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There are a lot of really interesting college football games in Week 4. Many of them are being discussed. One that isn’t getting a whole lot of airtime is arguably the most compelling matchup of Group of 5 Conference teams. That game is at InfoCision Stadium in Akron, Ohio between the host Zips and the Appalachian State Mountaineers. The two teams are coming off of very different outcomes and clash in the Rubber City with a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Saturday.

Appalachian State vs. Akron College Football Preview

Date/Time: Saturday September 23, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN3

College Football Betting Odds from 5Dimes

College Football Betting Favorite: Appalachian State -6

Total: 58.5

There was a pretty interesting discussion before the season as to whether or not Appalachian State or Arkansas State was the favorite in the Sun Belt Conference. If the non-conference schedules are any indication, it looks pretty clear that the Mountaineers can lay claim to that distinction. In fact, it may not be either one of those teams. In any event, the Mountaineers are just 1-2 straight up, but their losses are to Tennessee and Miami Florida. They are 2-1 against the number. Akron is 1-2 against the spread after a resounding blowout win over Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia. The Zips could be a strong contender in the very weak MAC East this season.

Appalachian State Mountaineers:

Through three games, the only thing we know about Appalachian State is that their non-conference schedule was pretty brutal. The Mountaineers have gotten tons of great running from Marcus Cox, probably the second-best Group of 5 Conference running back in the country behind Donnel Pumphrey. Cox has ripped off 5.7 yards per carry and has found the end zone three times. For Appalachian State to win the Sun Belt and win this game, Taylor Lamb needs to be better. Lamb has completed just 60 percent of his passes and has more picks than touchdowns on the season. Also, after running for 524 yards and 5.1 yards per carry last season, Lamb only has 27 yards on 22 carries. This is a game for the Mountaineers offense to get back on track against a porous Akron defense.

How do you evaluate the Mountaineers defense? Tennessee only put up 319 yards on this unit, which nine starters. Miami put up 549 yards, including 385 through the air on 22-of-28 passing. This is a group that only allowed 19.1 points per game last season, but they were exposed by Miami. This is a very experienced defense, however, so bettors should expect them to be better, particularly in conference play. This will be another test for this unit, especially coming off of the biggest home game in program history. They were embarrassed last week by the Hurricanes, so there’s a lot to prove this week.

Akron Zips:

Now that they are out of the Rubber Bowl, a decrepit, yet somehow alluring, hole in the ground with bleachers, the Zips may be starting to reap the benefits of top-notch facilities and a seasoned head coach. The Zips are now 10-7 over their last 17 games and seem to have a legit offensive attack. Thomas Woodson already has 10 touchdown passes against just two interceptions and he’s thrown for nearly 900 yards through three games. Jerome Lane had over 20 yards per reception last season and he has a 20-354-2 line thus far. Utah State transfer JoJo Natson has caught 14 balls and leads the team with four touchdown receptions. Carries have been split between Ohio State transfer Warren Ball and junior Manny Morgan, but the Zips have run for 4.8 yards per carry so far. They took advantage of a bunch of Marshall turnovers last week to hang 65 points on the Thundering Herd, who laid a Thundering Turd at home last week.

The Akron defense is a major work in progress. Nobody ever questioned Terry Bowden’s ability to build an offense, but this defense is not off to a good start. The Zips only allowed 21.5 points per game last season, but the losses were significant. This defense lost six of its top seven tacklers and it has shown. Through three games, the Zips have allowed 38.7 points per contest and over 500 yards of offense. They have only allowed 3.6 yards per carry, but the pass defense has been lit up like the Griswold household in Christmas Vacation.

College Football Free Pick: Appalachian State -6

This is a big number to lay on the road in a game where the last team with the ball could very well win it. This is a tough spot for the Mountaineers to hit the road to Akron after such a big game at home, but it’s a tricky spot for Akron, too. Last week’s win was misleading, as Marshall did everything imaginable to lose that game. Also, the Battle for the Wagon Wheel is on deck for the Zips against rival Kent State. Appalachian State is the better team here and they now get somebody that is more in line with their skill level.

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