Opening season contests between two unranked opponents - one of whom is in their first game ever as an FBS member - don't usually inspire articles in Sports Illustrated. But this one is different. It will be the only time this year that mighty Michigan faces a team it has a losing record to, but that doesn't do the game justice, either. Less than a decade after the first match, SI's Andy Staples sought out members of that 2007 Appalachian State squad and interviewed them. Rarely do games that happened so recently become iconic so instantaneously.
Michigan fans have started calling it The Horror. App State linebacker Pierre Banks remembers it like the movie Gladiator: after hitting Chad Henne and silencing the crowd, shouting to the stands, "Are you not entertained?" It was at once the most enduring and the most defining game in the history of either program.
Today, they play again, even though reverberations from seven years ago are still being felt. The emotions, for Michigan fans, are still confused and muddled, wanting vindication, but unsure of how to find it. Is it on the field today? If not, then where, and when? And for Appalachian State - well, they're still playing with House money.
How to witness
TV: 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Radio: WWJ, AM Radio 950. It is also available on Sirius Radio, Channel 137, and XM radio, Channel 203.
Coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, Michigan will host Appalachian State once again. ASU was an upper-level FCS team as recently as 2012, when they went 8-4 and finished the year ranked in the top ten among FCS teams. That was the final year for Coach Jerry Moore, who led the Mountaineers for 24 seasons and averaged more than 10 wins. Scott Satterfield's first year fell well short of that standard, as the Mountaineers plummeted out of the preseason rankings by losing six of their first seven games. The team improved as the season went along, though, and now Satterfield has a shot at some of his own redemption.
Three names to know
Michigan's Mason Cole will be playing his first game in college. He'll also be starting at left tackle, protecting Devin Gardner's blind side, and helping facilitate Michigan's run game. If that seems challenging enough, consider this: this will be the first time since 2010 that anyone other than Taylor Lewan started at left tackle. The first-round selection to Tennessee started 48 games there total and 41 straight. Cole has an unenviable task to fill those shoes, but if he can, Michigan's prospects will look that much better.
Another important player is Appalachian State's quarterback Kameron Bryant. While the Mountaineers return an experienced offensive line and a definite weapon at running back, they will only go so far as Bryant can take them. He suffered 4 interceptions all of last year, and threw plenty of short, quick passes to move the chains. Now without his top two threats from 2013, and throwing into the teeth of a revamped Michigan pass defense, Bryant must make the right decisions and spread the ball around, with good timing. If he does, Appalachian State stands a chance.
Finally, one of the players in that revamped secondary, Jabrill Peppers, will be playing his first game for the Maize 'n' Blue. He is a potential superstar in the making, someone who fits the mold of Michigan's last Heisman winner, Charles Woodson. Because ASU so often uses four wide receiver sets, expect Peppers to spend most of the game at the nickel position, guarding an interior receiver and making plays by the line of scrimmage. Because of that, he has a likely chance, regardless of if he plays up to his hype, to be the most important defender in the game. An enforcer in the box, and a corner against slot receivers, Peppers will also be available for blitzes on the quarterback. He will also return punts.
There will be plenty of replays from the last time these teams met. For the Wolverines, there's a chance, somehow, at redemption - but then again it might just feel empty afterward. As a result, bring some friends on this one and don't be afraid to bring out something a little heavier than usual. I'll recommend one good shot of cinnamon whiskey, and tortilla chips for everyone with a queso dip of your choice of cheese, some lime juice, cilantro, and chorizo.