Appalachian State (1-1) at Southern Miss (1-2) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: M.M. Roberts Stadium (36,000) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Television: American Sports Network. Home Record: ASU 1-0, USM 1-0. Away Record: ASU 0-1, USM 0-2. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, USM 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 0-0, USM 0-0. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Appalachian State Mountaineers will prepare for their Sun Belt Conference opener when they visit the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at M.M. Roberts Stadium this Saturday.
The Mountaineers were monsters of the FCS level for years before making the move up to the FBS this year. They have had wildly different results in their first two contests, falling 52-14 to Michigan before rolling over FCS foe Campbell, 66-0.
Southern Miss is sporting a 1-2 mark entering this contest. The Golden Eagles were torn apart by Mississippi State in the opener (49-0) prior to posting a 26-20 win over FCS foe Alcorn State. Whatever optimism they gleaned from that win was doused last weekend when Alabama ran away with a 52-12 victory.
This is the first meeting between these two teams since 1937 when Southern Miss earned a 7-0 victory.
It is difficult to tell how effective Appalachian State's offense actually is. The Mountaineers managed only 14 points and 280 yards of total offense against Michigan, but then tallied 66 and 538 against an inferior Campbell squad. It is unlikely they will be able to match their effort in that contest, but an improvement over the Michigan game should be in order.
During the first two games, both Kameron Bryant and Taylor Lamb have gotten time under center. Bryant started each of the matchups and has accumulated 207 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while completing an even 50 percent of his pass attempts. Lamb has been a bit more accurate, hitting on 58.3 percent of his throws, but he has just 163 yards and a single passing touchdown.
There also has been a sharing of the rushing duties for the Mountaineers. Terrence Upshaw started the opener and tallied 109 yards on 18 carries. However, he was limited to 41 yards on four attempts against Campbell with Marcus Cox getting the start. Cox has delivered a team-high 161 yards and three scores over the first two games.
Simms McElfresh is the only player on the roster to have more than five catches or 100 receiving yards. He had a fantastic game against Campbell, pulling in five passes for 81 yards and two scores.
The drought or tsunami results from the first two games were felt on defense as well for Appalachian State. After getting ripped for 560 yards of total offense against Michigan, the Mountaineers held the Camels to less than 100. Again, expect less wildly varying results as the season progresses, although it is likely the Mountaineers will shade towards the Michigan game as this is their first season playing FBS foes on a consistent basis.
Playing a pair of bullies from the SEC has really kept Southern Miss' offensive production in check. The Golden Eagles are averaging just 12.7 points and 320.3 yards per game.
The backfield could get a bit of a boost, at least in terms of depth, this weekend as Jalen Richard is listed as questionable with a thumb injury. Should he play he will be seeking some supplementary work behind feature back Ito Smith, who has started all three games and tallied 176 yards on 51 carries. Tez Parks has shown a bit more speed, with 82 yards on 10 attempts.
Quarterback Nick Mullens also makes an impact on the ground, with 56 rushing yards this season. However, his main focus is getting the ball in the air, which he has done with mild success. He has completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 627 yards, with as many touchdowns as interceptions (two).
His top options in the passing game are Casey Martin (14 receptions, 121 yards) and Markese Triplett (12 receptions, 100 yards), although they have been limited to possession receiver roles. Both Martin and Triplett are averaging less than nine yards per grab.
Playing Mississippi State and Alabama in two of the first three games has hurt the Southern Miss defense as well. The Golden Eagles have allowed 121 points and 1,490 total yards. Only 27 teams in the country have picked up that many yards on offense.
Jacorius Cotton (22 tackles) and Emmanuel Johnson (21 tackles) have been working overtime in the secondary as the team's leading tacklers.
It is tough to tell just how good (or bad) either of these teams are because of the drastically different foes they have faced to this point. This game should be a good barometer of each team's talent. The Mountaineers are unfortunately the team on the road, so the odds are leaning in the Golden Eagles' favor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 24, Appalachian State 20Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 20, 7 p.m. (ET)