TROY, Ala. (AP) — Appalachian State coach Eliah Drinkwitz wants his players to “clear the clutter” and focus on their regular season finale.
The 22nd-ranked Mountaineers have already clinched a spot in the Sun Belt Conference championship game against Louisiana entering Friday’s game at Troy. But the game does have some things at stake, from Appalachian State’s national and College Football Playoff rankings to home-field advantage in the title game.
The Mountaineers (10-1, 6-1 Sun Belt, No. 25 CFP) will host the league championship game with a win over the Trojans (5-6, 3-4) or a Louisiana loss Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.
“Our message to our team has been very clear,” Drinkwitz said. “We’re not done yet.
“There’s more for us to accomplish. The season’s not over, and we need to finish it the right way.”
The Trojans, meanwhile, must win to become bowl eligible and earn a chance at their fourth straight postseason trip in coach Chip Lindsey’s debut season. They’re coming off a 53-3 loss at Louisiana in a performance that Lindsey called “unacceptable.”
“We’ve had a reality check this week and I think our team will respond the right way,” Lindsey said.
Appalachian State is a 13-point favorite. The Mountaineers are seeking their second straight 11-win season and third since 2015.
“When you look at App State on film you see why they’re 10-1 and the Sun Belt East Division winners,” Lindsey said. “They’re a really well-rounded football team, which is why they’re 10-1 and going to play for a conference championship.”
Some other things to know about Friday’s Appalachian State-Troy matchup:
Appalachian State’s leading receiver Corey Sutton suffered a torn ACL in the last game against Texas State. The Kansas State transfer had 41 catches for 601 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games. He had eight catches for 183 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia State.
“We are definitely going to miss Corey Sutton,” Drinkwitz said. “That’s going to be a very significant loss.”
Appalachian State has four players from Alabama, including quarterback Zac Thomas (Trussville), safety Josh Thomas (Montgomery), offensive lineman Cole Garrison (Pinson) and injured running back Camerun Peoples (Lineville).
Both head coaches formerly worked under Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. Drinkwitz was a quality control assistant during the Tigers’ 2010 national championship season when Malzahn was offensive coordinator. He was Malzahn’s running backs coach two years later at Arkansas State. Lindsey was Malzahn’s offensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018.
Appalachian State has won seven straight road games, which is tied with No. 5 Alabama for the second-longest active streak. No. 3 Clemson has won 11 straight road games. Only eight FCS teams are unbeaten on the road this season.
Appalachian State is only the third Top 25 team to visit Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Trojans beat No. 17 Missouri 24-14 in 2004 and lost to No. 22 Boise State 56-20 last season.