After months of speculation, Appalachian State fans found out the slate of games for the much-hyped 2015 campaign on Friday. The schedule shows that App will be considered one of the top teams with two prime time games, but further inspection yields some disappointment. And it comes in three words that begin with the letter "T"
Thursday, Thursday, Thanksgiving.
The three biggest games of the year and none of them are on a good Saturday.
What's so important about a Saturday? Well, many things. App State built their attendance from under 15,000 in 2004 to almost twice that number in just six years and it was done on the strength of 3:30 pm ET kickoffs on Saturday.
3:30 pm ET was the great compromise for the App State fanbase. Most of the non-students have to drive up the mountain, so it allowed those people to get up in plenty of time. Then around 7:00 pm ET when the game ended, those same people went out to dinner and got home before it got too late.
In recent years, a 6:00 pm ET game was added early in the schedule. The weather in early September is usually pleasant enough so the late kickoff was accepted by most fans. Yes, attendance has dropped in the last two years with the head coach change, the learning curve and the FBS move all coming in a short period of time.
2015 is the year that Scott Satterfield has been looking forward to since he took the job in December 2012. With 20 of 22 starters returning, a six-game win streak to close 2014 and the biggest league games at home, the schedule shaped up to be something special.
The big rivalry game versus Georgia Southern is on a Thursday night. October 22nd will see the first Thursday night game in App State history as they take on the defending Sun Belt Champs.
Having one Thursday night game was somewhat expected and accepted as part of going to FBS. It's a marquee game for the league and might go toward deciding the Sun Belt title. Still, it's a game that makes many of the off-mountain alums squirm when looking at. Making it up on a Thursday night will be tough. Regardless, the novelty of the first Thursday night game should be a big draw.
Nine days later is Halloween Saturday at home versus Troy and then five days later is a second home Thursday game, this one versus Arkansas State. Another marque game, but possibly a bridge too far.
Georgia Southern had two Thursday home games in 2014. The first one against App State on September 25th was a massive success. A regular-season record crowd of 24,535 witnessed the game. The second one came over a month later on October 30th versus Troy and this time, only 18,321 showed up, a drop off of over 6,000 fans.
Historically, having three games in three weeks, even on Saturdays, have forced many off-mountain fans pick and choose which games to attend. This time with two of those games on Thursday, it'll make fans even pickier.
After this stretch, November has a cross-country trip to Idaho on the 14th, then after a bye week, a home game on Thanksgiving weekend versus Louisiana-Lafayette. This marks the second-straight year App will play on Thanksgiving weekend.
Thanksgiving weekend last season versus Idaho proved to be lowest student-attended game of the season. App State has the largest student section in the entire Sun Belt and it's one of the reasons Kidd-Brewer Stadium has the lore it does. The Sun Belt gave the Cajuns the best-possible weekend after mid-October to make their trip to Boone.
Okay, 1 2 3 4, breath in and out. Rant over.
The first two weeks have what should be an FCS softball in Howard and a Power 5 opponent in Clemson, followed by a bye. It's possible App fans won't really know how good the team is until Week 4 when they travel to Conference USA opponent Old Dominion on September 26th.
The fifth week has a very interesting home match-up against Wyoming, followed by a pair of road games to open Sun Belt play. The first has the Apps down in Atlantataking on Georgia State on Saturday, October 10th, followed by a trip to ULM on Saturday, October 17th.
Five days later has the big rivalry game on Thursday the 22nd versus Georgia Southern. Halloween brings Troy to The Rock and five days later, Arkansas State makes their way up the mountain.
After that tenacious stretch, the team has nine days before a cross-country game at Idaho, mercifully followed by a bye week. Thanksgiving weekend has the Cajuns visiting on November 28th before ending the season down on the Gulf Coast, taking on South Alabama in Mobile on December 5th.