Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

KhanSha1.jpg

» Futures: My Expansion Franchise

You've just been awarded an NFL expansion team and must build your personnel department. How would you do it? Matt Waldman takes on the exercise.

04 Sep 2007

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Making Sense of It All

by Russell Levine

Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32.

This is how bad life has been for Michigan fans since Saturday's college football calamity:

Brian Cook, who authors the excellent mgoblog, resorted to (in order) removing all the content on his site in favor of a "technical difficulties" image; rebranding the site in pink and posting a series of kitten photos; and leading the site with emo music and a picture of a crying girl.

Personally, I'm still in a fog. I've already had dreams that Michigan made the winning kick. I knew I was in bad shape when Notre Dame suffered its worst-ever season-opening loss and I drew not one ounce of pleasure from it. I will be discussing both of these items with my therapist as soon as I can find the strength to get out of bed.

Things got worse on Sunday when I tried to extend an olive branch to a Notre Dame-fan relative of mine (by marriage, of course) and he immediately responded with trash talk. And I knew he was right.

My family still hasn't called to check on me. Presumably they think I'm alive, but just in too much pain to come to the phone. They're probably right, too. Either that or they've disowned me because of my association with Michigan.

So this is where Michigan finds itself, precisely one week into a season that began with high hopes: the laughingstock of college football and the entire sports world. While Appalachian State deservedly gets the Good Morning America treatment, Michigan is trying to pick up the pieces and fend off claims that the sport has passed it by. Head coach Lloyd Carr and athletic director Bill Martin are hearing calls for their jobs.

Over the summer, I wrote an article for a Michigan preview magazine about how the perception that Carr was on the hot seat was completely inaccurate. Losing five of six to Ohio State and five of six bowl games couldn't offset the fact that the school president and AD loved him, and that he'd been successful by any measure while running a clean, and very profitable, program.

Suddenly, both Martin and Carr are a lot less comfortable. Martin is under fire not only for his loyalty to Carr, but for scheduling the game in the first place. After all, what was possibly to be gained for the Wolverines? If they routed ASU as expected, so what? A close game would bring probing questions, and as one Michigan blogger wrote before Saturday's contest, "Lose, and the world ends." It's as if Martin, who had an open date on the schedule to fill, didn't want to admit that Michigan was going the same cupcake route as most major programs. So he went out and found what he could tout as the best cupcake out there. Only, ASU wasn't a cupcake at all. It was a fast, talented, confident team that believed it could pull the upset.

As for Carr, he still isn't going to get fired. A program so staid in its approach simply isn't going to push the panic button. But Carr, who was a safe bet to retire after the season no matter what, is now all but certainly coaching his final year in Ann Arbor. He won't be forced out publicly, but the result will be the same. The bigger legacy of this defeat will be seen when it comes time for Michigan to pick a successor. It has always been assumed that the next coach in Ann Arbor would be a "Michigan Man," either a current assistant or someone with deep ties to the program.

The first half of that equation went out the window Saturday. Defensive coordinator Ron English was being hailed as a possible successor during Michigan's 11-0 start in 2006. The last three games, all losses, have seen the Wolverines give up 108 points. A completely incompetent (there is no other word for it) approach to defending Appalachian State's spread offense sealed English's fate. Michigan looked like it had never seen a spread attack before, despite that fact that several teams in its own conference run varieties of the same offense.

What's worse, Michigan's struggles defending the spread, and athletic quarterbacks in general, date back a decade or more. Donovan McNabb and Syracuse first sounded the alarm in 1998, running over, around, under and through the defending AP national champions in an ugly home loss.

The problem is not one of athletic ability. If there's one misconception that will gain strength from Saturday's result, it's that southern teams and southern players are somehow faster than those from the north. Michigan has all the athletes it needs. It recruits talent from places like Texas, California, Louisiana and, yes, Florida. The problem is one of approach. Most top teams in college football operate offensive and defensive schemes that maximize speed. Michigan opts to rely on strength and execution. That will surely change under the next coach.

An upset this significant deserves to be viewed in historical terms. Perception will rank it among the biggest in college football history, and some might choose to rank it with the great shockers in all of sports. Reality is different. This was not the Miracle on Ice, nor was it Virginia losing to Chaminade. In terms of pure talent, it's not even Temple beating Virginia Tech in 1998.

As the two-time defending champions of Division I-AA (I refuse to use the NCAA's ridiculous subdivision names), Appalachian State could very likely compete in several of the "mid-major" conferences. I have no doubt they would win the Sun Belt, and they might well contend in the WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West and the MAC.

In all the coverage of ASU's stunning win, and the subsequent analysis of just how good the Mountaineers really are, I haven't seen anyone mention what I feel is the best parallel: Marshall. The Thundering Herd was the dominant team in I-AA in the 1990s, winning two championships and finishing second twice during the decade. Marshall moved up to Division I-A in 1997, joining the MAC after winning the 1996 I-AA title.

Once Marshall was in I-A, it not only competed, it dominated. The Herd won the MAC title its first four years in the league and five of its first six. So to suggest then that Appalachian State is no better than the 121st best team in America (there are 120 Division I-A programs) is laughable. More likely, ASU is better than at least 50 teams presently in I-A and perhaps even more.

But no matter what the reality, perception will always rank this result as an all-time stunner. Any time something happens for the first time in history -- no I-AA team had ever beaten an AP-ranked I-A squad since the divisions were formally separated in 1978 -- it's bound to be a notable achievement. Throw in the fact that Michigan was ranked fifth, albeit in the wild-guess preseason poll, and that it was Michigan, the winningest program in the history of college football, and it's easy to see why such a fuss is being made over the Mountaineers.

I'm not trying to minimize the impact of this game for Michigan. It was simply inexcusable for the Wolverines to get pushed around on their home field by a team with 20-plus fewer scholarships and a fraction of their budget. Michigan is a punchline right now, and it deserves to be. No matter what the Wolverines eventually accomplish this season, even if they were to win out and go on to win the Rose Bowl (admittedly, an unlikely scenario), the legacy of this season will always be, "yeah, but they lost to Appalachian State."

