A southeastern university most often recognized by its football team which is on the rise nationally and has historically been defined by legendary coaches and its offensive philosophy. A former FCS champion that will be squaring off against its most heated rival on Thursday night. This paragraph could describe either Appalachian State or Georgia Southern.
These two up and coming programs barnstormed the Sun Belt conference last season as Appalachian State won their last six games including back-to-back road contests versus Arkansas State and Louisiana Lafayette, while Georgia Southern went undefeated in their inaugural season leading to a conference championship.
Both programs joined the Belt from the Southern Conference where they dominated that league. Since Georgia Southern joined App State in the SOCON back in 1993 they won the conference title ten times while Appalachian won nine. The two programs have made a mark nationally as well. Since 1999 Georgia Southern has had two FCS championships (six overall) and Appalachian has had three. The two have played each other seven times when one of them was ranked number one in the FCS poll, and split their two postseason contests.
With so much combined success the two programs have developed an intense rivalry. The first meeting was in November 1932 at the height of The Great Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had recently been elected president and unemployment was over 24%. In the contest South Georgia Teacher’s College handled Appalachian State Teacher’s College easily 33-0. They would play five more times between 1932 and 1939 with the future Mountaineers leading the series 3-2-1. The team to be known as the Eagles shut down their program in 1941 at the outset of World War II and the rivalry didn’t reconvene until 1987.
Georgia Southern restarted their program in 1982. The 1987 resolution of the series was a high stakes affair. The teams met in the quarterfinals of the I-AA playoffs, which Appalachian won. Georgia Southern joined the Mountaineers in the Southern Conference in 1993 and the two teams have played annually since. Appalachian leads the rivalry since the Eagles reinstatement 13-11.
Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson welcomed the two schools into his conference on March 27, 2013. Both schools have hired new coaches for the journey into FBS football. Former offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield took over the reins of the Appalachian program from retiring head coach Jerry Moore. Willie Fritz was hired from Sam Houston to take over for Jeff Monken, who took the same job at Army. Both coaches have embraced the offensive philosophy which brought their schools multiple FCS national championships, but the similarities end there.
Willie Fritz has built his team up quickly by adding a lot of junior college players who were ready to play immediately, and it showed with wins at the next level. The coach embraced the school’s history of a punishing triple option style offense, but has looked to add an additional passing dimension to the traditional attack. Despite a large amount of turnover after last season on the offensive line, Georgia Southern is currently first in the country in rushing, and 11th in scoring. Running back Matt Breida leads the way (ninth in the country) in rushing yards. The physical team can stop the run as well as they rank 38th nationally in that category. Senior safety Antonio Glover is a leader on the defense and currently third in FBS with five interceptions.
Under Jerry Moore and Scott Satterfield Appalachian had won three straight versus Georgia Southern and five of their last six. That included the rivals last game as members of the Southern Conference which Appalachian won 38-14. But Satterfield chose to build his FBS program from the ground up with a youth movement, and the team struggled through the first half of last season before hitting their stride. That stretch of the season included a Thursday night contest in Statesboro where Georgia Southern thumped the visitors 34-14. Satterfield, who was part of the coaching staff for Appalachian’s national championship teams has since gotten the offense rolling with a run heavy spread offense to go with defensive coordinator Nate Woody’s 3-4 defense. Appalachian has the ability to rush the ball or hit you deep with a big play in the passing game. Marcus Cox is currently 23rd in the country in rushing. App is tenth in team rushing, and the team ranks 15th in scoring offense. They are also currently fifth in overall defense, 13th in rush defense, and fifth in scoring defense. Appalachian also has a thief in the secondary with Latrell Gibbs also tied for third in the country with five picks.
It is a short week, an intense rivalry game between two long-time rivals with the chance at a conference championship potentially on the line in a nationally televised game in front of a juiced Kidd Brewer Stadium crowd. Both teams have a ton of talent, feel like their programs are on the upswing nationally, and are looking to make a statement. Georgia Southern’s rushing offense versus App’s rush defense. Appalachian wants another chance to prove themselves after last year’s disappointing result. There is really no telling how this game will turn out, but you definitely want to tune into see history unfold Thursday night.