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Penn State Football Well Aware Of Appalachian State’s Big-Game History

If a power-five team opens its season against Appalachian State, one of the most famous upsets in college football history will always be a big storyline.

An FCS team at the time, the Mountaineers opened up their season at the Big House against Michigan, the No. 5 team in that year’s preseason AP poll. It would have been a shock if they just hung with the Wolverines, but they managed to shock the world with a 34-32 victory.

Appalachian State may have won the FCS national championship that season, but even that is overshadowed by its week one upset of Michigan.

The Mountaineers officially left the FCS for the greener pastures of FBS football in 2014, joining the group-of-five Sun Belt conference. With that change came even more massive early-season matchups. In App State’s first season in the Sun Belt, Michigan would exact its revenge with a blowout victory, and Clemson followed that up with a huge win one season later.

Although the Mountaineers haven’t pulled off any shocker of that magnitude since their 2007 upset, the last two seasons have seen the team put up worthy fights against two big-name SEC opponents, Tennessee and Georgia.

Then-No. 9 Tennessee hosted Appalachian State to start the 2016 season in a game that needed overtime to find a winner. The Volunteers eventually emerged victorious, but they fell eight spots in that week’s AP poll because of their inability to bury the Mountaineers.

One year later, Appalachian State opened its season in Athens and lost to then-No. 15 Georgia by 21 points. As Penn State head coach James Franklin noted, the final score of that game was deceiving; the Mountaineers gained nearly 300 yards of offense against the sixth-best defense in college football that helped the Bulldogs win the SEC.

They may not have sent shockwaves through the college football world, but Franklin is well aware of App State’s recent away performances.

“We’re about to flip the switch here and start focusing on them,” Franklin said. “I will talk about [the Michigan upset] with [my players]. I will talk about [the games against Tennessee and Georgia]. This is a team that’s played really well on the road.”

Franklin doesn’t plan on showing his team any of the tape from those games, but he hopes that telling his team about those games will get his message across: Appalachian State isn’t your typical group-of-five pushover.

“We want to make sure our guys respect every opponent we play,” he said. “Those are stories we’ll be able to tell them, not show them, but stories that we’ll be able to tell them to illustrate what we’re talking about.”

While most will focus on their past, Franklin has dedicated plenty of attention on the present-day Mountaineers throughout the summer and will continue to do so until game day on September 1.

“They’re very athletic,” he said. “We obviously did a study on them this summer and we’ve started [studying them] this week as well. They’re a little bit undersized, but they’re a twitchy defense. They have some really good transfers in as well. It should be a really good challenge for us.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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