I'm a big fan of Boone, N.C., so I always look forward to the road trip when the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga plays at Appalachian State. With that in mind, here are 10 things to think about as the Mocs (5-3, 3-3) prepare to play the No. 8 Mountaineers (6-2, 5-0) on Saturday.
1. Appalachian State's Kidd Brewer Stadium is one of the great settings in all of college football, and it might be the best in the FCS. That's a two-horse race between "The Rock" and Montana's Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The two are first and second in FCS attendance each year, averaging more than 25,000 fans a game, and those die-hard supporters make each stadium a very difficult place to play.
2. The last time I was at Kidd Brewer Stadium was also the last time Mocs coach Russ Huesman was there, though he wasn't the Mocs' coach at the time. It was the quarterfinals of the playoffs last season and he was still Richmond's defensive coordinator - though part of the reason I was there was because he was a known candidate to replace Rodney Allison.
Richmond's defense forced six second-half turnovers, picking Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards off five times, and the Spiders cruised to a 33-13 win.
3. Huesman said this week, just as he did last December when he was hired, that Appalachian State, which won three straight FCS titles from 2005-07, is in many respects the model for the kind of program he wants to build at UTC.
"That's what I said the first day I got here, that we want our program to be like Appalachian State's program," he said. "That's what you try to go after, that's what you try to be, from fan support to winning national championships to winning conference championships to doing it the right way, that's kind of what you model it after."
4. If you want to see Edwards at his best, go to YouTube.com and type in "Armanti Edwards Show" in the search field. Click on the highlights from Edwards' performance against Huesman's defense in the Mountaineers' 55-35 win over the Spiders in the 2007 semifinals.
Edwards ran for 313 yards (the most ever in a game by a Division I quarterback) and four touchdowns, while also completing 14 of 16 passes for 182 yards and three scores.
Of course, Edwards was just about as good last week in ASU's 52-27 win at Furman. Against the Paladins he threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 106 and four scores.
In his last three games - SoCon wins against Wofford, Georgia Southern and Furman - Edwards has averaged 363.3 yards per game passing and is a combined 78-for-104, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
5. Just like Richmond's defense last season, the Mocs have two very solid defensive ends. Josh Beard leads the nation with 10 1/2 sacks and Josh Williams is tied for 18th with six.
As much as the Mocs might want to turn those two loose and have them go 100 mph after Edwards on every play, a scrambling Edwards is an incredibly dangerous player, too. Mocs defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said "it's a fine line" between rushing the quarterback and committing so much that it leaves you too exposed in other areas.
6. At the start of the season, the Mocs appeared loaded at wide receiver. It seemed like their deepest position. That's no longer the case. First, Brian Sutherland left the team in September, and Huesman announced this week that Terrance Davis was suspended for the rest of the season for violating team rules.
Add to that the fact that Clint Woods has a bad right knee and the outlook looks even more bleak. Woods said after Thursday's practice that the knee was feeling a lot better than it had earlier in the week and he is expected to play Saturday.
The Mocs would be happy to get another 16-catch performance out of Blue Cooper, but it's doubtful the Mountaineers will let UTC quarterback B.J. Coleman throw it Cooper's way every time. That means some other guys will have to make some plays, including Justin Buckhalter, who will get some extra snaps with Davis out and Woods less than 100 percent.
At 6-foot-3, 202 pounds, Buckhalter is one of the more impressive physical specimens on the team. He looks as much like a football player as anyone, but the senior has yet to make a big impact in his one-plus seasons at UTC.
This season, he has just three catches for 27 yards.
"He's got to pick it up and start catching the ball," offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said. "It's never been an issue of his physical talent; it's getting to where you need to be and catching the ball when it's thrown to him."
7. In an article posted Friday on GreenvilleOnline.com, the Web site of the Greenville (S.C.) News, Furman coach Bobby Lamb admitted his eighth season could be his last with the Paladins.
"It's possible," he said. "I guess nothing would surprise me. (The administration) might decide to go in another direction. It's a possibility, I realize that, but I have to try to get this team ready to play."
Furman plays at Auburn this week, so it's not exactly great timing for a coach on or near the hot seat. Of course, a win over the Tigers would probably negate a lot of concerns about the direction of the Furman program, which will almost surely miss the playoffs for the third year in a row.
A former Furman player and an assistant from 1986-2001, Lamb was named the head coach after Bobby Johnson left following the 2001 season. Lamb won 35 of his first 50 games and reached the playoffs in four of his first five seasons - Furman lost in the semifinals at Appalachian State in 2005 - but the Paladins are just 11-10 in their past 21 SoCon games.
After this week, Furman closes its season at Georgia Southern and at home against rival Wofford.
8. Elsewhere in the SoCon this weekend, No. 6 Elon plays at Western Carolina in a game that probably shouldn't be that close but could be since the Phoenix might be looking ahead a bit to next week's SoCon showdown against Appalachian State.
Also on the slate: Wofford plays at The Citadel in a matchup of two teams who thought their seasons would go much better than they have, and the same could be said about Georgia Southern at Samford.
9. Nationally, the game of the week is No. 4 Villanova at top-ranked Richmond. The Colonial Athletic Association is the dominant league in the FCS and this game could decide the regular-season championship. The Spiders have won 17 straight games dating back to last season and even got a vote in this weeks Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Both teams have wins over bowl subdivision squads this season. Richmond beat Duke, which is now 5-3, while Villanova knocked off Temple, which is 7-2.
10. The last time I covered a game in Boone, it was snowing and I was sitting in an open-air press area trying to type with frozen fingers. That won't be a concern on Saturday because, according to the National Weather Service, the high is supposed to be 63 degrees. It will probably be in the 40s by the time the game's over, but it should be great football weather.
For more Mocs coverage, see tomorrow's Times Free Press. You can also follow John Frierson's coverage of the Mocs on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeat.