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Appalachian State's success last year (11-2 overall record, Camellia Bowl win) came via loads of returning starters. With most of those guys still rather young, the Mountaineers are expected to be just as good with returning talent on both sides of the field, most notably at key offensive positions. However, a tougher non-conference slate could reduce their win total.
The Mountaineers were a power-rushing team a year ago, but it's not like Taylor Lamb wasn't a good quarterback. He just wasn't needed to do all that much. Lamb completed 60.1% of his passes for 31 TDs and 9 INTs in his sophomore season. In all, App State ran the ball twice as much as they passed. That's still good news because Marcus Cox (1,423 yards, 9 TDs, 5.9 yards per carry) is still there for his senior campaign. He's flanked by a couple more able backs in Jalin Moore (731 yards, 5 TDs) and Terrence Upshaw (442 yards, 3 TDs).
The offensive line loses a couple starters, but they should be just fine with a full crew of guys having experience, with three having all-conference ability. Receiver is the biggest question with most of last year's top pass-catchers gone. Shaedon Meadors (439 yards, 3 TDs) is the top returnee with the rest being mostly inexperienced receivers. But to help, tight end Barrett Burns (15 receptions, 8 TDs) is still around.
While the offense scored 36.7 points per game last year, the defense was just as good, allowing only 19.1 points. Reaching those numbers again aren't out of reach with plenty of returning starters on the defensive side, nine in all.
Top linebackers John Law and Eric Boggs hold down the middle of the field, two of the best in the Sun Belt. The line loses their best sack master, but there's still plenty to go around with a couple experienced seniors on the line, most notably end Nate Norwood. The same goes for the secondary, which only loses one player. Playmaking cornerback Latrell Gibbs is the name to know, but sophomore corner Tae Hayes and senior safety Alex Gray were stout last season.
Needless to say, the Mountaineers will be competing for the Sun Belt title once again, a year after falling short by one game. Because of a tougher non-conference schedule, expect fewer wins, though. Reaching double-digit wins will depend on the game at Akron. They squeaked by a similarly good Ohio team in their bowl game last year.
In Sun Belt play, App. State escapes another meeting with Arkansas State, which should help. In addition, all of their home games should be rather easy wins. Their road slate is a tad more difficult, but could definitely lead to an undefeated conference record with UL Lafayette, Georgia Southern and Troy on the schedule. They beat Troy at home in overtime last year.
The Mountaineers' over/under at 5Dimes is at 9 wins so that falls in line with an undefeated conference record and one non-conference win with some wiggle room for the bowl game. They have the same odds as Arkansas State to win the conference, but one has to think the experience at QB and RB will push App. State over the edge this year.
2016 Appalachian State Mountaineers Football Schedule
Sept. 1 at Tennessee
Sept. 10 vs. Old Dominion
Sept. 17 vs. Miami (FL)
Sept. 24 at Akron
Oct. 1 vs. Georgia State
Oct. 12 at Louisiana-Lafayette
Oct. 22 vs. Idaho
Oct. 27 at Georgia Southern
Nov. 5 vs. Texas State
Nov. 12 at Troy
Nov. 19 vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 26 at New Mexico State
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