Still, the next such upset will come sooner, rather than later. There is too much talent in I-AA and the proliferation of the spread offense is a great neutralizer of superior size and strength. That is, if teams like Appalachian State can continue to get games with top-ranked opponents. ASU currently has several games scheduled with top I-A programs the next few years and it will be interesting to see if all those contracts are eventually honored.

For Michigan, there is nothing left but to pick up the pieces. The next three weeks bring Oregon, Notre Dame and Penn State to Ann Arbor, so we will find out quickly if Michigan can rebound or if this will become another 2005 -- a.k.a. "the year of infinite pain" -- for Michigan fans.

John L. Smith Trophy

There was some push on the comment threads for ASU coach Jerry Moore to get the season's first JLS Trophy for failing to run time off the clock before kicking the go-ahead field goal. The gaffe left Michigan with enough time to attempt a field goal of its own. Even though we all know how that turned out, it was a mistake that could have easily been avoided.

Still, I can't in good conscience criticize Moore on the day of such a landmark upset.

Instead, I'll award the season's first JLS Trophy to Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, for his stubborn decision to punt to Cal's DeSean Jackson in their Saturday night showdown in Berkeley. Jackson took the Volunteers' first punt of the game back 77 yards for a touchdown that gave Cal a 21-14 lead. It was the sixth touchdown return of Jackson's career, and also the last punt he saw Saturday night. There's nothing quite like admitting a mistake right after you make it.

BlogPoll Ballot

This season, I'll again be voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment, and rankings may change based on your suggestions.

The key element of the BlogPoll is that it is supposed to avoid the evils of "poll momentum," whereby teams' movement is limited by their preseason positions. I'm looking at my preseason ballot as pure guesswork, so things have change a lot from a week ago. As I gather more evidence in the coming weeks, I will continue to alter my ballot accordingly.

Rank Team Delta
1 Oklahoma 5
2 LSU --
3 Southern Cal 2
4 Florida 3
5 Louisville 3
6 West Virginia 3
7 California 5
8 Wisconsin 2
9 Penn State 7
10 Virginia Tech 1
11 Ohio State --
12 Nebraska 5
13 Georgia 6
14 Auburn --
15 Rutgers --
16 Georgia Tech 10
17 Texas 12
18 Clemson 8
19 TCU 2
20 UCLA 6
21 Boston College 5
22 Arkansas 4
23 Hawaii --
24 Boise State 1
25 Missouri 1

Dropped Out: Michigan (5), Tennessee (13), Florida State (2)

Games I watched: Buffalo-Rutgers, Appalachian State-Michigan, Georgia Tech-Notre Dame, Tennessee-California, Florida State-Clemson, parts of others too numerous to mention.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 04 Sep 2007

93 comments, Last at 11 Sep 2007, 10:44pm by stan stendera

Comments

1
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:20am

I went and watched the start of the Butch Davis era here at UNC (as we beat up a helpless James Madison that gave you the fight you expect from a I-AA team), and in the first half alone, JMU was whistled for 5 or 6 "Only 6 men on the line" penalties. 3 of them were on the same player. However, doesn't that boil down to being just bad coaching before the season started? If they didn't let him line up that way for the past month, would he do it in the game?

I would hope that the SEC fanatics that swear their conference is just so much stronger than every other conference out there (yes, it's a very strong one, but you still have MSU and Vanderbilt and such) will look at some of the games this weekend (Cal beating up on Tennessee, Kansas State almost coming into Auburn and winning) and be a little more humble, but they won't.

2
by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:21am

Hey, at least all the Michigan fans have the Detroit Lions to look forward t...

Oh, wait.

Ummm...so when does hockey season start?

On a serious note: I'd at least like to remind Michigan fans that App State is a really good 1-AA (or whatever they call it now) team. They're very well-supported and they have probably the most beautiful college campus in the nation - it's worth a trip whenever your next vacation comes. They'd be in the top half of any conference in the nation (yes, including the SEC, and if it matters, I attend Tennessee right now). I'm actually happier that UT played at Cal rather than against AppState for this reason.

Perhaps we Vol fans and you Wolverine fans can pull up adjoining barstools and reminisce about our 90's teams...

3
by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:29am

Re: #1 (and sorry for the double post)

There are a fair number of SEC fans who'll never be cured of the superiority complex, and they can be rightly ignored. I grew up in MWC (then WAC) territory, so my exile in the South has been quite the experience. In this era, every major conference's top teams are roughly on equal footing, with USC's talent-stockpile the only notable exception. Still, even the top teams in the conference can field 22 top-notch players throughout most of a game.

In defense of the SEC, though, the "shelf" between the top teams and the bottom-feeders in the conference occurs much farther down the conference than most. The PAC-10 has improved significantly, and I expect to see about half of their teams considered "quality" at the end of the year. The Big-10 will be closer to 3, but they'll be really good. The ACC, Big East, and Big 12 will also be around 3. The SEC will probably be in the 4-8 range, depending on how UT, USC, Arkansas, and Alabama develop.

Besides, all the SEC-stumping gives Southerners something to do besides complain about the heat, humidity, and bugs... ;)

4
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:34am

Gosh, I'm sure glad that only teams from six conferences have a real chance to win the national championship.

As to the upset, what was interesting was how badly outcoached Michigan was. The blocked field goal was purely the result of preparation meltdown. High school junior varsity players have it successfully imprinted in their brains that the blocking rule on field goals is inside-out, yet at Ann Arbor this has yet to be accomplished.

Yes, it really will be interesting to see how many contracts are broken with App State in the next few years.

5
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:48am

The spread offense issue bit Wisconsin as well. Despite regularly facing teams like Northwestern and Purdue the Badger defense got pushed around the first quarter plus until the appropriate adjustments were made. After giving up 160 odd yards the first two drives the defense gave up another 160 odd yards the rest of the game.

I was surprised that Washtington State didn't have more success throwing the ball. The only deep pass completed went RIGHT THROUGH the hands of the Wisconsin cornerback, Jack I. (can't spell his last name)

It was a good first test for the Badgers. And while it may have taken longer than a fan would like the Wisco coaching staff did adjust to Wazzou running out of the spread and pretty much stop the WSU offense the rest of the game.

