Date: Saturday, September 2, 2017
Game Time: 6:15 p.m. ET
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Radio: Georgia Football Radio Network, a list of affiliates can be found here
Odds: Bulldogs by 14.5, via OddsShark.
For the second straight season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers open their football season with a trip to SEC country. Last year, the Mountaineers dropped a 20-13 heartbreaker to the Tennessee Volunteers. This weekend, Appalachian State travels to Athens to face the No. 15 Georgia Bulldogs.
Much like Tennessee one year ago, there’s a lot of hype around the ‘Dawgs in 2017. It’s Kirby Smart’s second season in charge and the ‘Dawgs return 10 starters on defense. On offense, sophomore Jacob Eason, a former five-star recruit, is back and poised for a big season.
Can Appalachian State pull off the upset?
Anytime college football fans think of Appalachian State they think of the Mountaineers monumental upset of No. 5 Michigan back in 2007. What most don’t realize is Appy St. is actually quite the accomplished program. Before moving up to the FBS in 2014—they are a part of the Sun Belt conference—the Mountaineers were dominant, winning three FCS national titles.
Last season ASU finished 10-3, however, its two biggest tests were at Tennessee and versus Miami. The Mountaineers almost beat Tennessee but were dispatched rather easily by the Hurricanes.
Led by quarterback Taylor Lamb, the Mountaineers return 14 starters. Running back Jalin Moore rushed for over 1,400 yards last season and will test Georgia’s front seven. Lamb is a veteran passer who can also take over games on the ground. Appy St. also returns all three starters along the defensive line in 2017.
So, yes, Appalachian State can beat Georgia. UGa’s home defeats to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech prove its potential vulnerability at Sanford Stadium. There’s also the matter of how the Bulldogs struggled to beat Nicholls State, too.
Nick Chubb set for a big day
The Mountaineers were actually pretty stout versus the run in 2016, finishing No. 20 in run defense. However, they didn’t face a running back like Nick Chubb or Sony Michel. In the season opener at Tennessee, ASU allowed 184 yards on the ground.
Chubb is set for a record-breaking senior season. He’s finally 100 percent healthy, now a full season removed from reconstructive knee surgery. His head coach has gushed about him all summer and recently remarked about how much quicker Chubb looks, per Cody McClure of Saturday Down South.
“I thought he was much quicker in the spring. He’s not running with a limp at all,” Smart said. “His cuts seem faster. He runs with good pad level. I think he runs really hard. He seems to be healthy.”
Expect Georgia to get Chubb involved early and often and he’ll reward the ‘Dawgs in a big way. Last season, Chubb ran for over 200 yards in the season-opening win over North Carolina and he wasn’t even completely healthy. Don’t be surprised if we see a repeat performance.
Expect this game to get off to a slow start. Both teams will be feeling one another out and it won’t be surprising to see a turnover or two. However, Eason will settle in and hit some big throws downfield to open things up for Chubb and Michel.
Georgia’s defense will be as advertised, too. The front seven will be swarming around the football, allowing Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick to make several big plays. The Bulldogs will absolutely shut down Appalachian State’s running game.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Appalachian State 13