App State +120 2.5% play
This is a repeat of last year's Sun Belt Championship tha App State won 30-19, and I just don't think Lafayette is ready to get over the hump here. Both teams have played well on the road against similar Power 5 schools. App State won on the road at UNC, while Lafayette lost by 10 with extra time to prepare to open the season at Miss State. That Miss State loss only looks worse to me as they have not looked nearly as good. Both teams have had extra time to prepare here as they last played on 9/28, and that favors App State, who is making the road trip here. They were 17.5 point favorites in last year's conference championship game, but Lafayette's hot start, and 5-0 ATS record is driving the inflated # in my opinion.
Both teams like to run the ball first close to 60% of the time, and both have had great success ranking in the top 15 in rushing ypc, against similar opponent defenses. Lafayette, however is a bit more volatile in my opinion as they really rely heavily on their explosive runs, while App State traditionally hasn't given up many explosive plays. I think App State's run defense is a bit better ranking 87th, vs. Lafayette's 93rd ranking, the big difference is App State has gone against an average rushing offense ranking 44.6 in YPC compared to Lafayette's 70.75 opponent average. Lafayette also ranks 130th in stuff rate, so if App State needs to get the first down I think they can in this game. They also have the better QB and more balance with Zachary Smith, the reigning Sun Belt player of the year. App State seems to have the better play in the trenches as they have an average havoc rate of 17% compared to Lafayette's 14.2%, and their havoc rate allowed 9.3 vs. lafayette 7.5 against tougher competition is also impressive.
Something being overlooked in this game is TO margin, as App State ranks 10th compared to Lafayette's 78th ranking. They were -2 in TO margin in the title game last year. Lafayette also managed just 1 TD in 5 red zone trips. That will be the story again here, despite App State's defense not playing well to start the season. Special teams is another issue here for Lafayette as their kicker Steve Artigue has not made a field goal over 30 yards this season. You may expect Lafayette to go for it more on 4th down, but they are just 3-7 on 4th down this year, add in App State's havoc rate on defense and I feel like they will force a key turnover on downs as well. App State is 4-4 on 4th down and we already mentioned Lafayette's poor stuff rate this season.
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