Having been a fan of a team that has had its share of "humiliating" losses I won't take too much delight in Russell's angst. It just makes for a long following week. And potentially a long season.

I think one of my takeaways from that game is that I don't understand folks who think Chad Henne is a special player. He's an ok Big 10 quarterback. Mike Hart is SPECIAL. Henne's just a guy.

6
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:50am

Re 4:
Gosh, I’m sure glad that only teams from six conferences have a real chance to win the national championship.

Are you suggesting that smaller schools should have more opportunities to play larger schools? Isn't that kind of the opposite of the argument you were making about the scheduling practices of big teams?

7
by oljb (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:53am

I realize it is generally futile to nitpick with subjective rankings, but I am curious about one thing. What about the respective performances of Louisville (crushing defeat of a bottom-feeding 1-AA team) and West Virginia (crushing defeat of possibly the best team in the MAC) would cause the former to go up three spots and the latter to fall three?

8
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:53am

I'm surprised Appy State could get the lead without you mentioning that it's HOT! HOT! HOT!

9
by BB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:04pm

5: Exactly -- Henne has never shown himself to be special. He's John Navarre 2.0, which will get him a nice career as a benchwarming backup/3rd string in the NFL, but not good enough to ever be a regular starter.

Hart, on the other hand, is the offense -- this was made clear two years ago when he had the injury problems and Michigan had a lousy season. Still can't believe they let him sit that long Saturday when he clearly wanted back in the game (and the results show he should have been in there -- nearly 200 yards in just over a half of actual playing time?).

Just horrid preparation by Michigan though, the FG block never should have happened, that guy wasn't even touched, so clearly whatever practicing they were doing wasn't drilling the basic concept of blocking guys on a FG try.

10
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:08pm

While I can understand moving teams ahead of Arkansas (even though I don't think they deserve a drop based on beating a tough-cupcake by about what the spread was, especially considering the final margin was lower based on a meaningless final play touchdown), I don't understand keeping Auburn unchanged considering that they were extremely lucky to beat an unranked team at home. All the teams that you had leapfrogging Arkansas, I would have considered leapfrogging them over Auburn as well.

11
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:13pm

Henne (and Navarre before him) has struck me as just a guy for a while- With all the hoopla over Mich QBs in the NFL (6 straight or something like that), it's amazed me that Carr wasn't able to recruit the position better.

12
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:16pm

I know that a sizeable portion of the readership of this feature consists of Michigan fans, so what I'm about to write is likely to be an unpopular comment. With that caveat, here it goes: The college football world should regard the Appalachian State win over Michigan as a minor upset, not a major one. To view this result as a historic upset is both an insult to Appalachian State's fine program and an unfortunate reinforcement of the perpetual overrating of Michigan's program. As Russell discusses, Appalachian State would be a very competitive program in the lower conferences of I-A. Therefore, its ability to beat a major conference opponent on the road is impressive but not particularly remarkable.

More importantly, however, Michigan was grossly overrated heading into this game, something that has been a consistent problem with regard to Michigan football for many years. The Wolverines disappoint year after year not because they "choke" or because they are poorly coached but rather because their talent consistently is grossly exaggerated and over-hyped. They under-perform inflated expectations, not their potential. Michigan never had any business being in the discussion of likely national championship contenders. In fact, Michigan should have been a mere afterthought in the discussion of Big Ten title contenders (sure, Michigan has a chance, but so does, say, Purdue). This year's decidedly un-elite squad simply was riding Michigan's dubiously earned reputation as a top-flight national power to a much higher than deserved preseason ranking. In case you think I’m engaging in a revisionist downgrading of Michigan’s quality, check out my comments in last week’s Confessions.

13
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:21pm

No, mactbone, I'm suggesting that any team which wins a Division I conference should have an opportunity to win the Championship. The fact that Michigan screwed up, and scheduled a I-AA team with talent, and paid the price for it, will merely reinforce efforts among BCS powers to make sure they get real cupcakes. That is what the incentives dictate, and there's nothing like a highly publicized disaster that results from ignoring incentives, to reinforce incentives. We will see more games which are over by the coin toss than ever in the coming years, as a result of Saturday's upset. A system which didn't
expose a team to huge risk by scheduling nonconference opponents with talent, especially not widely publicized talent, because a team was guaranteed a shot at the title by virtue of winning it's conference, would have much better incentives, resulting in better football.

As to App State, obviously, when a team wins multiple I-AA tiles in a short time frame, it's time to start looking for a way to move up.

14
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:35pm

Re 13:
You know, teams used to pencil in the MAC as an automatic win too. It's not going to be long and the only distinction in college football is elite (OSU, USC, et al) and the rest.

15
by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:48pm

Yeah when I saw that Michigan was losing, I was like spread offense/athletic QB-the one thing Michigan has never figured out since the national championship year.

Vanderbilt is probably as good as Rutgers is right now, no joke-they just don't have a RB like Ray Rice.

as an Alabama fan, I am worried about the Vandy game. Last year's game was close (thanks to 2 fumbles inside the 5....part of Shula's goal of never scoring in the red zone). But if Alabama beats up on Vandy, I think they start out 3-0 and probably 5-1 going into the the Tennessee game.

16
by BB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:49pm

I think one of the more aggravating things as a Michigan fan watching the game on BTN was hearing how Jerry Moore had been coaching at ASU for like 15 years running a completely different scheme, and only switched to the spread 4 years ago, resulting pretty quickly in 2 championships (none previously). Yet somehow Michigan's coaches never seem to change any schemes, and can't even make in-game adjustments. We're lucky if they even adjust much at halftime.

Les Miles will be just perfect as a Michigan coach if they get him -- recruiting all the talent in the world yet somehow having at least one brain-dead loss per year. So many people said LSU had one of if not the most talented team in the country (and certainly the SEC) last year, yet they managed to not even win their half of the conference. Sounds like a logical successor to me.

17
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:50pm

Well, reducing scholorships to 85 has had a huge leveling effect, but that will likely result in the BCS powers redoubling their efforts to ensure that they don't repest Michigan's mistake, that of scheduling a fairly obscure team with talent. It wasn't as if this past weekend had a plethora of competitive games.

