Friday, December 14, 2007

Weekend Preview: Delaware vs. Appalachian State

Aside from a solid Wednesday that featured a couple of quality games, it was a very slow week in the college basketball world. In fact, the best nationally televised game might have been a high school contest between No. 1 Oak Hill and No. 9 St. Benedict’s, which ended in a St. Benedict’s upset victory. The weekend figures to get better this weekend with several notable contests, but there is not a standout match-up on the docket. To kick off your weekend, though, start with a Friday night college football game.

Delaware (+5.5) vs. Appalachian State (Friday, 8:00 PM, ESPN2): Again, obviously this is a college basketball blog, but when my school reaches the national championship game in football, I tend to take a break and discuss the game. First of all, the Blue Hens will be at a disadvantage in terms of fans because of some horrendous forward thinking by the administration. UD only ordered 3,000 tickets while Appalachian State received about 8,000. Furthermore, UD opened its ticket orders on Sunday to season ticket holders only, meaning that there were only 400-500 tickets available for students on Monday. In other words, less than three percent of the student body was able to purchase tickets to their school’s national championship game. Also, that is the reason I am not currently in Chattanooga right now – and not happy about it.

Anyway, onto the game. Appalachian State (yes, the team that beat Michigan to open the season) is the two-time defending national champions yet were not even seeded heading into the tournament. However, the Mountaineers have looked outstanding in the playoffs, led by quarterback Armanti Edwards, who set the single-game rushing record in the semifinals against Richmond. ASU has also defeated unseeded James Madison and Eastern Washington in the playoffs. Running back Kevin Richardson hasn’t reached 100 yards in the playoffs so far, but he has scored a touchdown in each game. Dexter Jackson is going to be the fastest player on the field; he averages a ridiculous 22 yards per catch and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. On the other side, Delaware is led by quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Omar Cuff, a tandem that columnist Jeff Pearlman (a UD grad) called the best in the country. Flacco is ranked as a top-five QB for the 2008 NFL Draft; he has a rocket arm and can make a variety of throws. Cuff leads the country in scoring and has a chance to win the rushing title with a good game tonight. Aaron Love and deep-threat Mark Duncan lead a plethora of solid receivers. The Blue Hens ended the regular season on a sour note, losing their last two games to Richmond and Villanova, but have been terrific in the playoffs, defeating in-state rival Delaware State 44-7 in the first-round, No. 1 Northern Iowa on the road in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Southern Illinois on the road in the semifinals.

Both offenses rank in the top-five in the country, while neither defense is overly impressive. However, while ASU has continued its poor play on the defensive side of the ball in the playoffs, Delaware has stepped up down the stretch, allowing only 17 points per game as compared to the 26 it allowed during the regular season. Furthermore, the advantage ASU will have in terms of fan support won’t matter: UD has won back-to-back road games over previously unbeaten No. 1 Northern Iowa and one-loss No. 4 Southern Illinois. Led by its high-powered offense and suddenly stingy defense, the Blue Hens will contain Armanti Edwards and win their second FCS (formerly I-AA) championship in five years by doing something a certain Big Ten team with similar helmets couldn't do: beat Appalachian State. Too bad 97% of the student body won’t be there to see it.

Prediction: Delaware 41, Appalachian State 38

Click here for the basketball edition of the Weekend Preview.

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