Are the Appalachian State Mountaineers more than just a pretty schedule?
It seems like you cannot engage in a rational discussion about the Mountaineers without first mentioning its juicy schedule. Yes, Appalachian State manages to avoid both Troy and Arkansas State. So what? You still have to win the games. And it appears that head coach Scott Satterfield has the firepower to win every single one.
There is an underground cottage industry in college football that has trended north for the last five years. It’s called “Griping About the Sun Belt Schedule,” and it has become the most popular preseason attraction for SBC fans.
Ever since Georgia Southern entered the conference and avoided Louisiana and Arkansas State, surly fans have raised their fists to the sky and bemoaned life’s tragic unfairness. Now it Appalachian State’s turn, who in 2017 skip past co-champion Arkansas State, emerging “Sheriff of the Sun Belt” Troy, and welcomes its toughest challenge, Georgia Southern, at home. Boo hoo.
Listen, y’all: the Mountaineers didn’t draft this schedule. In the words of the immortal [any NFL football player], “It is what it is.” Think of it this way: at least this seemingly soft schedule isn’t wasted on an inept team.
The Mountaineers can run the Sun Belt (and then some)
According to ESPN FPI, the Mountaineers are massively favored to win every Sun Belt contest in 2017. According to the matrix, Appalachian State’s biggest test comes against Idaho in Moscow on October 14th. The Vandals are no slouch, but App handled Paul Petrino’s crew easily last season, 37-19.
The Sun Belt is one mission; the OOC is the second. If the Mountaineers want to break into the New Years Bowl conversation, Scott Satterfield will have to perform just as well against Georgia to open the season as it did the year before against Tennessee. After the opener, the Mountaineers’ road is remarkably smooth: a chip shot against Savannah State, hosting ho-hum Wake Forrest in Boone, and finally a trip to UMASS late in the season.
It’s not unreasonable to expect the Mountaineers finish the regular season 11-1. It’s not beyond the realm of believability to predict a 12-0 season. The path is clear, leaving Appalachian State ready to plow.
Take a breath: what makes us think this is the Mountaineers’ year?
In many ways, last season was supposed to be Appalachian State’s golden year. The much anticipated home game against Miami was a flop (45-10), but the Mountaineers nearly upended Tennessee in Knoxville, and they seemed ready to steam through the Sun Belt until hiccuping at Troy late in the year.
But 2017 will be better than 2016 for three reasons:
The talent in Boone is for real
Yes, the Mountaineers’ legendary running back, Marcus Cox, is not longer available to terrorize opponents. But Satterfield simply reloaded with Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Jalin Moore (1,402 yards, 10 TDs). Appalachian State landed a conference best 12 total selections on the preseason All-Sun Belt First and Second Teams, including three on the offensive line and QB Taylor Lamb (2,281 yards, 15 TDs). USA TODAY projects the Mountaineers to have the best offensive line, QB and running back units in the conference. And we haven’t even discussed a defense that ranked 17th in the nation for Total D in 2016.
The OOC is more manageable in 2017
Last year, the Mountaineers took on Tennessee, Old Dominion, Miami and Akron. Note the lack of FCS programs on the sched, and both the Volunteers and the Hurricanes were nationally ranked at the time of play.
This year, Georgia projects to be a tough game, but no tougher than last year’s visit to Knoxville. Wake Forest, who visits Boone, is no Miami. Savannah State and UMass can’t be overlooked, but let’s be real, there are two guaranteed wins here, a very agreeable P5 contest at home, plus a shot at an upset in Athens.
Destiny takes a hand
This may simply be the Mountaineers year to win the conference and make a case for the best G5 program in the nation. Satterfield is basking in an almost embarrassing treasure chest of talent, with leadership at every position. It’s almost as if this season in Boone is being sponsored by divine forces! It’s all too perfect!
The Mountaineers are going to enjoy an epic season. It is written in the stars. The deepest challenge for Scott Satterfield may be keeping his team focused on the guys currently loitering on the opposing sideline. The prospect of a Sun Belt championship can be intoxicating.
You simply have to keep yourself from stumbling.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.