We were wrong to doubt App State. Its rivalry with Coastal is among football’s best

·6 min read

The Mountaineers must’ve been listening.

Last week in this space, The Poll derided Appalachian State for knocking some of the luster off of what was sure to be the Game of the Year in the Carolinas: The one in Boone last Wednesday night between App and Coastal Carolina.

And it’s true: The Mountaineers’ 28-point defeat earlier this month at Louisiana-Lafayette did put a dent in the significance of the Coastal game. But App delivered, anyway, and so did the atmosphere in Kidd-Brewer Stadium, where spectators rushed the field in the moments after the Mountaineers’ 30-27 victory.

It was fun, wasn’t it?

Beyond that, the game, and scene, was another reminder of a universal truth in college football: Regional rivalries matter. And there’s no better regional rivalry brewing outside the Power Five conferences (or shoot, even including the Power Five) than the one between App and Coastal.

Which brings to mind another point: In light of Charlotte’s upcoming move to the American Athletic Conference, it’s great news that the 49ers and ECU will be in the same league. But wouldn’t it be even better if all of the Carolinas’ “Group of Five” programs were in the same conference?

Coastal vs. ECU every year would be great. App State vs. Charlotte. ECU vs. App. These are games that’d generate regional interest, attract viewership and make money — which is ultimately what every conference cares the most about. Will it happen any time soon? Doubtful. Should it happen, eventually? Absolutely.

In the meantime, Week 8 of the All-Carolina College Football Poll is here for your reading pleasure:

1. Wake Forest (7-0, 4-0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 1

Last week: W 70-56 at Army

Up next: vs. Duke, Saturday

A few weeks back, Dave Clawson reminded his players that several recent Wake teams had started 4-0, only to stumble. Not this one. You’re not going to win very often while surrendering 56 points, but the Demon Deacons found a way. Duke on Saturday is Wake’s last game for a while that looks relatively easy.

2. N.C. State (5-2, 2-1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 2

Last week: L 31-30 at Miami

Up next: vs. Louisville, Saturday

Lots of griping in Wolfpack Land, and rightfully so after losing to a not-good Miami team. But in reality State’s situation hasn’t really changed, even if the margin of error has shrunk. The ACC’s Atlantic Division is still there for the taking, and what was true before Saturday still is: The division likely will be decided when State travels to Winston-Salem next month.

3. Appalachian State (5-2, 2-1 Sun Belt)

Previous ranking: 6

Last week: W 30-27 vs. Coastal Carolina

Up next: vs. Louisiana-Monroe, Saturday

All-Carolina Poll voters had the audacity to rank App sixth last week. Well, the Mountaineers showed them, didn’t they? The Sun Belt race is officially wide open again, which should make for some compelling football in the coming weeks.

4. Coastal Carolina (6-1, 2-1 Sun Belt)

Previous ranking: 3

Last week: L 30-27 at Appalachian State

Up next: vs. Troy, Thursday

Coastal may very well be a legit top-15 team nationally. But the sad reality for teams in its shoes is that the margin is so narrow, any one loss can completely alter the perception of a team — even a really good team.

5. Clemson (4-3, 3-2 ACC)

Previous ranking: 4

Last week: L 27-17 at Pittsburgh

Up next: vs. Florida State, Saturday

Woe are the Tigers. The last time Clemson lost three games? 2014, though the Tigers still managed to win 10 games that season. This is looking more and more like a 2010 kind of season, which is the last time Clemson lost three games and didn’t win at least 10. The Tigers were 6-7 that year, Dabo Swinney’s second full season. Also: How good was Trevor Lawrence?

6. North Carolina (4-3, 3-3 ACC)

Previous ranking: 5

Last week: Off

Up next: at Notre Dame, Saturday

The Tar Heels are coming out of their off weekend, which gave them plenty of time to solve their problems. All UNC had to do was fix its offensive line, address the holes on defense and find some capable receivers other than Josh Downs. Easy, right?

7. South Carolina (4-4, 1-4 SEC)

Previous ranking: 7

Last week: L 44-14 at Texas A&M

Up next: vs. Florida, Nov. 6

It would be easy to write off the Gamecocks and assume that the “winnable games” portion of their schedule has come and gone, but you’d be wrong, dear reader. South Carolina still has Missouri and, dare we say, Clemson, left on the schedule. It has been some time since the Gamecocks approached late October with any hope of beating Clemson, but maybe it’s possible this season?

8. ECU (3-4, 1-2 American)

Previous ranking: 10

Last week: L 31-24 at Houston

Up next: vs. USF, Thursday

Going back to the point discussed at the top of The Poll, which matchups sound more enticing for ECU fans, and those with a general interest throughout the Carolinas: ECU vs. Houston and USF, or ECU vs. App State and Coastal? It’s an easy call that makes too much sense to happen given the tomfoolery of Division I college athletics. At least ECU vs. Charlotte is coming soon enough.

9. Charlotte (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA)

Previous ranking: 8

Last week: L 38-9 vs. FAU

Up next: at Western Kentucky, Saturday

So much for a marquee victory that would’ve allowed the 49ers to seize control of its division in Conference USA. Charlotte will be off to greener pastures, anyhow, before too long, though it’s fair to say that C-USA and the American resemble one another — sort of the college football version of that meme of the two Spider-mans pointing at each other.

10. Duke (3-4, 0-3 ACC)

Previous ranking: 9

Last week: Off

Up next: at Wake Forest, Saturday

How ACC would it be if Duke somehow found a way to win this weekend in Winston-Salem? It would be among the most ACC things ever, right up there with that Wake-Virginia Tech game several years back that went into overtime in a scoreless tie. Sadly, perhaps, the Blue Devils do not appear equipped to provide a similarly magical moment but ... that’s why they play the games.

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