CFB Preview: No. 25 Miami at Appalachian State
Miami will take its No. 25 ranking and young defense on the road for the first time this season when the Hurricanes face Appalachian State on Saturday in Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C. Kickoff is at noon ET for the ESPN telecast.
Despite starting three freshman linebackers in the opener and rotating a sophomore defensive back in at one spot in the second game, the Hurricanes have dominated their first two opponents by a combined 108-13 score.
Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic managed only 69 yards rushing with just another 342 passing.
Freshman linebacker Michael Pinckney leads the team in tackles with 12 stops after recording nine against Florida Atlantic with a sack-and-a-half. He and freshman Shaq Quarterman, who has been in on 10 tackles, have both started the first two games.
Freshman Zach McCloud started the opener but gave way to nickelback Jaquan Johnson, a sophomore, against FAU as the Hurricanes slightly altered their scheme. McCloud has four tackles with one for a loss. Johnson has seven tackles.
But it's not just the freshmen who are going to have to adjust to the situation.
"To be honest with you, it's my first road trip with this team and with this staff," coach Mark Richt said. "It's not like it's old hat for us and everybody knows what they're doing. Everybody is brand new.
"First time travel. First time noon game. A noon game is different. Last two games, a 6 o'clock start at home. Everything was the same back-to-back. That was very comfortable. By Game 2, we knew what was happening.
"Now we're traveling. It's a little different."
Appalachian State will be a much bigger challenge for the Hurricanes than what they had in their first two games in friendly Hard Rock Stadium, and it goes beyond simply being in unfriendly environs for the first time.
The Mountaineers certainly are not overwhelmed by the prospect of taking on big-name opponents. While still an FCS team, they beat Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2007, and last year in their first season of bowl eligibility at the FBS level went 11-2 and beat Ohio in their bowl game. That made them the first team to win a bowl game in their first season on the FBS level.
This year they opened the season by nearly upsetting SEC East Division favorite Tennessee in Knoxville, leading 13-3 early on before falling 20-13 in overtime. The Vols got their touchdown in overtime by recovering a fumble in the end zone or else the Mountaineers would have had an opportunity to win it with a field goal.
Appalachian State has a veteran quarterback in junior Taylor Lamb, who was 15-of-23 passing for 108 yards against Tennessee, and an outstanding running back in senior Marcus Cox.
Cox rushed for 115 yards on 24 carries against the Vols and came back last week to run for 133 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-7 win over Old Dominion. He ranks fourth in school history with 4,336 career rushing yards.
"We're very excited this week to host Miami, for obvious reasons," Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said. "It's the biggest opponent that we've ever had come to our campus to play a football game. In particular, what they're bringing in here is the tradition of a school that's won national championships, that's won Heisman Trophies, all the accolades that they've won over the years.
"And not only that, you're bringing in a Mark Richt-coached team in here, a team that last year won eight games and has started off really well. They're ranked in the top 25 in both polls for the first time I think since 2013."
They're pretty hot, too, Satterfield said.
"We're excited about playing them," Satterfield said. "No. 1 playing them and No. 2 playing them here in front of our crowd, which will be the largest crowd we've had in the history of our school."
The fans must be looking forward to it Miami's visit to the 23,150-seat stadium. At least, they seem confident enough. A twitter account tagged "App State Traditions" had this tweet early in the week:
"It's Miami week!!! Miami actually thinks they have a chance to win this game."
It was punctuated with three smiley faces.