Maize n Brew's Guide to Inflicting Pain on Michigan's First 2007 Opponent: Appalachian State!
University of Michigan v. Appalachian State University
Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Date: September 1, 2007
Game Time: Noon
Game #: 1
Radio: WOMC-FM and CKLW-AM
University: Appalachian State University
Location: Boone, North Carolina
Team Name: Mountaineers
Facility: Kidd Brewer Stadium (16,650)
Conference: Southern Conference
Number of Conference Championships: 7 (1986, 1987,
1991, 1995, 1999, 2005, 2006)
Number of National Championships: 2 (Division 1-AA) 2005, 2006
First Season of Football: 1928 (3-6-0)
Last Season: 2005 (14-1) SoCon and Division 1-AA
All Time Record: 502-295-28
Head Coach: Jerry Moore (154-68-0) (17th year)
Versus Michigan All-Time: 0-0
Who Are These Guys?
On September 1, 2007, the two-time defending D1-AA National Champions make their first visit to the Big House. ASU's visit marks not only the first meeting between the schools, but (I believe) the first time Michigan has ever played a D1-AA school.
While this is ASU's first visit to the Big House, ASU is no stranger to D1-A competition. Until 1981, ASU was actually a D1-A school. Since their move to the D1-AA ranks ASU has made a point of continually scheduling top tier opponents. They won't roll over and play dead either. Ask Wake Forest, defending ACC Champion Wake Forest, who's lost to ASU twice since 1995 and Auburn and Clemson who had scarier times with the Mountaineers than they anticipated as well.
Despite those losses, ASU captured D1-AA titles both years. In 2005 they topped Northern Iowa 21-16 in a come from behind victory. In 2006 ASU topped UMass 28-17 to make it two straight. You might say the Mountaineers are used to winning. A lot. In fact in the last three years they are 27-0 at home. How do I know this? Their rings say so.
Not Just Gaudy, Informative!
What's also impressive is the football atmosphere they've built. The school enjoys its tailgates so much they actually publish a tailgating guide on their website. Success has also helped the program revamp Kidd Brewer stadium and add an indoor practice facility for the football team.
Appalachian State is a true D1-AA power. They are the only North Carolina school to win a national collegiate football championship. And don't think for a second they don't love telling people that.
Please, God, Let This Be From Homecoming...
Entering his 18th year at ASU is head coach Jerry Moore. Before coming to ASU, Moore was the head coach at North Texas and at Texas Tech. While a relatively successful coach prior to reaching Appalachian State, he greatest successes have come with the Mountaineers. Moore was voted the 2005 American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year and has two National Championships to his credit. In addition, he managed to coach the Mountaineers to a pair of victories over Wake Forest during his tenure, including his 100th win in Winston-Salem.
Despite his success, Moore seems content where he is. Unlike OSU head coach Jim Tressel or Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson, who were both D1-AA head coaches before their jumps to the Big Time, Moore doesn't look like he's going anywhere. That's good news for ASU fans.
ASU's offense, while based on an aggressive rushing attack, was fairly balanced last year. Conference Player of The Year Kevin Richardson notched 30 rushing TDs and 1600 yards. Freshman QB Armanti Edwards ran for an additional 1100 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. In the air Edwards posted impressive numbers as well, tossing 15 TDs and throwing for over 2200 yards. This type of production is impressive at any level and will present Michigan with the task of defending an offensive scheme it tends to have trouble with. Sort of. When the QB is named Vince Young or Troy Smith.
Vanderbilt deployed a similar offense to ASU but also possessed a big play receiver in Earl Bennett. ASU is not so fortunate. Their big play receiver William Mayfield's and his 64 catches graduated and the wide receiving corps returns two starters who combined only account for two thirds of Mayfield's production.
