BOONE, N.C. – Appalachian State and Louisiana meet Saturday in the Sun Belt championship game for the second straight year after the No. 20 Mountaineers completed the best regular-season record in conference history. Appalachian State won the inaugural Sun Belt title game 30-19 in 2018 and has won all seven meetings since moving to the FBS in 2014 after a 17-7 victory Oct. 9 over the Ragin' Cajuns earned it the right to host the championship.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Appalachian State -6.5
"For the Sun Belt to have two 10-win teams playing in a championship game is a pretty neat opportunity for us as a conference," Mountaineers coach Eli Drinkwitz told reporters. "...It's going to be a tremendous battle Saturday of two good football teams. We’re excited about the opportunity to play.'' Appalachian State, the East Division champion, tuned up with a 48-13 victory at Troy on Nov. 29 and won their last three games by a combined 86 points. The Mountaineers boast the Sun Belt offensive and defensive players of the year in junior running back Darrynton Evans, who scored 20 touchdowns this season, and senior linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither. Louisiana, the West champion, has won six straight - including 31-30 over Louisiana-Monroe last week - since holding Appalachian to a season low in points.
ABOUT LOUISIANA (10-2)
Junior running backs Elijah Mitchell (1,007 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Trey Ragas (11 TDs) and senior Raymond Calais (7.9 average) pace the country’s No. 6 ground attack with a combined 2,602 yards and 31 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Levi Lewis boasts 20 touchdowns against three interceptions with senior wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley (48 catches, 760 yards, seven touchdowns) his favorite target. Junior linebacker Joe Dillon is tied for third in the Sun Belt with six sacks while senior linebacker Jacques Boudreaux paces the club with 89 tackles.
ABOUT APPALACHIAN STATE (11-1)
Evans rushed for 1,250 yards and 16 touchdowns this season with three receiving TDs and a kickoff return for a score. Evans recorded 218 all-purpose yards, including 111 rushing and a 97-yard kickoff return, in the 2018 Sun Belt title game. Davis-Gaither (4.5 sacks, six passes defended) will play in the Senior Bowl while quarterback Zac Thomas, the 2018 Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year, has 24 TD passes this season and is 21-3 as a starter.
1. The Mountaineers are 11th nationally in scoring at 38.9 points per game with the Ragin' Cajuns right behind at 38.8 while Louisiana is 11th in points allowed at 17.8 and Appalachian State 18th at 18.8.
2. The Mountaineers are 42-7 in Sun Belt games.
3. Appalachian State on Saturday joins No. 3 Clemson (ACC) and No. 6 Oklahoma (Big 12) as teams playing to win their third straight conference title.
PREDICTION: Appalachian State 24, Louisiana 21