Pregame Predictor: Penn State vs. Appalachian State
The AP poll has us sitting at a robust No. 9 to start the year and a few prominent talking heads have us rumbling all the way to the College Football Playoffs at season's end. The expectations are high to say the least; a far cry from those days not long ago when New Years Six bowl berths seemed so far away, but not too far at all from the glory days of yesteryear. I know, I know, we never really left but dang it feels good to be back!
First up on the docket, the Appalachian State Mountaineers a.k.a. Giant Killers. 2007 may have been 11 years ago, but the day App State rolled into the Big House and punched a No. 5 ranked Michigan smack in the jaw is as fresh now in the world of upsets as it was back then. In fact, let me be the first to say that not only did they beat Michigan, they deflated them as well. The Wolverines have struggled to regain their once-feared edge ever since, no matter how many times the meaningless preseason polls try to crown them kings on paper.
Just for good measure, the Mountaineers have continued to maintain their reputation as upset kings by taking Tennessee to four OTs before bowing out at Rocky Top in 2016 and gave Georgia all they could handle last year in Athens. Yes, those Bulldogs, the ones that barely fell to ‘Bama in last year’s National Championship game. They may be the big-time underdogs heading into Happy Valley but App State thrives on the title and should definitely not be taken lightly.
Of course what should also not be taken lightly is walking into the Lions Den. Back-to-back 11 win seasons and a 14 game home winning streak make coming to Happy Valley a daunting task to say the least. Gone are quite a few of the weapons that helped achieve those gawdy accomplishments but in their place are a bunch of young guns anxious to make a name for themselves. James Franklin has given the green light to seven true freshmen and if things get out of hand, expect to see a handful more with the new 4-game redshirt rule in place.
We may be young but there’s still the Wizard, a Lion, and Miles to Run, although that Lion, aka Tommy Stevens, may still be on the shelf just a little longer. There's still a D-Line as hungry as Wild Dogs and a group of DBs that are Secondary to None. Manny Bowen may have hung up his black Nikes for all the right reasons but Linebacker U still has redemption in its crosshairs. Add in an O-Line that’s chock full of Pancake Makers and a crowd of 107k that guarantee to be rockin' and it will all prove far too much for an underdog like App State. There will be no upset here my friends, Penn State 38 App State 3.