The incentives are in place for some academically sound I-AA school to purposely put together a perpetually traveling sacrficial lamb of a football team, playing 10 road games a year at $400,000 a road trip, and thus fund a terrific athletic program for the rest of the student body. I'm almost surprised it hasn't been done yet. Imagine the recruiting pitch: "Son, you'll get a full ride scholorship to one of the better academic institutions in the country, and all you have to do is go on the road 10 Saturdays a year, and get beat 63-0. How's that sound?"

18
by Adrock (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:54pm

As a Wisconsin alum, I take great, great joy in this loss. I just want to remind all you sympathetic souls sharing Michigan's pain that sports fandom is just a wonderful place to drop all that faux maturity and rub it in their blue and maize faces. Michigan sucks, and no amount of blathering about how good App. State is really matters; its a tremendous, unexpected loss that will live in infamy, likely forever. If you are a Michigan fan, you should consider another sport to follow, because basically its a joke to be a Michigan fan now. Living on fumes, that's it.

If something really terrible happened, I would be kind and empathetic about it.

19
by Whiskey (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 12:56pm

17.

Sounds like Duke and SUNY Buffalo to me.

20
by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:02pm

So if Michigan does somehow go 11-1. Can we just say to the Notre Dame, Ohio State fans, etc. who say "well you lost to Appalachian State"-that they lost to a team that lost to Appalachian State.

21
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:08pm

Michigan fans are among the most arrogant in my experience, so there is some extra pleasure in this outcome. At least Michigan has among the more storied histories in college football, however, so one is not wholly surprised at the arrogance exhibited by Michigan fans. What has always struck me as more strange is how some schools with far more modest histories have very arrogant fans. For example, when I've spent time in the southeast, South Carolina especially, I've always been surprised at how Clemson fans have an extraordinarily inflated view of their school's football tradition.

My fate in life is to acknowledge the utter inadequacy of my favorite college program, Minnesota (loss to Bowling Green on Saturday, thank you very much), while pathetically informing anyone, who is polite enough to pretend to care, that once, in the distant mists of time, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were one of the titans of the sport, for a period spanning several decades. Sigh.

22
by Whiskey (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:08pm

20:

Let's skip the middleman. If the computer polls don't include I-AA, maybe Michigan can go to the championship game, and App. St. gets recognized as the true National Champion.

Either that, or every team playing Michigan runs a spread-type offense and they wind up losing six or seven games.

23
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:10pm

Hey, anybody here plugged into Notre Dame's situation? Why can't they recruit anymore? Academics?

24
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:11pm

As Russell discusses, Appalachian State would be a very competitive program in the lower conferences of I-A. Therefore, its ability to beat a major conference opponent on the road is impressive but not particularly remarkable

Losing to a weak lower conference team in the home opener would be almost as embarrasing. Nebraska hasn't lost a home opener to an unranked team since 1977.

25
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:13pm

Will, I don't think that will ever happen. For one thing, there aren't a lot of I-AA independents. For another, well, there are playoffs - I don't think too many schools would be willing to give up their shot at a title just to make money.

CA, I totally agree that this was not a big deal in terms of quality of competition. (Nor in terms of "beating a I-A top-25 team" - polls are pretty dumb in the first place, and preseason polls are even dumber.) Appalachian State appears to be, as Russell says, comparable to a top non-BCS school, at the very least. Not too many people rank all DI teams together, so unless you looked carefully at, say, Massey's end-of-season ranking last year, you might not have noticed. (He had ASU 44th in his BCS rankings and 31st using margin of victory.

The game itself was more noticeable because of the supposed difference between the teams, but should be remembered for the way Carr seemingly stood and watched while his team lost. The fact that the Mountaineers are a good team doesn't mean that Michigan had an excuse for being unprepared, or for making poor decisions (go for one, Lloyd - didn't I already say that here?).

P.S. Big Ten Network, you still suck. You just got lucky.

26
by Whiskey (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:23pm

21:

I place a lot of blame on the Big 10-Notre Dame complex. College football in general is full of cant regarding the relative strengths of big name vs. small name programs, and this cant provides a direct financial boost to the big name schools, and no conference benefits more than the Big 10. They have the largest fan base, make the most money, and get the most press, which also means they have the widest gap between propaganda and reality. For example, let's all remember the "Ohio St. vs. Michigan should be the National Championship" nonsense from last year. It's why the Big Ten's president is the largest impediment to a playoff.

My hope is that games such as these provide a vastly increased awareness that schools such as Michigan have inflated reputations, and that the only way to determine who is better is to actually play games.

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:33pm

zlionsfan, hey, a guy can hope, can't he? It would be hilarious; some academically prestigous small private school is facing fundraising challenges in regards to student facilities, so it begins a football program, with a team comprised of guys who average 5-11, 180 pounds, who then go out and play 12 road games a year for 400k a pop at the football factories. They wouldn't even need a home stadium!

28
by matty boy (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:38pm

i'm a rabid michigan fan and lloydalist who attended saturday's debacle, so take the following with a large grain of salt:

RE: 4
i have a hard time basing 'outcoached' on a mental breakdown at a critical juncture. not to disagree entirely - this was a total team breakdown, and that falls squarely on the head coach.

RE: 11
"recruit the position better"?!?!?! what on earth are you talking about? henne was a huge recruit, as is ryan mallett. drew henson was as highly recruited as anyone in history. brady was a top ten recruit. heck, clayton richard was a huge recruit, got stuck behind other huge recruits and went to baseball. gutierrez was a big recruit and was all set to start for two years before he got hurt (and, it should be noted, made the patriots roster this year).

you couldn't be more wrong - michigan has probably recruited the position better than ANYONE during lloyd's tenure. know your facts.

and 12:

duh. i don't even know where to begin. "an afterthought in the discussion of big ten title contenders" is just flat idiotic. if you think michigan is going to finish out of the running in the big ten, i can't help you.

no, i don't necessarily think this was a fluke or an outlier. but let's not base an entire season's outlook (for ANYONE) on two lousy quarters. if mike hart plays the whole game we're not even having this discussion.

