It's finally GameWeek! It seems like forever since Les Miles hoisted the crystal football on the floor of the Superdome. As much as I'd like to revel in that glory forever, it's much more fun to try and do it again. And what better place to begin than with the "other" Division I national champion last year, Appalachian State.
The Mountaineers, in case you know nothing other than they beat Michigan, are the three-time defending Division I-AA national champs. That's right, these guys know how to win. And despite returning only 12 starters, they're not expected to see any drop off, ranked No. 1 in the preseason.
Each week, I'll try to, not necessarily preview LSU's opponent, but bring you some of the chatter about the team from around the country. I'm sure someone will give you a "Know Your Opponent" later in the week, so I'll be confine myself to others hyping the team.
As most teams do, Appalachian State is attempting to get its team ready to play in Death Valley.
ASU assistant coach John Holt, the former Erwin High standout who played guard for the Mountaineers the past four seasons, experienced playing in Death Valley in 2005.
He has advice for young players, especially those that didn’t play at Michigan last season.
“It’s an awesome experience,” he said. “But you have to take that stadium and those fans out of it.
Clearly, junior quarterback Armanti Edwards is ASU's best and most dynamic playmaker. If he puts on a show on Saturday, it could lead to the biggest Heisman hype for a I-AA player since Steve McNair.
The buzz of a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate has been attached to his name.
So Appalachian State officials already have set up a weekly teleconference personally for Edwards, to accommodate interview requests this year.
"If he continues to play at the level he has, I think he deserves the opportunity to be on those Heisman lists," Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said. "We're being premature right now, but when the coffee shop talk starts up, he'd be deserving of being in that conversation."
Let's hope that campaign doesn't get a jumpstart on Saturday.
Three years ago, Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore was almost, if you can believe it, fired. The previous season, he had switched to the spread offense and gone 6-5.
``I said, 'Coach, we need to talk about this before the season starts,''' [athletic director Charlie] Cobb said. ``He said, 'Charlie, I'm going to coach somewhere next year. If I'm not wanted here, you and I will both know. You won't have to come to me.'''
The Mountaineers had only four home games in 2005 and visited two major schools, Kansas and LSU. After starting 3-2, Cobb felt Moore deserved more time, and told him he wanted to extend his contract.
``I believed in him,'' Cobb said.
The rest, as Moore describes it, is a ``fairy tale.'' Appalachian went 9-1 the rest of the season - the only loss coming to LSU - and won its first national championship.
Success breeds success and nowhere is that more evident than in tiny Boone, N.C. Last year, ASU averaged 24,219 fans per game, that's more than 33 (PDF) Division I-A teams, including three in the state of Louisiana. Now they're joining the arms race.
"People are excited about coming to Boone on Saturdays," Cobb said. "We've had great cooperation from the university in terms of things like parking and the town has embraced us. People are coming. They want to be part of it."
Cobb said that applications for enrollment at ASU have risen from about 10,000 three years ago to 15,500 this year. The operating budget for athletics has gone from about $7.5 million to almost $12 million in that span.