You know you have a tough schedule when one of your out-of-conference “cupcakes” is a giant slayer like Appalachian State. A week after hosting Vanderbilt, the South Carolina Gamecocks welcome the upset-minded Mountaineers to Williams-Brice in a frankly baffling decision (don’t even mention the fact USC will allegedly be heading to Boone in 2025).
Last meeting: The Gamecocks have actually hosted the Mountaineers nine times prior to this matchup, coming away with an 8-1 overall record (the only blemish in 1975). In the most recent meeting, South Carolina rolled App 35-9 in 1988.
Last season: After dominating at the FCS level and making the transition to FBS about six years ago, it seems like the Mountaineers have always been a member of the Sun Belt. App State enjoyed an incredible 2018, finishing 11-2 (7-1), capturing its third straight Sun Belt championship and beating Middle Tennessee in the New Orleans Bowl. Their only other loss was falling to a then-top 10 Penn State team in overtime, because that’s just what they do to Power 5 teams foolish enough to schedule them.
Player to watch: Not a player, but a coach — Eliah Drinkwitz, formerly N.C. State’s offensive coordinator and now the head man in Boone. Scott Satterfield, who had the unenviable task of taking over for the legendary Jerry Moore, guided the Mountaineers through a successful transition to FBS and was rewarded with a job offer from Louisville at the end of the 2018 campaign. Satterfield took his staff with him, and now App is starting a new era. We’ll see if Drinkwitz has what it takes to keep the Mountaineers rolling and maintain their status as a team Power 5 schools should continue to avoid.
Prognosis: Drinkwitz is definitely not walking into an empty cupboard. The Mountaineers return Zac Thomas, their Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year quarterback, and several of his weapons (notably receivers Corey Sutton, Malik Williams, and Jalen Virgil, along with 1,000-yard rusher Darrynton Evans). App will be favored to win the Sun Belt again, and rightfully so. I fully expect this game to be excruciating, and am grateful App won’t pop up on the schedule again until six years from now.