Most notably on Saturday afternoon, the Appalachian State Mountaineers travel to Virginia Tech to face the Hokies. Last season, VT dropped an embarrassing non-conference game to James Madison, a team the Mountaineers have plenty of history with. ASU hopes they still have some magic left in them to try and take down a strong Hokie team who is trying to replace a starting runningback and do-it-all star quarterback Tyrod Taylor from last year’s team. The Mountaineers counter with experience all across the board, including senior quarterback DeAndre Presley and senior playmaking wide receiver Brian Quick on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, Ed Gainey, Demery Brewer and Chris Aiken lead the Mountaineer defense into Blacksburg, Va., a place that is notoriously difficult for visiting teams to get victories.
The Mountaineers’ season opener will also be televised on 68 stations nationwide, as well as in every major market in North Carolina. For those of us in the High Country that did not make the trip to Blacksburg but want to watch on TV, FOX 8 WGHP and WJZY TV 46 will both be carrying the game, and are channels that most households and bars have access to in the area. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m.
Elsewhere on the college football landscape, reigning national champ Auburn opens the season at home against Utah State in its first game without Heisman Trophy winner and current Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton.
UNC-Chapel Hill opens the season with the already-mentioned James Madison squad, who would love nothing more than to knock off an Atlantic Coast Conference school for the second consecutive year. Kickoff for this game from Chapel Hill is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
The N.C. State Wolfpack will start a new season under head coach Tom O’Brien without a familiar face on the sideline. Former quarterback Russell Wilson chose to use his final year of eligibility at Wisconsin instead of returning to the Pack. N.C. State will move on with quarterback Mike Glennon, who has impressed during the spring and should help lead the Wolfpack to another successful campaign. The Pack opens the season at home against Liberty University at 6 p.m.
East Carolina faces a difficult test in the opening week of the season. The Pirates will challenge the Gamecocks of South Carolina at 7 p.m. South Carolina comes into this game ranked as the #12 team in the nation and are expected to contend for the SEC Championship and possibly even a national title.
The final ACC team from the state taking the field on Saturday evening will be the Duke Blue Devils. While most Duke fans are already looking forward to basketball season, the football team begins the year at home against the Richmond Spiders, another Football Championship Subdivision team that has proven they can play with the big boys on most any field. Kickoff from Durham is set for 7 p.m.
Nationally at 8 p.m., two huge games set an early tone for the national championship race. Fourth-ranked LSU and third-ranked Oregon open the season at 8 p.m. playing on a neutral site with both teams having high expectations for the season. Oregon played for the national title last year and will be striving to return to the big game for a second straight year. LSU has one of the top defenses in the country, but will be without quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was suspended indefinitely after being arrested following a bar fight.
The other game with big time national implications will be fifth-ranked Boise State traveling east to take on 19th-ranked Georgia. While the game is not on the campus of UGA, it might as well be as Georgia sold at least 40,000 more tickets to the game than Boise State did. Both teams return excellent quarterbacks and it should be an exciting game.