This paragraph was going to be a charmingly clever introduction to the meaty football feast that is the Mountaineers versus the Red Wolves tonight on ESPN, but my colleague Rex Steele summed it up best:
Coming in Hot: The Red Wolves
Arkansas State is coming off two offensively volcanic wins, totaling 109 points and 1,124 total yards. The Red Wolves also implemented a bit of “momentum by subtraction” in firing defensive coordinator David Duggan, whose defense schemes were simply yielding too many points. Look for the defense to receive an adrenaline injection in support of interim DC Nick Paremski.
Coming in Chilly: The Mountaineers
Appalachian State hasn’t played a snap of competitive football since September 26, when they conducted some business against Campbell (52-21). The Mountaineers have a victory over Charlotte in addition to Campbell, but those programs are a combined 1-6. In a loss to Marshall, Appalachian State managed a mere seven points – albeit against a very tough Herd defense. It’s difficult to measure the Mountaineers under new head coach Shawn Clark. Thursday will reveal much.
This will be the third game for the Red Wolves facing a team that, at some point this season, boasted an AP Top 25 ranking – Kansas State, Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State.
Zack Thomas vs “Logan Hatcher”
Mountaineers QB Zack Thomas was named preseason Sun Belt Offensive POY after a massively huge 2019 campaign (2,700 yards, 28 TDs), but he has yet to fully unload in 2020. Over in Jonesboro, the law firm of Logan Bonner & Layne Hatcher is tearing apart opposing secondaries, combining for 1,834 yards and 21 TDs in just five games. NOTE: the Mountaineers’ defense is only allowing 167 yards per contest.
The Mountaineers make my crystal balls murky. They’re like a science experiment: what effect does a month of football inertia have on the human body? Appalachian State could bounce into Kidd Brewer will rested and fully prepared for sixty minutes of pigskin. But experience tells me they are more likely to struggle with atrophy early on. If the Red Wolves can strike early and often, look for an upset in Boone.