One thing ASU does have is a veteran line. Four of this year's top O-Line rotation are starters from last year and three of them are seniors. Without a big play threat on the wings, expect a lot of option and power running from ASU with passes into the zone when Michigan switches defenses. Because of the much ballyhooed problems in the Michigan secondary, which Ball State, OSU and USC exploited ad nauseum, I expect ASU to test the Michigan defensive backfield early while they're still fresh. Despite the appearance that none of the ASU receivers have top end speed or that much experience, they've got nothing to lose by going after Trent & Co. when given the chance.
Given the success of athletes like former NIU star Garrett Wolfe against Michigan and Ohio State, I think everyone may be surprised by the number of rushing yards Richardson and Edwards rack up. On the other hand, I don't think it'll matter much. The lack of depth and sheer size differential between Michigan and Appalachian State will be the tail of the tape. Expect the Mountaineers to hang tough and air it out once the running game becomes ineffective.
As a freshman Armanti Edwards compiled a very impressive year. Posting a 60.5% completion percentage on 274 passing attempts. For the year he passed for 2251 yards and a 15/10 TD/INT ratio. Not bad for a first year quarterback. Edwards was just as effective on the ground. He ran 188 times for 1153 yards and 15 TD. His gaudy 6.1 yards per carry speaks to the elusiveness that earned him a two star rating on scout and rivals.
Edwards wasn't highly recruited, and it appears his recruitment was solely at the nebulous "athlete" position. His only Division 1 offer was from New Mexico State. He's a very good athlete, so don't take anything for granted with him. As a sophomore he's got a full year in the system and should put up better passing numbers as he get comfortable with his receivers.
Senior Kevin Richardson carried the load for the Mountaineers. Richardson carried the ball 302 times for 1676 and 30 TDs and a 5.5 ypc average. You read that right. 30 touchdowns. The Mountaineer senior's been such an offensive force the last few years Street and Smith named him the pre-season D1-AA player of the year. Richardson is the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year and is a Division 1-AA two time All-American. Not bad for a kid from a 2A high school who basically walked on the field at Appalachian State as a total unknown.
Richardson, Seen Here In the Championship Game Versus UMass Where He Rushed For 179 Yards
Appalachian returns 4 of 5 starters on the offensive line. Three seniors line up in the middle with Kerry Brown (LG), Scott Suttle (C), and John Holt (RG) stock the middle. Brown is the largest of the group weighing in a 310. Suttle and Holt are 265 and 285 respectively. Junior Jonathan Bieschke mans the right tackle spot and Sophomore Mario Acitelli lines up at left tackle, both weigh in around 280. Acitelli seems to be the highest profile O-Line member on the team, based on the fact he's the only one with a rivals page. The line isn't heralded in terms of recruiting stars, but Kerry Brown was named a D1-AA preseason All-American by Street and Smith. After the senior starters the line appears fairly thin. Four of the next five off the bench are all freshmen.
ASU lost its top receiver William Mayfield to graduation. Mayfield carried the passing load last year catching a ridiculous 64 passes for 1129 yards and 5 TDs. ASU's top returning threat is Senior Dexter Jackson who caught 33 passes last year for 470 yards a 3 TDs last year. Jackson is known as the burner in ASU's wide out sets according to what I could find. Sophomore Josh Johnson and T.J. Courman will start with him. Courman was the third highest receiving wide out with 21 catches and 227 yards and 2 TDs.
Johnson was rated as a two star recruit who was rumored to be down to Vanderbilt and James Madison. He was expected to play DB at Vandy but ended up a ASU. He's reportedly a "possession receiver" (i.e., big white guy "who showed good toughness and route running ability"). Johnson caught 17 balls and a TD last year and his size at 6-2 should be a decent test for Michigan's corners, if you remember the nightmare they had with Minnesota's big gumpy white boys.
Sophomore Mat Cline had a strong spring with two TD's in the spring game and could see increased playing time as a result.
