misses came from within the 40-yard mark, which is strange considering he was 5 of 6 from 40 to 49 yards.
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns finished 10-2 and won its final six games to emerge as the Sun Belt-West champions. It faces the East winner, the Appalachian State Mountaineers, the lone AP-ranked team in the Sun Belt.
UL is a dominant team rushing the ball, much like its opponent, but perhaps even more so. The Cajuns ranked No. 6 in the nation with 274.2 yards per game via the rush, and its pass offense was respectable enough at 226.2 yards per game. It led to an offense that generated 38.8 points per game, while its defense limited opponents to just 17.8 per.
The rush attack was spearheaded by Elijah Mitchell’s 1,007 yards and 14 touchdowns. Mitchell averaged better than six yards-per-carry, and No. 2 running back Raymond Calais was even better with 7.9 per. Calais rushed 104 times and scored six TDs, while No. 3 running back Trey Ragas averaged 7.5 per and had 11 touchdowns. The Cajuns averaged 6.6 yards-per-carry as a team and scored 40 touchdowns via the rush this season.
Quarterback Levi Lewis was good when he threw, too. He completed 65.4 percent for 2,450 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just three interceptions. His top receiver was Ja’Marcus Bradley who caught a team-best 48 catches for a team-best 760 yards while also leading the team in receiving touchdowns with seven. Four other receivers topped 200 yards on the year, and the Cajuns scored 21 touchdowns via the pass. The team also averaged 12.1 yards-per-catch, although four of its top eight receivers averaged less than 10 per.
This game will be a showdown between two great rushing teams, but App State has the accolades to deservingly be favored in this Sun Belt showdown.