29
by RobinFiveWords (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:45pm

Russell,

Poll "momentum" could be more accurately described as poll anchoring.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 1:52pm

Oh, I agree, matty, that it is a mistake to base too much on a single mental error, but it just seemed emblematic of the entire game, and it was such Pop Warner-level error that it stuck out to me. I've never been the biggest Carr-basher around, and I think some of his recent setbacks, including a last second loss to the Vince Young-lead Longhorns, and the weird loss to Nebraska, cause people to overlook that he also has January 1st victories over teams like Florida and Auburn on his resume, in addition to a national championship. Bad special teams play, however, when you have better ahtletes overall than your opponent, is not a good indicator.

31
by joel in atlanta (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:00pm

I'm not a big fan of the college game, so maybe someone can answer this question:

Who decides whether a team like Appalachian State plays in I-A or I-AA? You occasionally hear about these I-AA and Division II "powerhouses" that win lots of titles (I seem to remember Pittsburg State being REALLY good). Why aren't these schools forced by the NCAA to move up a division?

32
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:02pm

Re: ASU v UM
Three days later, I'm coming to some conclusions that this really wasn't that surprising after all. It reminded us of some things that we at least suspected might be true:
1. The talent disparity between even an elite program and a very good lesser school is low enough that good scheming and execution can produce a victory on behalf of the lesser school.
2. Chad Henne is a good quarterback. No less, but not better. Not great, certainly, and not even very good. He's shown he's capable of making good throws and leading a quality pass offense, but also capable of making not good throws and failing to make the plays he needs to to win the game.
3. Michigan's secondary is still suspect, and the Wolverines did not correct their long-time failing against spread offenses in the offseason.

In the crapshoot that is the preseason polls, Michigan at #5 was clearly overrated. But, I will remind you this is a team that returned:
1. A QB with 2 years of starting experience
2. Its best WR, who showed last year he was a formidable deep threat for a team that had been missing such a weapon for several years
3. An outstanding college running back
4. Several offensive linemen, including a tackle who if he had departed likely would have been among the first half dozen selections in the NFL draft
5. A leavening of defensive starters, buttressed by some high powered recruits

Minus a little on the QB, plus a little on the RB, and this is a formula largely similar to that used last year by Ohio State in their undefeated regular season. But the Wolverines were a program with question marks at key positions, and those question marks mostly came up zeroes on Saturday. For that they should be punished, as Russell's ballot shows.

As to the perennial question of conference superiority, it is an oft-fickle mistress, and one that changes from year to year and from game to game. After all, the Big Ten did go 2-1 in bowls against the SEC last year in what was clearly a down year for the conference.

33
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:03pm

When I find most aggravating about the whole situation is not one Michigan fan, team official, or area journalist has given any credit to App State for out-playing Michigan in four quarters of football.

Anybody see Clemson beat up on grossly over-rated #19 FL State? I know its gotten to be somewhat routine, but I always love seeing the David wail on Goliath.

34
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:04pm

Re 28- I'm not all that knowledgable about recruiting, but I watch a lot of football. And I never get the sense watching Mich that the QB is anything more than a "game manager" type. Maybe it's the offensive scheme, but Henne and Navarre looked like average college QBs, not anyone that would scare you. And for Michigan to have seven years of middling QB play- to me that's surprising.

35
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:07pm

Re #31
It is, unsurprisingly, pretty much all about the money. Division I-A schools are expected to meet certain standards in terms of stadium size, attendance, and scholarships; schools in I-AA face lesser or no such requirements. The standards for Division II and III (no athletic scholarships at all in III) are lesser still, and the restrictions are in place.

This is just a rough answer; I haven't really looked at the question in detail, particularly w/r/t I v II v III, but I-A v I-AA is a topic of minor discussion when some school makes the jump, as Marshall did in the 90's and other schools have done more recently.

36
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:15pm

While Phillip Fulmer's decision to punt to DeSean Jackson was JLS Trophy-worthy (by the way, it was hilarious how right before the punt, Brent Musburger described Tennessee punter Colquitt's confidence that his team could stop Jackson on punt returns), Lloyd Carr should at least be in the running for his decision to go for 2 points way too early.

It was 31-20 in the third quarter when Michigan's TD made it 31-26. Instead of going for 2 to make it 31-28, Michigan should have just kicked the PAT to make it 31-27. After their next TD, another PAT would have put Michigan up 34-31 rather than just 32-31. Of course, the rest of the game might have played out differently (maybe ASU goes for a TD at the end of the game instead of settling for what would have been merely a game-tying FG), and who knows, ASU might have been able to block one of the two PATs (considering how easily they blocked those two late FG attempts), but still . . . .

37
by Derek (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:16pm

Will,

What makes you think that Notre Dame can't recruit any more? I'm certainly not a fan of the program but, according to Rivals, they are ranked #1 this season (so far) after finishing #8 in both 2007 and 2006.

2008
5-star: 1
4-star: 14
3-star: 4

2007
5-star: 1
4-star: 12
3-star: 4
2-star (kicker): 1

2006
5-star: 2
4-star: 10
3-star: 15
2-star (kicker): 1

40 of 65 recruits over the past 3 years have been either 4-star or 5-star talent with the only 2-star recruits being kickers. They aren't USC but who is?

38
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:26pm

Who decides whether a team like Appalachian State plays in I-A or I-AA? You occasionally hear about these I-AA and Division II “powerhouses� that win lots of titles (I seem to remember Pittsburg State being REALLY good). Why aren’t these schools forced by the NCAA to move up a division?

Appalachian State has an enrollment of 1300. It's an accomplishment to have put together a program like it has, but you can't expect it to compete with the larger schools every year.

39
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:29pm

Regarding Notre Dame:

Whenever Notre Dame is struggling, you always see various people trotting out the academics argument. I dislike this argument, and think it's simply one of those convenient excuses. When Notre Dame wins, the coach is a genius because it's "so hard for them to find athletes that meet academic requirements". When they lose, it's because "they couldn't find athletes that meet academic requirements." When Willingham went to a BCS bowl his first year, you heard the former. When they struggled his third year (and got canned), you heard the latter.

