KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield knows his program has a mountain to climb if its to upset Tennessee on Thursday night at Neyland Stadium.
The Mountaineers have a good idea of what to expect, having played and lost at Clemson last season, 41-10, but that won’t make the task any easier.
In fact, Satterfield said the Vols look better than last year’s College Football Playoff runner-ups did at the start of last season.
“In my opinion, starting the season, they are ahead of where Clemson was last year,” Satterfield said on a Saturday teleconference. “The difference is, what Tennessee has coming back this year are so many proven players that Clemson didn’t have last year.”
Appalachian State, meanwhile, also has more proven players.
The Mountaineers went 11-2 last season (7-1 in the Sun Belt) and won the program’s first-ever bowl game, a 31-29 win over Ohio in the Cramton Bowl.
Satterfield explained the move up from the FCS ranks to the FBS level has been a work in progress.
“When I took over as the head coach we were able to redshirt a lot of out players and kind of build the program up, going from 63 to 85 scholarships was going to be a challenge,” said Satterfield, who’s entering his fourth season as Appalachian State’s head coach. “We were able to to that over the last couple of years.
“We started out pretty rocky there at the beginning and didn’t win as many games, but we were developing our team and a winning formula we feel will help us.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.