SEPT. 5 [Week One]
WHY IT COULD HAPPEN
The team that brought these types of (potential) upsets to the national spotlight, Appalachian State has shown no fear of playing against the big boys.
After shocking the world with their victory of Michigan, they played against LSU in the first matchup between the FCS champion and the BCS champion.
Appalachian State would lose that game and would go on to lose one more time in the regular season (James Madison) before losing in the second round of the playoffs to eventual 2008 champion Richmond.
Like the other four FCS teams, Appalachian State has an explosive offense that is well-balanced. The Mountaineers ranked fourth in total yards, ninth in rushing yards per game, and 39th in passing yards per game. They were also seventh in points per game.
All-American QB Armanti Edwards (pictured) returns as both the team's leading passer (2902 yards, 30 TDs) and leading rusher (941 yards, with 11 touchdowns). Yes, Edwards is still in Boone and has started at QB since he was a freshman (he was a sophomore when he led Appalachian State over Michigan).
They also return all five top rushers, including Edwards and backup QB DeAndre Presley (415 rushing yards), as well as running backs Robert Welton (544 yards and 11 TDs), Devin Radford (520 yards), and Josh Jackson (317 yards).
Add to that their three top receivers—wide receivers CoCo Hillary (735 yards) and Brian Quick (496 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns), and TE Ben Jorden (506 yards)—and the Mountaineers have a ton of experience on offense.
What about the defense?
Among the top quarter in terms of team defense, Appalachian State returns many of its top players, including All-American DB Mark LeGree, who led the FCS with 10 interceptions. Junior linebacker D.J. Smith also returns as the team's leading tackler with 123 total tackles (third in the FCS).
Defensive linemen Lanston Tanyi and Jabari Fletcher were tied for the team lead in sacks with six. Add DL Anthony Williams and DB Ed Gainey, and again, you have a very solid defense that should help guide the Mountaineers back to the championship game.
Much like Coach Talley at Villanova, Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore has been at the helm since 1989. The three-time champion gives stability to the program that has proven valuable for the Mountaineers.
WHY IT MIGHT NOT HAPPEN
Well, East Carolina has a good coach also in Skip Holtz. While he has not been around as long as Moore, he is an up-and-coming coach that has drawn the attention of the big teams.
Under Holtz, the Pirates have improved in each of the last four seasons, including going to a bowl game over the last three years.
The Pirate offense was good at best, at least finishing in the top third in the FBS. The defense was also in the top quarter, finishing tied for fourth in total interceptions (23 picks). They return QB Patrick Pinkney, RB Norman Whitney, and two of their top three wideouts—Dwayne Harris and sophomore Darryl Freeney.
On defense, freshman All-American DB Emanuel Davis was tied for the team lead in picks with four, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Defensive lineman C.J. Wilson returns as the team's leading sacker with 11 (tied for ninth in the FBS). Wilson was also the team's leader in tackles, followed by LB Jeremy Chambliss.
If anything, the defending Conference USA champs have the weapons to avoid an opening week upset.