I recall a few seasons ago, prior to Weis, it was being trotted out for Willingham, and someone (I think on this site!) pointed out that the average high school GPAs and SAT scores of scholarship players at Michigan and Ohio State, not to mention a number of other schools, were higher than Notre Dame's, and that in fact, a good percentage of starters at both those schools were also recruited by Notre Dame - they just didn't go there.

Notre Dame's "problems", such as they are, aren't about "academic standards." That's a red herring thrown out whenever they're struggling.

Notre Dame is getting top-notch recruits (as pointed out in #37). They just aren't doing much with them. This is Weis's first year where a good portion of the starters are "his players" - if not his recruits, they're players he has shaped since he got to Notre Dame. This is his first "real year" to show how he's going to coach them. It'll be an interesting time.

By the way, if Notre Dame has a lousy year this year - especially if they do worse than Willingham's final year, there's going to be more than a few sportswriters (not to mention the Black Coaches Association and other such groups) that are going to point out that Willingham ("the black guy") was the first coach ever jettisoned by Notre Dame after three years despite getting only one year with "his own players", yet Weis ("the white guy") was given a 10-year contract after one good year. I hope ND's ready for that shitstorm, because if their record slips this year, it's going to be coming.

40
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:30pm

Well, Derek, I'm no college recruting expert, which is why I asked. When's the last time Notre Dame had a defensive player drafted high by an NFL team? To me, not having any defensive players drafted high by the NFL is indicative of a failure to draft speed. I don't think Notre Dame has had a defensive player drafted in the first round in a decade.

41
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:37pm

Make that "failure to recruit speed", of course. It just seems odd to me that Notre Dame hasn't has single defensive player go in the first round in ten years. Can they not identify the talent, or can they not recruit the talent, or are there a bunch of extremely talented defensive players who have gone to Notre Dame that have not received good coaching?

The last time I was very impressed with Notre Dame's program was when Holtz had Barry Alvarez as his defensive coordinator. Given that the long successful head coaching career of Barry Alvarez is now over, that indicates how long Notre Dame has underperformed it's repuation.

42
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:52pm

Tarrant, I think Weis got more out of a close loss to a top-ranked team than any coach in history. I think it likely that if USC had thumped the Irish in October of '05 instead of staging a miracle last minute drive to come from behind, Weis does not get that extension. You are correct, however; if the Irish have a bad season, there are going to be people in the Willingham camp who are going to scream bloody murder. Given that an 0-3 start, and a seven loss season are distinct possibilities, things may get very ugly.

43
by Derek (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:53pm

Will,

I don't follow the program closely enough to answer your question. I'm sure that a Fighting Irish fan will weigh in soon.

As Tarrant notes, it will be interesting to see what happens with Weis over the next few years. I was never convinced that Willingham was 100% of the problem and a poor start this season should raise some questions about Charlie.

44
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:56pm

#39... Allow me to comment on Ty Willingham's ND tenure and how it's currently affecting the team we see on the field now. Ty did a great job recruiting in 2003... he got ALL the players that Weis took to another level like Quinn, McKnight, Samardzija, Carlson, etc. Almost all of those players are now gone. Willingham's 2004 class was absolutely horrendous. Outside of Darius Walker (a slow college RB), NONE of those players are upper echelon college players, let alone stars. The 2005 class was hurt by the combination of Willingham's firing and Weis' late arrival. College football is ALL about getting players and Weis has done a very good job of that the past 2 seasons. However, you can't have a good college team that has little to no experience across the team. What you're left with is a lot of true freshmen and sophomores playing and upperclassmen who aren't good/have little experience. That doesn't make for a good team. The Willingham-Weis issue is fodder for people who are clueless about the program. BTW, I'm black.

45
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 2:57pm

Re: 38 Appalachian State has an enrollment of 1300. It’s an accomplishment to have put together a program like it has, but you can’t expect it to compete with the larger schools every year.

More like 13,000, which is larger than the enrollment of Notre Dame.

46
by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 3:00pm

RE: AppState for Div I

It's been a while since I looked, but Div I requirements have (had?) an average home attendance requirement of 15,000 through a season. For example, before Joe Glenn took over at Wyoming (my alma), the Cowboys were very close to this mark, and I was waiting for the news at the end of every season.

For the logistics, consider:

Boone's population is roughly 15,000
AppState's student population is roughly 15,000 as well.
The stadium seats 18,000.
AppState currently holds no Div I rivals to draw high attendance marks, and would have to primarily rely on homebodies to fill the stands for the first couple of years.

While it's possible for them to make D-I, it'd be very difficult without expanding or rebuilding the stadium for a larger seating capacity. This would be the primary setback for them.

(For comparison, here's Wyoming.)

Laramie: approx. 25,000-30,000
UW: approx. 10,000 (realistically 7,000 present, the rest are distance learning)
The only 4-year college in the state, and widely seen as Wyoming's lone ambassador.
Well-established local feuds with CSU, Air Force, Utah, and BYU consistently fill the 35,000ish stadium. Since they usually get two of those teams each year, they only need to average about 5,000-8,000 for the rest of the games to clear the minimum attendance mark.

Hope this helps, at least in a general sense.

47
by morganja (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 3:01pm

Re: Will Allen wrote:

"The incentives are in place for some academically sound I-AA school to purposely put together a perpetually traveling sacrficial lamb of a football team, playing 10 road games a year at $400,000 a road trip, and thus fund a terrific athletic program for the rest of the student body. I’m almost surprised it hasn’t been done yet. Imagine the recruiting pitch: “Son, you’ll get a full ride scholorship to one of the better academic institutions in the country, and all you have to do is go on the road 10 Saturdays a year, and get beat 63-0. How’s that sound?�

Or "Say son, how would you like to play at Michigan AND Nebraska AND Ohio State AND USC AND LSU AND...."

48
by morganja (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 3:19pm

We have 15,117 going to school here. We have been trying to go Division I for the past decade. We can average 15,000 for home games, but barely. The population of Boone is actually a lot smaller than 12,000 when you are counting total people here because students and citizens are counted twice. We're two hours through the mountains from significant population centers such as Asheville and Charlotte. Still, we love football here and the Mountaineers and fill the stadium every home game and have spillover on the side of the mountain overlooking the stadium.

