Here we go with Week 1:
#2 Appalachian State (0-0) @ #13 Virginia Tech (0-0)
TV: ACC Network
Stadium: Lane Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home advantage: 3.08 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 21.5 points (rounded).
Series: Virginia Tech leads 3-0
Last Meeting: VT 34 Appalachian 0 Blacksburg, VA October 23, 1982
WXAPP’s Blacksburg Gameday Weather Trends:
Kickoff: Upper 70’s to low 80’s Partly Cloudy
End of game: Mid 80’s Chance of Shower or Thunderstorm
During what perhaps has felt like the longest offseason in several years, has been filled with plenty of news about the Appalachian State football team. Within the last few weeks, talk of changing subdivisions and future games has dominated the conversation. Here is where that all stops. This is where we talk about what happens in a couple short days, in a town that is very similar to Boone, named Blacksburg, VA. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Appalachian and Virginia Tech will rekindle on old series that should be titled the Battle for the Blue Ridge, aptly named for two schools that are separated by only 162 miles. Appalachian took a one year hiatus from playing their FBS money game during the first week of the season in 2010. In recent past two years, Virginia Tech has routinely played a made for TV game in their opener, against the likes of Alabama and Boise State. As it has been well documented, the Hokies fell in their opener last year and lost five days later to FCS James Madison at home. Even years later, Appalachian’s win over Michigan is still mentioned quite often. I am sure Tech fans have heard enough James Madison talk in the last year as well. How will the result of this game be remembered in history? Will it be another banner victory for Appalachian, or back to back losses for Virginia Tech to an FCS program?
Virginia Tech lost a lot of key players from their 2010 team, and several that were selected in the NFL draft. Tech lost running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams (Arizona Cardinals) and Tyrod Taylor (Baltimore Ravens) and CB Rashad Carmichael (Houston Texans). All four were huge contributors to the Hokie success the last couple seasons. Redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas will start at quarterback for the Hokies. Thomas is a different breed than the Hokie quarterback from the past. Including Taylor, you think of the Vick brothers, Michael and Marcus, who were all dual threat quarterbacks. Thomas is 6’6” and 242 pounds and has played in 7 career games, has completed 12 of 26 passes for 107 yards and no touchdowns. Thomas will likely lean a lot on junior tailback David Wilson, who also returns kicks for the Hokies. Wilson is 5’10” and 205 pounds and can run like the wind. Wilson, who is also an All-American at the triple jump, has averaged 5.5 yards per carry over his short career and also averaged 26.5 yards per kick return last season. Wilson returned two kicks last year for touchdowns, against NC State and Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech isn’t alone with their three NFL draft picks. Appalachian had three key players from last years’ teams they will also have to replace. Gone is offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore to San Francisco, linebacker DJ Smith to Green Bay and safety Mark Legree to Seattle. Smith ranked second all time in tackles in Appalachian history while, Legree finished in the top five in schools annals in interceptions. How do you replace that defensive talent? Well of course, you change your base defense. Appalachian’s switch to a 3-4, (three down lineman and four linebackers), has appeared to stifle the Appalachian offense in spring practice into fall camp. How well it works against Virginia Tech and beyond is the question. Virginia Tech likely doesn’t own a lot of tape of Appalachian’s new defense. At the same time, Appalachian hasn’t played another opponent in live game situations besides their own teammates. There is no question that there will be growing pains, but the attacking style seams to fit the personnel on the mountain.
Offensively, the Mountaineers have two critical questions: the lack of experience on the offensive line, and the receiving corps. Appalachian will start two redshirt freshman in Kendall Lamm and Kalan Jones at the left tackle and left guard respectively, which is also quarterback DeAndre Presley’s blind side. From the center position to the right tackle, Appalachian will feature three seniors who have played in a combined 109 games. Center Orry Frye can play anywhere on the line, and Matt Ruff and Xan Thomas will play at guard and tackle on the right side. It’s hard to imagine Appalachian’s receivers are young, but most of them are. Besides Brian Quick and tight end Ben Jorden, the Mountaineers will feature redshirt sophomores Tony Washington, Andrew Peacock, and Jamill Lott and freshman Bobo Beatherd will get looks in four wide receiver formations. Appalachian’s line only gave up nine sacks last year, and the young receivers must pick up quickly after losing cagey veterans Matt Cline, CoCo Hillary and Blake Elder to graduation for Appalachian to be successful on Saturday.
There always seems to be some who feel Appalachian is slow to start a season, and that it usually takes a couple weeks for the offense to get going. Sometimes, that logic has been correct, and other times it has not. Three of the last four openers for Appalachian, all on the road, have been what some would call a good games. Without a doubt, the 2007 opener was a good game for Appalachian. The 2008 opener against LSU would not qualify as being “good” to Appalachian fans. It should be forgotten from memory considering the hurricane and the moving of the start time to six hours earlier in the day. However, in 2009 and 2010, Appalachian was outscored by East Carolina and Chattanooga by a total of 55-14 in the first half. That wasn’t good. What was good was the effort in the second half, by two different quarterbacks in each game. DeAndre Presley started both of those games. Travaris Cadet, now the Mountaineer starting running back fell short at East Carolina by 5 points while Presley revived the Mountaineer offense in the second half against Chattanooga by engineering five scoring drives and leading the Apps to a 1 point win. What’s the point in all this? Before 2007, Appalachian took their lumps in their openers, which were mainly against FBS programs, such as NC State, Wyoming, Hawaii, Marshall, Kansas, Clemson and the list goes on. I am not trying to say the tide has turned but it appears it somewhat has. Frank Beamer and Jerry Moore are both old school coaches. They both prefer strong defenses and running games. That is their roots. I do not believe Virginia Tech is going to light up the scoreboard on Saturday unless they have too. Something tells me this game could go into the fourth quarter, and then it could go either way. Is it likely that Appalachian pulls off another “upset”? No, it really is not likely, but I believe there are many questions for both teams. Frank Beamer said it himself in his teleconference: “(Playing Appalachian) probably seemed like a better idea then when we scheduled it than it does now”
The First Pick:
Hokie Pokey 35