Appalachian State has won 101 football games and three national championships in Chattanooga since 2000. Montana has won 118 games (the most in Division I), played for the title four times and won it in 2001.
This afternoon at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, the two FCS heavyweights will compete for a spot in next Friday's national championship game at Finley Stadium.
"It should be a great game and I'm looking forward to it," Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. "I think if you're a college football fan you should be looking forward to it, too."
It will be just the second meeting ever between the storied programs, and the second in the semifinals of the playoffs. Montana edged Appalachian State 19-16 in overtime in 2000.
"I've known that they've always been good," Appalachian senior quarterback Armanti Edwards said, "but in the playoffs, as you can see in the past, it's not always the top two teams that go to the national championship or meet up against each other."
Appalachian State (11-2) is making its fourth semifinal appearance in the past five seasons, and it's the third for the top-seeded Grizzlies (13-0). Montana senior running back Chase Reynolds said he's excited about having the chance to square off against the Mountaineers at least once in his career.
"Appy State's been kind of like we are down here," Reynolds said. "They've been pretty dominant in their conference and in football in general. It's nice to be able to play them and see how we match up."
Appalachian scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left to beat defending national champion Richmond in the quarterfinals last week. The Spiders beat the Grizzlies 24-7 in the national title game last season, and Reynolds said he was kind of hoping for a shot at redemption.
"Definitely having them down here and getting a little revenge would have been nice," he said.
This week has no doubt been tough for each team's defensive coordinator. Montana leads the nation in scoring with 37.8 points per game, and Appalachian is seventh at 34.5. The Mountaineers are third in total offense at 462.6 yards per game, and the Grizzlies are eighth at 431.8.
Both teams are explosive, but Hauck said he's very concerned about the Mountaineers' speed and athleticism.
"I think they've got a tremendous speed advantage, and it really worries me," he said. "I don't think we're going to be able to run away from them, and they've got the ability to run away from us."
These teams won't have to wait for the playoffs to meet again in the future. In June the two schools announced that they will play a home-and-home series beginning in 2012.
"For our fans and for our program, we think it's going to be a great matchup," Montana athletic director Jim O'Day said. "We've had some great games in our stadium, but out West it's hard to attract the teams from that side of the country."