ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan and Appalachian State open the season with national title aspirations.
Both might reach their goals.
The fifth-ranked Wolverines seem to have a shot at ending the season in New Orleans, playing for the BCS national championship, with one of the best offenses in the country and a favorable schedule.
The two-time defending champion Mountaineers are favored to win the Football Championship Subdivision -- formerly known as Division I-AA -- when the second tier of college football crowns an undisputed champion on the field in a playoff.
Even though the Wolverines are expected to win easily Saturday at Michigan Stadium, they're treating Appalachian State with respect.
"They have won two consecutive championships, so obviously they have a good program," linebacker Chris Graham said. "They may not be at our level, but they have athletes that can hurt us if we overlook them.
"It's a test to see how disciplined we are."
Michigan, entering its 128th season, made Appalachian State its 138th opponent when the school wanted to rearrange the schedule to add an eighth home game and 12th overall.
The Wolverines, who hadn't played a Division I-AA program, agreed to pay their opponent from Boone, N.C., about $400,000 as a tuneup before hosting Oregon, Notre Dame and Penn State the next three weeks.
Appalachian State has played at LSU, Auburn, Kansas and North Carolina State in recent years, but hasn't beaten a major college program since a win over Wake Forest in 2000. In The Sports Network preseason poll, Appalachian State was the top-ranked team with 67 first-place votes to second-ranked Montana's three.
"Opening our season against Michigan will be a great test to see what we're made of," star running back Kevin Richardson said. "I think it's a great opportunity for Appalachian to continue to get its name out as one of the top college football programs in the country."
Richardson ran for 1,676 yards and a I-AA record 30 touchdowns last season.
The Mountaineers might be able to test Michigan's inexperienced secondary with quarterback Armanti Edwards, who threw for 2,251 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 1,153 yards and 15 scores last season to help his team average seven touchdowns a game.
"If we can do good against them, imagine what we can do to the teams that we're going to have to play that are going to count," Edwards said.
Appalachian State's defense, led by safety Corey Lynch, will be ready for anything after facing a Michigan offense that produced nearly 30 points a game last season and might be even better.
Michigan relies on a trio of four-year starters -- quarterback Chad Henne, running back Mike Hart and tackle Jake Long -- and plans to open the game with a three-receiver set.
"When you have some of the skill that we have at the wide receiver positions and can spread a defense out, that's positive," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
While the Wolverines expect to play receivers Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington and Greg Matthews together, they likely will hold back some plays to limit the look the Ducks, Fighting Irish and Nittany Lions will get as they prepare to play at the Big House later this month.
Top 25 Overview
With Chad Henne and Mike Hart leading the way, Michigan should have one of the best offenses in the country. This game likely won't be a gimme as far as games against I-AA schools go as Applachian State is the two-time defending I-AA champion.