Villanova is the defending FCS national champion. Appalachian State, which lost in last season's semifinals, lifted the trophy in 2005, '06 and '07, the only program to threepeat.
On Saturday afternoon, they will meet in a quarterfinal in Boone, N.C.
"To me, it's a marquee matchup," said Wildcats coach Andy Talley, whose team advanced with a 54-24 win over third-ranked Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas, Saturday. "They have a national repuatation, and we do as well. At the level we play, I don't know if it gets any better.
"I've never been there. I'll have to look on a map. I just know it's in the mountains. It'll be cold."
Appalachian State (10-2), the tournament's top seed, beat Western Illinois (8-5) in snow at home, 42-14.
The Wildcats (8-4), who got in the 20-team field by winning their finale at No. 1 Delaware in overtime, trailed 21-7 and 24-14. Then it was all downhill.
Chris Whitney, who continues to play hurt, threw for four touchdowns. Norman White had three scoring receptions, one off a fake field goal. Kicking had been an issue. But Matt Hamilton, the former backup, made all four of his three-point attempts. Before that, he was 1-for-3. SFA quarterback Jeremy Moses had thrown four interceptions all season, then the Wildcats picked him off three times.
But the biggest difference was having Matt Szczur back at something approaching 100 percent, especially now that fellow wide receiver Dorian Wells is done after suffering a spleen injury. Szczur, who missed seven games with a sprained ankle, played the first half against Delaware. This time, he caught 11 passes for 128 yards and a TD, and had nine carries for 68 yards.
Villanova had been 0-6 on the road in the playoffs; two were against eventual national champs.
The Wildcats have won their last three games against a No. 1. One was in neutral Chattanooga, Tenn., in last December's final with Montana, the team that eliminated Appalachian State.
"This was the [Villanova] team that everyone wanted to see at the beginning of the year, and the team we hoped we could be," Talley said. "But we never really were that, for various reasons. But most of those components [that were missing] are back together again. We took a really good football team and ran away from them. We probably played as well as we could play."
Now, there's an even larger hurdle in the way. SFA threw 51 times. Appalachian State's DeAndre Pressley was 2-for-7 for 47 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. But he gained 264 yards on 16 carries out of the spread, including an 89-yard TD.
"This is a test of who we really are," Talley said. "It's a phenomenal environment. There'll be 30,000 watching, maybe more. But we've played at Delaware, West Virginia, the Linc in front of 30,000. So it's not like we haven't been through the wars, in adverse conditions.
"We certainly feel good going down there, coming off the Delaware game and this game. Our poise is pretty good. From what I've seen, we can play with anybody."