APP State 34 Michigan 32

....my new signature.

49
by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 3:28pm

Re: 48

Thanks for the clarifying info. ASU's best shot at D-IA is the same as most other "small-market" schools: build a 40,000-ish stadium, and set up home-and-home arrangements with larger schools that will travel well enough to get one or two "bump" games a year. Factor in a new conference rivalry or two (in due time), and the rest of the home games will only need a few thousand. AppState can make that easily, once the stadium issue is solved (the hard part).

Even better, the game contracts can be written to allow a big school to buy out the second game. E.g. Ohio State could contract for a home-and-home, then the AppState "home" game could take place in Columbus for a reasonable fee. Again, all that's needed is the stadium. I don't know how ASU stands re: funding, though.

BTW morganja, if you're in Boone (as your comment implies), then I count you as one of the luckiest posters on this site. We'd have gone there too if both my wife and I could have gotten the degrees we were seeking there.

Lastly, the home page of ASU's website is highlighted by a game picture with the caption:

HAIL TO THE VICTORS

Classic.

50
by GatorGriff (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 3:43pm

Re: 40...To the best of my research ability, the last Notre Dame defensive player to get drafted in the 1st round was DL Renaldo Wynn, who was Jacksonville's 1st round pick in the 1997 draft (21st overall).

51
by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 3:55pm

enough talk about the Northeast powers. Lets talk about SEC speed.

52
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 3:56pm

#50 - and who was just cut...I think the Skins drafted a DB out of ND in the early to mid 90s in the first round.

53
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 3:58pm

morganja, I've been to Asheville, Cashiers, and Highlands, NC, plenty of times, but never had made as far north in NC as your home; it sounds like a wonderful place. Looking at mapquest, it seems as if the location of the closest airport would be an impediment to moving up. Anyways, congrats to App St., and their fans!

Gator, I thought it had been a while, and I can't think of any current prominent NFL defensive players, off the top of my head, who went to Notre Dame. That indicates to me that they are not recruiting many fast guys, at least not on defense.

54
by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 4:03pm

Hell-Brady Quinn was the 1st skill offensive position drafted from Notre Dame since 1993 (which had Mirer, Bettis, and Irv Smith in the 1st round).

Faine and Petitgout were 1st rounders as well though.

55
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 4:52pm

When’s the last time Notre Dame had a defensive player drafted high by an NFL team?

Defensive End Victor Abiamiri, 2nd Round 2007 Draft, Philadelphia Eagles.

56
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 4:55pm

The whole list of ND players is at the link in my name.

Here's a list of the first ND defensive player drafted in the past 10 years plus a couple notable players:

2007 2 57 Victor Abiamiri DE Philadelphia Eagles
2005 3 74 Justin Tuck DE New York Giants
2004 2 60 Courtney Watson MLB New Orleans Saints
2002 2 52 Anthony Weaver DE Baltimore Ravens
2002 4 133 Rocky Boiman LB Tennessee Titans
1998 3 85 Allen Rossum DB Philadelphia Eagles
1997 1 21 Renaldo Wynn DT Jacksonville Jaguars

57
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 4:57pm

Stupid comment monster, luckily I wrote this in notepad.

Here's a list of the first ND defensive player drafted in the past 10 years plus a couple notable players.

2007 2 57 Victor Abiamiri DE Philadelphia Eagles
2005 3 74 Justin Tuck DE New York Giants
2004 2 60 Courtney Watson MLB New Orleans Saints
2002 2 52 Anthony Weaver DE Baltimore Ravens
2002 4 133 Rocky Boiman LB Tennessee Titans
1998 3 85 Allen Rossum DB Philadelphia Eagles
1997 1 21 Renaldo Wynn DT Jacksonville Jaguars

58
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 5:11pm

Re: #44

Weis may have taken Willingham's players to the next level. But then, people were saying a few years earlier that Willingham took Davie's players to the next level. By the time he was fired, those same people were saying that Willingham didn't take Davie's players to the next level, instead, it was that they had had experience as freshman and sophomores under Davie, and it was Willingham that got to take advantage of the fact that they were veterans by the time he got there. That Willingham just sort of "coasted" on Davie's players.

By the same token, I believe it's too early to say anything about whether Weis took Willingham's recruits to the next level. Maybe they were ready to go to that next level with or without Weis. I don't know. I do know that Weis didn't do too well against the elite teams he faced in those two years (1-1 against Michigan, 0-2 against USC, 0-2 in bowl games, and not infrequently being obliterated in those games). And 2007 isn't exactly off to a roaring start - admittedly using greener players.

I don't know if Weis is the gridiron savior that Notre Dame requires - maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But anointing him so after his first year, and giving him that 10-year contract, might have been a bit much, just like it was a bit much to do so to Willingham after his first year, having seen how that turned out.

I don't believe anything could, or would, happen to Weis after this year, no matter how it might go. However, next season, absolutely, positively, has to be outstanding, or the natives are going to start getting very restless.

59
by morganja (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 5:13pm

Boone is great, if we can keep the developers from building crappy developments all over our ridges. It is beautiful and all the hiking, climbing, biking and skiing anyone can handle. The students are mostly mountain kids, so very polite and nice. It's a different world up here.

60
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 5:15pm

I agree that the talent disparity between "big" schools and others is shrinking simply because there are just a lot more good players than before (more people playing, better training, etc.) However, there is still a huge difference between the players at Michigan and at App. St. I think the final blocked kick showed that -- the DB from ASU was run down by Michigan's kicker! That shows the athletic disparity between the two programs. However, as players get better, coaching gets more important. The days of just having better players and winning seems over in college football. It's still alive in college basketball now (see Roy Williams and UNC) since there is only 5 players on the court at the time but hopefully that will change too.

61
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 5:21pm

The new AP poll is out, Michigan dropped completely out of the rankings.

It's the biggest poll ranking drop ever - no team has ever dropped more than 20 spots (#5 to unranked) in a single week.

Well, Michigan has always been one for writing new things into the record books, but not usually in this way.

