Start Time: Saturday, September 12th, 12:30 pm ET
Where: Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC aka Death Valley
Series: Clemson leads 4-0, last meeting in 1997 (Clemson 23 App State 12)
Live Stats: Here.
Betting Line: Clemson is a 17-point favorite after opening at a 21-point favorite. Over/Under is around 58.
Expectations for the 2015 Clemson football team are very high. The Tigers were picked to win the ACC by the media and with Deshaun Watson taking the snaps, Dabo Swinney's bunch are a sexy pick to make the College Football Playoff.
But before Clemson gets to the New Year, they have to get past September, mainly week two. Before the Tigers play a down of ACC football and way before meeting hated rival South Carolina, they have the Mountaineers of Appalachian State.
The Tigers are coming off a 49-10 beating of in-state FCS Wofford while App State handled FCS Howard to the tune of 49-0.
It has been eight years since The Block Heard Round The World and while App State hasn't knocked off another power conference opponent since, the 2015 edition of the Apps have an excellent chance of doing so.
But Thomas, Clemson is picked to win the ACC and has an excellent quarterback. And Death Valley bro!
The blog's called Underdog Dynasty, hombre. Plus, App State has a legit chance of winning, not just a fool's hope. And here's seven reasons why.
1. App State's conditioning and depth
It is the first season App State will be fully FBS eligible and at 85 scholarships. Head coach Scott Satterfield has built a program that finally has depth. While Clemson will have more talent, App State won't wither in the second half like many FCS teams would. In the game versus Howard, App State played over 70 players and still kept the shutout.
With former South Carolina strength assistant Mike Sirignano, App State has created a strength and conditioning program that won't wither down in Death Valley. With strength gains of 20-30 percent across the board this past spring, it's not a scrappy underdog group that'll walk into the hot South Carolina weather.
2. Clemson lost several of their best players
Linebacker Korrin Wiggins became a season casualty for the Tigers after tearing in ACL this past week. That means only three returning starters for the Clemson defense. 10 players from the defensive two-deep are gone. The only returning starter is the center because one of Clemson's best offensive linemen, Isaiah Battle, left for the NFL over the summer. Then on special teams, starting kicker Ammon Lakip will likely be suspended after being arrested for DUI and cocaine possession in June. Even a team as talented as Clemson will feel those losses.
3. Having to prepare for two completely different offenses
The Tigers faced tricky FCS opponent Wofford in the first week. The Terriers run the wishbone offense, reliant on quick hand-offs and the option run attack hitting the corners. Assignment football is key as skill is neutralized. While Clemson defended it very well, App State will come in with a different type of attack. App will look to go straight forward in the running game, using an H-Back as lead blocker, before going to the pass attack which Wofford obviously lacked.
BTW, when Clemson only beat Wofford 35-27 in 2011, the Terriers defensive coordinator was Nate Woody. Guess where he is now?
4. The voodoo of the ACC's week two
Clemson is due for a humiliating loss. Virginia Tech suffered one in 2010 to James Madison. VT did turn it around and go undefeated in the ACC that season and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl as ACC Champions, so Clemson can do the exact same thing. They can lose to App State and still win the ACC and perhaps go to the College Football Playoff if the cards fall the right way. I'm pretty sure the committee would take a 12-1 Clemson over an 11-1 TCU.
5. App State last trip to Clemson was only an 11-point loss
In 1997, FCS App State traveled down to Death Valley in the opening week of the season and made a good showing in a 23-12 loss. The Tigers went on to limp to a 7-4 finish, poor by Clemson standards, but still made the Peach Bowl and lost to Auburn. App State also finished 7-4 in the regular season, but missed the FCS playoffs.
6. Clemson could be looking ahead to Thursday night at Louisville
Louisville is a sleeper pick in the ACC this season. With noted scumbag Bobby Petrino at the helm, you know the Cardinals will be a tough out. They could shock Auburn in the season opener at the Georgia Dome and have a likely win at home versus a rebuilding Houston before hosting the Tigers in week three on Thursday night. That's the first game scheduled in orange on every Clemson fan's schedule.
In Swinney's Tuesday press conference, the reporters didn't want to talk App State and one even suggested this weekend is a "stepping stone" toward Louisville. To be fair, Dabo did call the reporter out for disrespecting App State, but if the reporters aren't taking this seriously, it could seep into the minds of the youngest Clemson team since World War 2.
7. Where is your Chad Morris now?
The guru of the Clemson offense is no longer in South Carolina. Morris returned to Texas to take over SMU (taking App State assistant Justin Stepp with him), leaving a massive hole in the Clemson staff. Dabo went with dual offensive coordinators, receivers' coach Jeff Scott and running backs' coach Tony Elliot.
While App State has the same set-up with Dwayne Ledford (running game coordinator) and Frank Ponce (passing game coordinator) sharing offensive coordinator duties, Morris also called plays for the Tigers. Replacing a play-caller, even with a loaded offense, could turn into problems with App State's chameleon 3-4 defense.
Prediction: In his Tuesday press conference, Dabo Swinney said "ap-puh-lay-shun" (it's "ap-puh-LATCH-an"), therefore cursing the Tigers to lose 357 to 5. It has been written.