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Appalachian State vs. Marshall: NCAAF Picks and Predictions

Appalachian State vs. Marshall: NCAAF Picks and Predictions
Jalen Virgil #11 of the Appalachian State Mountaineers breaks a tackle. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images/AFP

Appalachian State Mountaineers vs. Marshall Thundering Herd 

Saturday, September 19, 2020 – 03:30 PM EDT at Joan C. Edwards Stadium

While more conferences are beginning their college football seasons, two teams flying under the radar are Marshall and Appalachian State. They are both 1-0 to start the year, and they each have a great chance to work their way into a New Year’s Six bowl bid. For both teams to succeed, they need to win this game.

The Mountaineers went 13-1 last season, but they had a coaching change over the offseason. After just one win, they are already in the AP top 25. Their running game is also without Darrynton Evans, their crown jewel from last season. However, they have continuity at the quarterback position and carry high hopes into 2020.

Marshall comes into this game with a dynamic running game powered by two stud backs, but they prefer to air the ball out. Expect plenty of carries for both the Mountaineers and the Thundering Herd, but Marshall will prefer to throw the ball deep over the course of the game.

NCAAF odds have Appalachian State favored by only 5 points at the best sports betting sites. Can they cover that spread, or does Marshall have what it takes to pull off an upset?

Keys for Appalachian State to Cover the Spread

Appalachian State needs to keep at least some balance on offense. While they thrive in the running game, they need to be hyper-efficient in the passing game. Third-down conversions through the air are vital, but they also need to take a few shots just to keep the Marshall defense on their toes. Any plays that can cause the safeties to stay out of the box will make the running game better.

Appalachian State will never try to blow out a team with a potent offense. The NCAAF totals for this game line up around 59.5 points. Some teams are going to score more points than that by themselves. The game plays right into Appalachian State’s hands if it stays low scoring. Watch for them to chew the clock, limit their mistakes, and turn Marshall’s few errors into game-breaking plays.

In doing this, they must avoid their own mistakes. To summarize, a game plan that includes the occasional unexpected pass, long drives, and few errors will be a recipe to win. With such a small point spread, it should also be a recipe to cover.

Grant Wells #8 of the Marshall Thundering Herd throws a pass. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images/AFP

Keys for Marshall to Cover the Spread

These teams have drastically different offensive styles. Marshall loves to run up the score with a potent passing game, while the Mountaineers will chew the clock and minimize total possessions. Because of this, Marshall really needs to see success on their first three drives of the game.

If Marshall can potentially go up 14-0 early in this game, they will force Appalachian State to change their offensive style and pass the ball more. That’s the best way to disrupt dominant running games. If they can force Appalachian State into situations where they have to pass, they will have the advantage.

On the flipside, Marshall can’t afford to go down 14-0 early. App. State will chew the clock even more and give the Thundering Herd no chance to come back. Marshall is also going to be more prone to having turnovers with their style of play. Throwing the ball has plenty of risks and rewards, so they must avoid turnovers. Turnovers matter in every game, but their importance increases tenfold against a team like Appalachian State.

Marshall certainly has a chance to win this game outright. Even though they have not yet been tested this season, they feel prepared to emerge victorious.

The Verdict

I don’t think that Appalachian State deserves to be in the top 25, but it’s hard to rank teams with so few games. I also believe that Marshall is ready to come and keep this game close with their balance on offense, but their path to covering the spread has more potholes.

Marshall is more likely to lose the turnover battle through the air, and their success against Eastern Kentucky won’t correlate to success against the Mountaineers. It won’t be a blowout by any means, but I like Appalachian State to cover on top sportsbooks.

NCAAF Pick: Appalachian State -4.5 (-105) at Heritage (visit our Heritage Review)

App. State -4.5-105
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