New Hampshire at Wofford, 2 p.m.
Central Arkansas at No. 5 Georgia Southern, 2 p.m.
Coastal Carolina at No. 4 Old Dominion, 2 p.m.
Illinois State at Appalachian State, 2 p.m.
Cal Poly at Sam Houston State, 4 p.m.
South Dakota State at No. 1 North Dakota Sate, 4 p.m.
Wagner at No. 2 Eastern Washington, 6 p.m.
Stony Brook at No. 3 Montana State, 7 p.m.
The last time Appalachian State hosted a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game, the mighty Mountaineers were humbled in a hurry during a 34-12 loss at The Rock in Boone, N.C.
For a program that won three straight national championships from 2005 to '07 and had not exited the playoffs without at least one win since 2004, bowing out so quickly last December was a low point.
"Last year I don't know that we were all that excited about being in the playoffs," ASU coach Jerry Moore said during a Southern Conference teleconference Tuesday.
Moore said he's sensed more focus and more excitement in this year's team, which shared the SoCon championship with No. 7 Georgia Southern (8-3) and No. 9 Wofford (8-3).
"I have no idea how we'll play, but I just sense a readiness to play, that they're excited about the playoffs and excited about playing here at home," Moore said.
The sixth-ranked Mountaineers (8-3), Georgia Southern and Wofford all received first-round byes and will host round-of-16 games Saturday. ASU hosts No. 15 Illinois State (8-3), GSU entertains No. 8 Central Arkansas (9-2) and No. 13 New Hampshire (8-3) visits Wofford's Terriers.
SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said having all three league teams that made the 20-team field playing at home is significant.
"I think it was a real sign of what we had been preaching all year, that we felt like this was one of our strongest years," he said, "and I think that was validated by the three teams not only getting a bye this past Saturday, but then getting home games this week."
Wofford was perfect at its Gibbs Stadium this season, going 5-0. The last win was a 16-13 overtime victory over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Nov. 17. Georgia Southern went 5-1 at Paulson Stadium and the Mountaineers, who led the FCS in attendance with an average of 27,964 per game, went 4-2 at home.
Because of the home-field advantages, Iamarino said he's "very optimistic that we'll have teams advancing."
Last season, GSU and ASU would have met in the quarterfinals had the Mountaineers defeated Maine. The Eagles beat the Black Bears the following week before losing to eventual champion North Dakota State in the semifinals. This season, the first time SoCon teams could meet would be in the semis, if Wofford and Georgia Southern make it that far.
GSU's Eagles, the No. 5 seed, have made back to back semifinals, so coach Jeff Monken has quite a few playoff veterans.
"They're excited, they're anxious, they want to play, but they're not nervous," he said. "Hopefully it helps give us some confidence."
All three SoCon games will kick off at 2 p.m. and be available on ESPN3.com.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...