Appalachian State finished the year 11th in rush defense and 35th in pass defense in D1-AA last year. This year's unit won't be nearly as strong. ASU loses five of its top seven tacklers. While the secondary returns almost intact, the front six or seven will be basically brand new. Translation, not good. At least against Michigan. I expect Hart/Minor/Brown to run wild against the undersized and inexperienced line. However, the secondary could give the offense an occasional moment of consternation. With a veteran and D1-AA heralded secondary, ASU may be able to slow the passing game down every now and then. However, without penetration from the front seven, I expect Michigan to have their way with ASU's defense.
The Mountaineers lose their best defensive threat in Marques Murrell to graduation and the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed him as an Unrestricted Free Agent. Murrell racked up a D1-AA leading 13 sacks last year, and his production will be hard to replace. Attempting to do that will be Tony Robertson, and All-Conference DE Gary Tharrington will line up opposite him. In the middle a pair of young, light tackles will keep the lanes plugged. Daniel Finnerty and Anthony Williams are both sophomores and both around 280. Their backups are light as well. Again, while conference selections aren't uncommon, none of the Mountaineer's defensive linemen appear to have been recruited by any D1-A program.
Last year's linebacking corps returns with lower numbers but a lot of experience. The Mountaineers linebackers have four players with starting experience and three of the top four are upperclassmen. So there will be experience for ASU after the first line of defense. WSLB Pierre Banks led ASU with 110 tackles. Cam Speer had 59 and Jacque Roman had 44. These three will start come September 1, 2007. While they have experience, none were recruited by D1-A schools as far as I can find.
After the starters, questions abound. Again, lack of depth will be the critical factor.
Another position where ASU sports some significant experience is in the defensive backfield. Safety Corey Lynch was named a Street and Smith preseason D1-AA All-American. On top of that, Corners Justin Woazeah (best name on the team) and Jerome Touchstone are both seniors who had 38 tackles and 2 INTs a piece last year, with 10 and 9 pass break ups, respectively. Both however, are under 6 foot. FS Titus Howard racked up 25 stops last year.
Lynch pilfering a pass
Senior Julian Rauch will handle the kicking duties. He went 10-14 last year.
So What's Going To Happen?
Um. It's going to be ugly. One of the top offenses in all of college football against an undersized, young defensive line does not mean you're going to have a good game. I'm kind of thankful the game is on the Big Ten Network, because the fewer people that see this the better.
I mean this as no disrespect to ASU, but win or lose Michigan doesn't gain anything and only stands to look bad. Win by a lot, Michigan's a bunch of bullies. Win by a little, man, they must not be very good. Lose, mass suicide.
I think the Mountaineers will hang tough in the first and second quarters. The offense is fairly veteran and all of the starters have some size and skill. I also think it'll be a pretty good measuring stick for the defense. If Taylor and Johnson slice through the line like butter, they're where they should be in getting ready for Oregon and Notre Dame. If they fail to get pressure, I'm going to be worried.
This will also be an interesting day in the secondary. While I don't expect too much excitement, I'll be interested to see how aggressive English is with corner and safety blitzes to screw with the Oregon/ND/PSU scouts that will indefinitely be at the game. Also, if ASU has a big passing day, be very worried come Penn State.
While the opener is more than a glorified scrimmage, it's not at the level of Vandy last year. Unless things go wrong, I don't think you'll get that good a take on what Michigan will be capable of until Oregon comes calling.
Still, it'll be fun to welcome the Mountaineer fans to the Big House. If you see them wandering around the tailgates, invite them for a beer and a brat. We all love going to the games, make sure they go home to North Carolina and tell everyone how great it is in Ann Arbor. Think about it, we steal a lot of good football players from that area.
Maize n Brew's Drink of Choice
Moonshine, baby. When you're playin the boys from Hazard County, you gotta fire up with a little taste o' the south. Southern Comfort and Wild Turkey are also allowable substitutes.
For those of you going a little less, ahem, hard core, I would recommend a cool tasty Miller Lite or some Iced Tea (not the Long Island type) to break in the season. They'll be plenty of time for the Marzen Bier once the Season hits High Gear.
That's all for today.