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SEC East favorite Tennessee needed an OT fumble TD to beat a Sun Belt team

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Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Appalachian State has been an elite football program of sorts for more than a decade now. ASU won three straight FCS titles from 2005 to 2007.

Speaking of 2007, that was the year the Mountaineers went to Michigan and knocked off the No. 5 Wolverines on Sept. 1, a game that remains one of the contenders for the title of Biggest Upset Ever.

(Michigan's offensive coordinator in that game, when the Wolverines outgained App State but lost the turnovers battle: Mike DeBord.)

Watch the whole thing again (compressed into 10 minutes) and try to convince yourself that it’s real. By the time you’ve done that, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that it came very close to happening again, exactly nine years later.

On Sept. 1, 2016, ASU went to Knoxville and took the No. 9 Volunteers to overtime.

The Vols survived, 20-13, with their title hopes intact thanks to a fumble by mid-leap Vols QB Josh Dobbs, which ended up bouncing into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

As you can see, that bounce could've gone a million different ways, but it went into running back Jalen Hurd's hands. Definitely not the most impressive way to win a game as a huge favorite.

One other part of the upset equation is different, as App State is no longer FCS. But a top-10 team, the official preseason SEC East favorite, the side with four-stars on the bench, all against a Sun Belt team? That’s supposed to be pretty much the same thing as FBS vs. FCS, right?

(Tennessee's offensive coordinator right now, when the Volunteers mustered 319 yards in five frames and tried for 60 minutes to wreck their most promising season in more than a decade: Mike DeBord.)

The Vols were favored by more than three touchdowns after an offseason of slowly boiling hype. This was the team that the Butch Jones era was building toward all along. This was the payoff of slogging through the Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley eras. All UT had to do was overcome its late-game issues of 2015 and put opponents away for good.

Instead, Tennessee trailed a bunch of two-stars by 10 points at halftime, with star Dobbs throwing a wild, Madden-backpedaling interception into the red zone just before the break. The highly touted senior was erratic at several points, throwing 13 incompletions in 29 attempts, good for only 6.6 yards per throw, with UT's entire SEC schedule still to go.

It was partly a case of effort outclassing talent, sure.

My wife, who does not care about football in the slightest, walked in early in the first quarter and commented that the team in white looked like it was trying harder. Yeah, it did look like that sometimes.

But ASU looked tougher at the line of scrimmage (ASU's Marcus Cox outrushed the Vols all by himself in regulation, 114 to 113), looked just as explosive, and looked far more composed on the field, other than in clock management and the kicking game (if not for a missed extra point and missed long field goal by brand new kicker Michael Rubino, ASU could've closed this one down in regulation).

App State has now been FBS for all of two seasons and one game. In that time, the Mountaineers have now gone 18-8. Last year, they recorded their first-ever FBS bowl win. They've now declared themselves the 2016 Sun Belt favorites and very nearly put themselves in the New Year's Six bowl race.

Anyway, laugh about all this while you can, Georgia fans. You get ASU next, in 2017.

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Game Time TV / Online streaming
MVSU at Eastern Michigan 6 p.m. WatchESPN
Albany at Buffalo 7 p.m. WatchESPN
Army at Temple 7 p.m. CBSSN
Ball State at Georgia State 7 p.m. ASN / WatchESPN
Colgate at Syracuse 7 p.m. ACCNExtra
Furman at No. 12 Michigan State 7 p.m. BTN / BTN2Go
Northwestern State at No. 23 Baylor 7:30 p.m. FSN / FS Go
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver) 8 p.m. ESPN / WatchESPN
Kansas State at No. 8 Stanford 9 p.m. FS1 / FS Go
Toledo at Arkansas State 9 p.m. ESPNU / WatchESPN
Cal Poly at Nevada 9:30 p.m. MWN