TROY, Ala. – Appalachian State has already wrapped up a spot in the Sun Belt Conference championship game but still has a lot to play for when it visits Troy on Friday in the regular-season finale. The No. 22 Mountaineers won the East Division title with a 35-13 victory over Texas State last week and will meet Louisiana in the Sun Belt title game Dec. 7.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, No TV. LINE: Appalachian State -13
Appalachian State must win this week and next, and needs No. 17 Cincinnati, No. 18 Memphis and No. 19 Boise State to each lose in order to possibly finish as the highest-ranked Group of Five team and earn a New Year's Day bowl bid. Mountaineers junior running back Darrynton Evans continued his assault on Sun Belt defenses with 154 yards and three touchdowns against Texas State, giving him 1,168 yards and a conference-most 17 TDs (14 rushing, two receiving, one kickoff return). "He’s an elite tailback, obviously,” Appalachian State coach Eliah Drinkwitz told reporters. “To me, he’s one of the most dynamic players in college football because of his speed and return ability, and we’re very fortunate to have him.'' The Trojans are coming off a 53-3 loss at Louisiana after scoring a total of 112 points in victories over Georgia Southern and Texas State.
ABOUT APPALACHIAN STATE (10-1, 6-1 Sun Belt)
The Mountaineers suffered a huge blow last week when junior wide receiver Corey Sutton (41 catches, seven touchdowns) suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the season. "Corey is one of the best wide receivers in the country,” Drinkwitz told reporters. “He’s obviously a huge part of what we’ve done, especially in the last couple of weeks offensively. ... Hurt for him. ... It’s devastating for us.” The defense - third nationally with a three-and-out percentage of 43.5 - is led by sophomore cornerback Shaun Jolly (five interceptions, tied for fifth in the country) and linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither (82 tackles), a Senior Bowl invitee.
ABOUT TROY (5-6, 3-4)
Senior quarterback Kaleb Barker has thrown for 3,347 yards - the fifth-most in a season in school history - and his 30 touchdown passes are tied for sixth nationally. Junior wide receivers Kaylon Geiger (74 catches, five TDs) and Khalil McLain (41, seven) are Barker’s favorite targets. Sophomore linebacker Carlton Martial boasts a team-high 101 tackles to go along with four sacks, and his three interceptions are second only to senior cornerback Will Sunderland (four).
1. Appalachian State is the first Sun Belt team to start 10-1 since the conference's FBS inception in 2001.
2. The Mountaineers are tied for second in the country with seven turnovers and two lost fumbles.
3. Appalachian State prevailed 21-10 last season after the teams split the previous two meetings in 2015 and 2016 by a combined seven points.
PREDICTION: Appalachian State 38, Troy 24