NC College Football Previews: App St. back after bye; ECU, UNCC try to turn around season

Mountaineers, Pirates, 49ers all at home this weekend

ECU's Jimmy Williams is one of three Pirates receivers with at least 100 career catches. (Ben Queen / USA TODAY Sports)

Appalachian State vs. New Mexico State
Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone  |  Saturday, 3:30 p.m.  |  ESPN3

Preview: The Mountaineers (2-2, 1-0 Sun Belt) come off a bye week looking to bounce back from an emotional one-point loss to Wake Forest. This will be the second ever meeting between these new conference rivals. App State beat the Aggies (2-3, 0-1) in Las Cruces last season.

Players to watch: Appalachian State’s Taylor Lamb ranks second to NC State’s Ryan Finley among active QBs nationally with 213 pass attempts without an interception. He is three TD passes away from Armanti Edwards’ school career record of 74. Aggies WR Jaleel Scott set career highs with nine catches and 174 receiving yards with a touchdown in last week’s 42-24 loss to Arkansas.

Fast fact: By forcing three-and-outs on 51.1 percent of its possessions, the Mountaineers rank third at the FBS level. They have forced 24 three-and-outs on 47 defensive possessions. Only Michigan (56.6) and Georgia Tech (51.4) are better.

What to expect: App State is a double-digit favorite and should take care of business as it sets its sights on a Sun Belt title.

— Brett Friedlander

East Carolina vs. Temple
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville  |  Saturday, noon  |  ESPNU

Preview: Something’s got to give when the worst defense in the American Athletic Conference goes up against the league’s worst offense. ECU (1-4, 1-1 AAC) ranks 128th out of 129 FBS teams nationally allowing 50.6 points per game. Temple (2-3, 0-2) has managed an average of just 16.2 points.

Players to watch: In two games since returning from ECU’s concussion protocol, QB Thomas Sirk has completed 50 of 82 passes for 728 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 118 yards and two scores during that stretch. Temple CB Mike Jones, a graduate transfer from NC Central, had an interception in the season opener against Notre Dame and six tackles last week against Houston.

Fast fact: ECU is one of only four FBS teams to have three active receivers with at least 100 catches — Davon Grayson (105), Quay Johnson (101) and Jimmy Williams (100). Colorado, Oklahoma, Washington State are the others.

What to expect: Temple is a 2½-point favorite, but if there’s ever an opponent that can help cure what ails ECU’s porous defense, it’s the offensively challenged Owls.

— Brett Friedlander

Charlotte vs. Marshall
Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte  |  Saturday, 6 p.m.  |  WCCB TV-Charlotte

Preview: The road team has won each of the previous two matchups in this series, with Charlotte winning 27-24 at Marshall last year, and the Herd winning 34-10 in Charlotte in 2015.

Players to watch: Marshall tight end Ryan Yurachek had a big game against Cincinnati, scoring three times. The Mackey Award candidate has now caught a pass in 33 straight games. Linebacker Karrington King came to Charlotte as a walk-on. He’s now the program’s all-time career leader in tackles.

Fast fact: With this game, Marshall has now played as many games in North Carolina this season as in its home state of West Virginia. The Herd visited NC State in September and has had just two home games.

What to expect: The 49ers are still looking for their first win of the season. They came tantalizingly close last week, losing a 15-point second half lead to drop a 30-29 heartbreaker at FIU. It will be tough to get well against Marshall, who has won by 21 and 17 since the NC State loss.

— Shawn Krest