BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards just may be the best quarterback in Tiger Stadium when the Mountaineers visit No. 7 LSU in a matchup of defending national champions from NCAA football's top two divisions.
The Tigers may have better players at every other spot on the field, however, and Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore understands that as well as anyone.
``We know we're huge underdogs. We're not that naive,'' Moore said. ``Our players know that and they've prepared the best that they can prepare. We'll try to play hard and see what happens.''
Moore is a realist, but that doesn't mean he's already chalked up this Saturday's contest as a loss. After all, his squad stunned Michigan in the Big House a year ago.
That victory gave Appalachian State a certain mystique that few other Football Championship Subdivision teams enjoy. Yet it also eliminated the possibility of the Mountaineers sneaking up on an ill-prepared, overconfident major conference opponent again anytime soon, never mind LSU - coach Les Miles is a former Michigan player and assistant.
``They play well year after year,'' Miles said of the Mountaineers, who have lost only four of their last 40 games. ``Jerry's done a great job in guiding the program. Certainly, they're in position to play strong against anybody. They have a great football team. It's not specific to any division.''
While there's no question that Edwards is the star at Appalachian State, LSU fans don't even know for certain who'll start behind center for the Tigers - and not because they've been distracted by threatening tropical weather that led LSU officials to move up kickoff from 4 p.m. to 10 a.m.
Miles has declined to say publicly whether he'll entrust the offense to Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch, who's thrown only two passes in his LSU career, or redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee, who has yet to take a snap. Miles also has discussed playing true freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson, though Jefferson is not expected to start.
``Whatever the coach thinks is best,'' said Hatch, who got the most work in fall camp and will probably start. ``I guess there's a lot of uncertainty, but that's just part of the game. You just kind of have to focus on doing your job, what you can do each day, controlling the things you can control and not worry about the things you can't.''
It may not really matter which of the three plays. Whoever it is will be handing off a lot. LSU has a group of experienced running backs who teamed up last season to gain 214 yards per game. The Tigers no longer have Jacob Hester as their best short-yardage running back, but they can still hand the ball to Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, Richard Murphy and Trindon Holliday.
Hatch, meanwhile, has impressed teammates with his ability to run the option.
Appalachian State had trouble stopping the run last season, losing both times against teams that racked up big gains against them on the ground, milking the clock and keeping Edwards off the field in the process.
LSU also has four starters back on an offensive line built to open holes and pass-protect against SEC defenses, never mind against teams from the lower tier of Division I.
``We need big play from those guys. We need leadership and for them to do the things that they had done all last season,'' Miles said. ``Our expectation is that our offensive line will play well.''
If that happens, Appalachian State will have to score a lot of points, which the Mountaineers did regularly last season, with nearly 43 points a game.
Edwards put up some gaudy numbers, finishing last season with 3,536 total yards and 38 touchdowns.
Conventional wisdom would call for containing a dangerous scrambler like Edwards and making him throw from the pocket, but Miles said LSU is not about to abandon its defensive forte of pressuring quarterbacks with its experienced and powerful front four, augmented by an array of blitz packages.
``We're going to have those big guys come up the field at him,'' Miles said. ``We're fortunate to have some athletic ends that we think can run as well.''
One of those ends, Kirston Pittman, said he's been studying a lot of film on Edwards lately and has come away impressed.
``He's just a tremendous athlete. He's just a guy we're really going to have to key on,'' Pittman said. ``We're really not sleeping on them at all, you know, with the upset win last year, which Coach Miles mentioned to us a few times.''

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