Coming off their first bowl victory, Appalachian State appeared fit to be in the FBS and primed to return to bowl season. Akron was also coming off of a successful bowl victory, and a victory over the Mountaineers would certainly keep them on pace to return.
Jonesboro is one of those tiny college towns that comes alive on game day. Centennial Bank Stadium, playfully nicknamed the vault, is home to the Arkansas State red wolves.
The seal has been broken on the 2016 college football season, and Arkansas state is part of the jubilation that is exploding the lid. Jonesboro is one of those tiny college towns that comes alive on game day, and with Toledo in town, A-State fans were painting the town red.
Georgia State’s football program is young. Both teams date back to the early 1900s or late 1800s. Georgia State’s inaugural season was 2010.
It was Bill Curry, former Kentucky and Alabama head coach, who chose to return to the sidelines to help build the foundation for this brand-new program. Georgia State certainly endured a healthy dose of growing pains, but with Bill Curry’s guidance he was able to pass the baton onto a new head coach who has since taken them to their first ever bowl game.
Georgia State has a chance for a bowl game. It’s somewhat tenuous, but still quite astonishing considering that the program has only been in existence for five years. The Panthers have not only taken on the adjustment to developing a football team, but doing so at the FBS (Division 1) level. So, being 4-6 and two wins from bowl eligibility is a notable accomplishment.
2007. Opening Day. Ann Arbor, Michigan. FCS member and largely unheard of against the fifth ranked powerhouse Wolverines. The game began with hope and anticipation for a championship season for Michigan and ended with the biggest upset in college football history. That game changed the trajectory of both programs, mostly for the Mountaineers.
Passion for football in the south does not solely reside inside the cavernous stadiums of the SEC. The tiny town of Troy, Alabama is proof of this fact. Game days begin with the Trojan marching band, The Sound of the South, gathering on the open green outside Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. Fans converge upon this spot to hear this active and talented band preview the upcoming halftime show. The band and fans then work together to form a tunnel leading the Trojan football team into the stadium. T-ROY, the Trojan mascot, along with a host of cheerleaders, greet the coaches and players as they exit their bus and lead the team through the band and the fans who stretch on their tiptoes to catch a glimpse. The band stays and entertains a while longer after the team enters their locker room and game day is officially underway.
A warm late November day graced the town of Troy, Alabama as fans gathered for the Trojans’ final game of the season. The open space outside Veterans Memorial Stadium swelled with folks anxiously awaiting their team’s arrival to the stadium. Troy’s marching band, The Sound of the South, formed a lane for the team to be welcomed in style. T-ROY, the Trojan mascot, along with a host of cheerleaders greeted legendary coach, Larry Blankney, off the bus and led the team through the band and the fans stretching on their tiptoes to catch a glimpse. The band stayed and entertained a while longer after the team entered their locker room and game day had officially kicked off.
Anticipation flooded the Western Kentucky campus for tonight’s matchup. A record crowd showed up for one of the biggest games to ever take place in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Hilltoppers’ battle versus Southern Miss put rumps in the seats not only because of the name recognition that the Golden Eagles bring to Houchens Smith Stadium, but also because Western is coming off a monumental upset of their instate rival Kentucky. T-shirts documenting the 32-31 upset could already be-spotted all over campus.
Throngs of fans congested the walkway from the team buses to the stadium as they glued their eyes to the band, mascot, and Hilltopper team strolling their way to the stadium. Stunned by the overwhelming amount of fan support for this matchup, one man exclaimed, “This is the most crowded I’ve ever seen Western! This is crazy man!” What can be defined as crazy or crowded is truly relative. WKU’s website urged fans to come early to avoid traffic and secure a parking spot, but the level of activity seemed no different than most campuses on gameday. However, sellout crowds and massive pregame hype are not the norm in these parts yet, so the university is erring more on the side of caution.
There really was no need for worry as all the festivities flowed smoothly. Fans herded toward the stadium to watch the pregame honoring of Jack Harbaugh, former WKU head coach. Coach Harbaugh and his wife, Jackie, had the stadium club named after them during the ceremony and Jack looked up proudly at the jumbotron as his two NFL coaching sons, John and Jim, praised their father for his outstanding achievements at Western. All the excitement that preceded kickoff made this night one of the greatest in Hilltoppers football lore. The outcome of the game would only add to the good memories. With fireworks blasting and red towels waving, Western Kentucky never let up and gave Southern Miss more than they could handle. Score after score piled up, and the Golden Eagles could only wish the clock could have mercy on them. An impressive 42-17 victory by Western poured more respect into the Sun Belt conference, and gave the Hilltoppers back to back marquee wins. After big wins by Western and fellow conference member, Louisiana Monroe (over Arkansas), the new phrase “Fear the Belt” began to spread. For Western Kentucky, a team still brand new to the FBS level, their stock has risen and a new energy has topped the hills in Bowling Green.
Appalachian State’s Kidd Brewer Stadium never seemed less than a major college venue with its intimidating environment and sellout crowds. Even when it played as an FCS member, this place could hang with some of the nicer FBS arenas. Set amongst the magestic Appalachian Mountains, Kidd Brewer Stadium is one of the most picturesque settings in all of sports. Few can match the natural beauty that surrounds this arena.