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Originally published: 2014-06-14 14:54:08
Last modified: 2014-06-14 14:54:52

Behr: Are new rivals on the way

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

The Appalachian State athletic department bids farewell to the Southern Conference and joins the Sun Belt on July 1.

So long, SoCon. It's been a good one.

It seemed like it would be a matter of time before the lure of what is now called the FBS would bring Appalachian State to the upper level of competition. It's not exactly the top tier -- meaning the Mountaineers didn't join the SEC or Big 10 -- but the Sun Belt is a step up in money, competition and exposure.

The most attractive games on the 2014 football schedule, however, are on the road.

Appalachian State returns to the Big House on Aug. 30 for a showdown against Michigan, which is the marquee game of the Mountaineers' schedule.

Think Michigan has circled that date on the schedule with a fat black-and-gold pen?

The other two that look like worthy road trips are the Sept. 20 game at Southern Mississippi and Sept. 25 at longtime rival Georgia Southern.

I really like the Southern Mississippi game since the Eagles are supposed to come to Boone for a rematch in 2015.

Southern Mississippi is the first nonconference FBS team to visit Kidd Brewer Stadium in App State history since the emergence of Division I and Division I-AA in 1978.

I know that technically South Alabama will be the first FBS  on Oct. 4, but that is a Sun Belt Conference game. Sun Belt teams will visit Kidd Brewer. It's all part of being in the conference.

Southern Mississippi is not in the Sun Belt, but instead in Conference USA. It's the fringe benefit of being a member of the FBS -- higher profile teams will visit Boone.

Hopefully, that will continue. Those are the games I get excited about -- the nonconference opponents who are higher profile teams, but teams that the Mountaineers have a fighting chance of beating.

The games against Montana were like that. The same held true for App State's games with James Madison.

Hopefully, the Sun Belt can provide new rivalries. East Carolina comes to mind. Appalachian State visited East Carolina in 2009 and 2013. The Pirates won both games.

It's time East Carolina comes to Boone, sometime within the next three years. Don't hold your breath on that, but maybe a game in Charlotte with the Pirates is in the Mountaineers' future.

Who knows, now that the FBS is upon us?