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The Dollar General Bowl: the Michigan connection

Toledo and Appalachian State share a unique connection. And it involves the Big House and the Michigan Wolverines.

Appalachian v Michigan

Toledo and Appalachian State, two conference champions in 2017, will battle for the Dollar General Bowl on December 23. The two teams have recently evolved into some of the best the Group of Five has to offer. But years ago, before both teams achieved their current status, they each won a landmark game in an unforgiving atmosphere: the largest venue in college football.

Appalachian State (2007) and Toledo (2008) are the two most recent teams from the current Group of Five to defeat the Michigan Wolverines. Impressively, both teams achieved this feat at Michigan Stadium ("The Big House") in front of about 110,000 fans decked in maize and blue.

The Mountaineers’ upset is nearly as famous as any college football game in the 21st century. In the midst of a three-year FCS championship streak, Appalachian State earned a giant paycheck from the folks in Ann Arbor and escaped with an unforgettable victory. Week 1 of 2007 marked the launch of Big Ten Network, and Michigan checked into the preseason AP Poll with a lofty top five ranking coupled with championship aspirations. But an upset-hungry Appalachian State team jumped to a 28-17 halftime lead before shattering Lloyd Carr and the Wolverines dreams with a blocked field goal as time expired. Appalachian State shocked the entire college football world with a 34-32 victory, and the Mountaineers would shift to the FBS level several seasons later.

But Toledo's upset over Michigan flew under the radar, and rightfully so. The Rockets stunned the Wolverines in mid-October, after the nation already wrote off a lowly Michigan team. Michigan only finished 3-9 that season, which was Rich Rodriguez's first year at the helm, and fell 13-10 to the Rockets in Ann Arbor. Impressively enough, Toledo also finished 3-9 in 2008 and managed to win at the Big House without scoring a single offensive touchdown.

A relentless defense, led by current Jacksonville Jaguars strong safety Barry Church, finished with a pick six and two additional forced turnovers to propel Toledo to a low-scoring victory over Michigan. The 3-point victory marked the first time in history Michigan lost to a MAC program. And to this day, Toledo is the only team from the conference that can claim Michigan as one of its victims. Michigan nearly tied the game and sent it into overtime, but kicker K.C. Lopata missed a 26-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.

The Dollar General Bowl on Saturday should be a competitive game featuring two of the Group of Five's modern powers. But expect Michigan fans to reminisce on bad memories when hearing the names of the programs involved.