FACTS & STATS: Site: Michigan Stadium (109,901) -- Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Television: ESPN2. Home Record: ASU 0-0, UM 0-0. Away Record: ASU 0-0,
UM 0-0. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, UM 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 0-0,
UM 0-0. Series Record: Appalachian State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Appalachian State Mountaineers will try to pull off a repeat
of one of the most notable upsets in college football history when they return
to Ann Arbor to kick off the 2014 season against the Michigan Wolverines.
The Mountaineers, then a member of the FCS, stunned Michigan in The Big House
with a 34-32 victory in the 2007 season opener. It marked the first time a FCS
school beat a ranked team from the FBS, as UM was No. 5 in both major polls at
Appalachian State joined the Sun Belt Conference this summer, and the 2014
opener marks the program's first-ever game as a member of the FBS after
establishing itself as a perennial national title contender at the FCS level.
Last season was the team's first since 1988 without legendary head coach Jerry
Moore, who led the way to three straight FCS national championships from
2005-07. New coach Scott Satterfield guided the Mountaineers to a 4-7 finish,
marking Appalachian's first losing season since 1993.
Michigan went 7-6 last season, one year after an 8-5 finish and two years
removed from an 11-win campaign in Brady Hoke's debut as head coach. After
jumping out to a 5-0 start and a No. 18 ranking in the AP Top-25, the
Wolverines went on to drop five of their final six games, including a lopsided
loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. UM has won its last five
home openers since falling to the Mountaineers in 2007.
Appalachian State returns eight starters from an offense that averaged a
rather pedestrian 23.6 ppg and 409.8 ypg last season. Considering the jump in
competition, it is tough to envision a drastic improvement on those numbers.
One player who will have something to say about that is quarterback Kameron
Bryant, who completed 71 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards and 14
touchdowns (plus three rushing) with only four interceptions last year as a
sophomore. Bryant will team up in the backfield with another sophomore, multi-
threat tailback Marcus Cox, who tallied 1,250 rushing yards, 559 receiving
yards and 21 total touchdowns. Despite losing their top two receivers from a
year ago, expect the Mountaineers to deploy an up-tempo attack with all five
offensive line starters back in the fold.
ASU's defensive efforts were far from special last season, as the unit allowed
28.0 ppg and 400.5 ypg, while forcing a modest 18 turnovers. However, seven
starters return on that side of the ball. Up front, Deuce Robinson (7.0 TFL),
Thomas Bronson (3.5 TFL) and Stephen Burns (4.0 TFL) need to improve upon
their three combined sacks. In fact, the entire defense posted just eight
sacks for the season, so playing time in the trenches is by no means set in
stone. John Law is a playmaker in the middle, having recorded 71 tackles,
three interceptions and a forced fumble in 2013. Kennan Gilchrist (59 tackles)
also returns to the linebacking corps. Joel Ross (56 tackles, INT) and Doug
Middleton (46 tackles, two INTs) bring valuable experience to the secondary.
Michigan has some pretty big holes to fill on the offensive side of the ball.
Wideout Jeremy Gallon caught 89 passes for 1,373 yards (105.6 ypg) and nine
touchdowns last season, while Fitzgerald Toussaint led the team in rushing
with 648 yards and 13 scores. Both are gone, along with star offensive tackle
Taylor Lewan, who was drafted with the 11th overall pick by the Tennessee
Still, the cupboard is not entirely bare. At quarterback, three-year letterman
Devin Gardner returns. Gardner threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns
last year, in addition to amassing almost 500 yards and 11 more scores on the
ground. Although he won't have his favorite target in Gallon, Gardner figures
to feed more targets to Devin Funchess, who won the Big Ten's Kwalick-Clark
Tight End of the Year award in 2013. Running the show now for the offense is
former University of Alabama coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
The Wolverines must replace some beef up front in former defensive tackles
Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington, and they won't have strong safety Thomas
Gordon making calls in the secondary. Defensive end Frank Clark is on the Ted
Hendricks Award watch list after racking up 12 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 7
quarterback hurries and a pair of fumble recoveries in 2013. At cornerback,
All-Big Ten selection Blake Countess returns after picking off six passes last
season. However, all eyes are seemingly on true freshman Jabrill Peppers,
widely considered the No. 2 prospect in this year's incoming class who has
already drawn comparisons to former Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles
This time around, the circumstances are quite a bit different than when these
teams faced off in 2007 and both were at the height of their respective
powers. While the Mountaineers will be granted some time to feel their way
around not just a new conference, but a new level of competition altogether,
Hoke and the Wolverines know they can, under no circumstance, afford to lose
this rematch. If a more focused UM squad starts to run away with this one,
don't be shocked if the dogs aren't called off right away.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 57, Appalachian State 17