There have been many surprises so far in the 2022 college football season, from preseason No. 5 Notre Dame being unranked after three weeks to Alabama almost losing to Texas. We must also include the Appalachian State Mountaineers as an early-season college football surprise.

After losing its opening game against North Carolina, Appalachian State shocked the college football world with an upset win on the road against then-No. 6 Texas A&M. The 17-14 victory not only put the Mountaineers on the map again, but even set the tone for the remainder of the year:

The hype for Appalachian State is so big that ESPN even had its College GameDay in Boone, North Carolina, for the Mountaineers’ Week 3 matchup against Troy. That game ended with a Hail Mary miracle to win in the final seconds.

With the hype ramping up, does Appalachian State deserve the attention? Here are three reasons why the Mountaineers are for real after the wins over Texas A&M and Troy.

3. Appalachian State is not afraid of big moments

Texas A&M was heavily favored against the Mountaineers ahead of Week 2, and deservedly so. The Aggies had a big 31-0 win over Sam Houston State to open the season and seemed to be on the right track to contend for a College Football Playoff spot.

But Appalachian State had other plans. Playing in College Station, the Mountaineers surprised everyone by upsetting the Aggies with a game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter. That was enough to put Appalachian State in the spotlight, but the best was yet to come.

In Week 3, a hard-fought game against Troy came down to the last play. Quarterback Chase Brice chucked up a prayer and found wide receiver Christian Horn, who caught the ball and ran toward the end zone with the help of a blocker:

For two weeks in a row, Appalachian State showed it is able to play under pressure and close football games. If things keep going well in late-game situations, the Mountaineers can be on track for something special in 2022, such as a Sun Belt Conference title.

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2. Quarterback Chase Brice is the real deal

Many great college football teams starts with a great quarterback, including Appalachian State. Although people may argue whether or not the Mountaineers are the real deal, it is difficult to go against quarterback Chase Brice.

The redshirt senior is on pace for another solid season as a Mountaineer. In 2021, his first with the team, he set Appalachian State’s single-season record for most passing yards with 3,337. He also had 27 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Brice had four games with a completion rate of at least 70%.

Even before the 2022 season started, Brice already caught the attention of the media and coaches. He was named to the preseason watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, presented to the best college football quarterback. Most notably, he also made the watch list for the Maxwell Award, which is presented to the best college football player in the nation regardless of position.

In 2022, Brice has 773 passing yards with a 62% completion rate for nine touchdowns and just one pick. He has also added 43 yards on the ground. His Hail Mary against Troy just showed how big of an arm he has and that he can lead a team in clutch moments. If he continues playing like this, expect to hear his name in the 2023 NFL Draft.

1. Kidd Brewer Stadium’s atmosphere is too scary for Appalachian State football opponents

The Appalachian State football players and coaching staff deserve a lot of praise for the past two weeks. But versus Troy, the crowd also deserves some flowers. More than 34,000 fans were in the stands to support the Mountaineers. After the miracle touchdown, they showed their love even more:

Fans ran out on the field to celebrate with the players, showing how much they cared about the team in Week 3. Appalachian State has a good chance of having a packed Kidd Brewer Stadium for the rest of the season.

The team still has five home games in 2022, including four of the Mountaineers’ next five matchups. That stretch might be one of the most important ones in recent history for the school, so Appalachian State needs to show it is not a pretender after upsetting Texas A&M and defeating Troy in epic fashion.

Should the Mountaineers win all their home games, it would not be a surprise to see them in the Top 25 in the near future. But for that to happen, they need all the help they can get. That includes the loud fans in Boone. If the stadium is packed in the next weeks, Appalachian State football will show it is the real deal.