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Appalachian State (0-0) at Michigan (0-0)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 30, 12 p.m. (ET).

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 the time.

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 Titans.

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 Woodson.

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

08/29 15:15:48 ET


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