Despite being just across the Tar Heel state from each other, there is not much history between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Appalachian State Mountaineers. The two programs have only faced off once ever, in 1940, to the tune of a 56-6 Tar Heel beatdown. I don't believe that many people reading this were there for the game, but if you were, you have waited quite some time for the rematch.
The Mountaineers, a program in their sixth season in the FBS, still have a deep, rich history within their program. They are home to three FCS national championships, which just so happen to be three straight from 2005-2007, as well the first home of a pretty recognizable name to Tar Heel fans: Mack Brown.
Mack Brown actually began his head coaching career in 1983 at App State, but only led the program for one season before leaving to be the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. So while yes, he wasn't there for long, it still is the place where Brown got his coaching career underway.
For Brown, this could be an exciting, emotional game. Not only is it against the team where he got his head coaching start, but something Coach Brown has preached the importance of is winning the in-state games on many occasions. Winning these games are important for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it helps with stating your claim that you are the best program in the state.
The in-state games were always something that were a thorn in Larry Fedora’s side. He struggled against NC State, East Carolina, as well as Duke and Wake Forest. As a matter of fact, he did not have a winning record against any of those programs during his tenure. Brown is not off to the best start following the Wake Forest loss, but he can't let things spiral with a loss to App State.
While the Tar Heels and the Mountaineers may not recruit the same players too often, there is most definitely something to be said about not winning these games and the effect it has on recruiting. Players see these games and will question why they would go to a program who can't beat the smaller schools in their own state.
For the Tar Heels, there is one mission this week: Set the tone early and dominate the game. While App State might be new to the FBS, they've still had their fair share of success in the Sun Belt Conference. They also have their own fair share of upset history, if you do recall. It would be wise for the Tar Heels to play better early on in the game than they did against Wake Forest. All it takes it some momentum and the underdog team can stay around all day.
Following the tough loss to Wake, it’s time for the Tar Heels to right the ship and go into the big game against Clemson with some more confidence.