62
by morganja (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 5:46pm

We didn't get to see much of the game here in Boone, but that clip is played over and over. He is run down by the kicker, #34, but that guy is flying. He has got to have a decent 40 time. Lynch apparently is pretty embarrassed about it.

63
by SuperHusker (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 7:56pm

More like 13,000, which is larger than the enrollment of Notre Dame.

Ah football broadcasters, you have betrayed me for the last time!!!

64
by Mike W (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 8:04pm

I just heard ESPN is starting a new network, to be called ESPNU Classic. It's going to premiere by showing the UM-AppSt game around the clock for a week.

65
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 8:45pm

Re Weis's Contract:
He took the school to two BCS Bowls in two years - whatever else that has brought a lot of money in. I'm not sure what ND's contract status is with NBC but by Willingham's third year I'm sure it was in serious jeapordy. Whether Weis is a good coach or not needs to be born out, but pure financial considerattions should be taken into account and he's surely done more for the program than Willingham. Anyway, it's not like that contract's all that real - there was talk that Weis was jumping last off-season and ND's alumn can cover any buyout if Weis sucks that bad. I think the biggest difference is that Weis will at least provide more entertainment (personality and offense) than Willingham and that influences how willing people are to accept mediocrity.

66
by Mike W (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 9:11pm

I have a question for those of you who follow recruiting more closely than I do. Are recruiting grades as poisoned by expectations of name schools as much as pre-season polls? That is, if Joe Cantmiss signs with Michigan St, does he suddenly become a 4-star recruit, whereas if he had decided on UM he would have stayed a 5-star guy? Do high schoolers really always get graded before they choose where they go, or is an individual's assessment poisoned by what school he chooses?

I suppose one has to look at how many kids from a given school wind up getting drafted and playing in the NFL, and not just consider how well that school did when a recruiting class was juniors and seniors. But it seems some schools routinely overachieve and some underachieve, and I wonder if it is because of coaching, or biased assessments of recruits. Anyway, thoughts?

67
by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 9:22pm

Rivals does tend to upgrade say a 1 or 2 star that signs with a major school. Not to a 5 star, but they can move up to a 3 star or even 4 star. Rivals also changes grades during the high school season, I know Scout does not. I have no idea about ESPN's grades.

68
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 9:32pm

#56... I don't think Weis was annointed anything by the ND people. His 10 year contract was based purely on a market in which his services were and still are coveted by NFL teams. I liked Ty, but no one was beating down his door to get him to leave ND. That is the SOLE reason for the extension.

Re: Willingham... some people in the media thought it was a bad job by ND based on how he was fired. I thought the worst thing that happened with Ty was that George O'Leary was hired over him in the first place. I'm very happy that a black man was given an opportunity to coach ND, but I'd be lying if I said I thought he was a great coach or was recruiting as well as possible.

69
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 9:48pm

I love how an increasingly large number of people are attempting to downplay this as even that much of an upset at all based on the two 1AA titles. First of al, where were these people with their Michiugan could lose this one predictions *before* the game? Nowhere, because this game was off everyone's radar for obvious reasons.

Second, before Saturday Appalachian State had lost their last 4 games against 1A opponents by a combined score of 133-25. Good enough to beat half of all 1A teams? A threat? Um...no.

Now I can understand Russell attempting to rationalize the loss to minimize his pain. I'd do the same thing if it was my Gators. Anybody would. But that doesn't change the fact that it's rationalization, no more, no less.

The truth is, that game never should've even come down to Michigan needing a FG to win on the last play. They definitely never should've been behind by double digits at any point. What this game really represents is the nadir of a once-proud program because they kept an incompetent coach and his equally incompetent staff on one or two years too long.

Anyone who thinks Michigan will somehow win out despite demonstrating the exact same weaknesses they've had for years, but to a somehow even greater degree, is delusional. Team weaknesses don't magically get better overnight (unless you're the Colts).

#16: Dead on about Miles.

#28: Absolutely right. Michigan can recruit the players, they just never get any better after they arrive, and in some cases actually appear to get worse.

#58: I don't exactly agree--the little guy has made much more progress in college hoops than in football. And not just recently either. If anything, the small size of players on the court at one time in basketball makes springing an upset easier.

Finally, the bottom line is that sports like life is a zero sum game. For every new program that rises up, a program that was on top has to fall down. Lord knows I can empathize what with the team I'm a fan of.

70
by Derek (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 10:04pm

I would say that recruiting evaluations are imperfect but - like the NFL draft - tend to be fairly predictive. As an Iowa fan, I know Bob Sanders and Dallas Clark were lightly recruited but have been productive in both college and the NFL.

It would be nice to see a comprehensive study of the data but full scale coverage of recruiting is pretty new and has changed quite a bit within the last 5 years so it would be difficult to formulate the study.

71
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 10:34pm

#68: My gut feeling is that recruiting is even more of a crapshoot than the NFL draft, because it involves the evaluation of thousands of players as opposed to dozens. There are certainly recruiting "busts" that are as bad as any NFL draft bust, yet colleges recruit so many players all the time you never hear about them--they just go get another high school kid and move on.

On the Moore decision to kick a FG with 30 seconds left: at first I thought it was a colossally awful decision too, until I factored in that Appalachian State had no timeouts left and only needed a FG to win. Calling a running play that doesn't score there results in the FG unit frantically sprinting onto the field to get a kick off ebfore time runs out. Calling passing plays that don't score defeats the purpose of running out the clock and imagine the furor if a pass is called that results in an INT--Appalachian State had already turned it over three times in the second half.

Having no timeouts was a HUGE factor that everyone's overlooking in that situation. I'm certain Moore would've loved to have kicked the winning FG on the final play, but without timeouts it was harder than you realize. And even if a TD is scored on the very next play Michigan still has basically the same amount of time to get in position for a game winning TD of their own anyway.

72
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:05pm

#69, on kicking the field goal on first down: I was thinking that Appalachian State should have taken a knee on first down, run the clock down to 10 seconds or so, and then spiked the ball on second down. This would have left them with an extra down and enough time should anything go wrong on the field goal snap.

On a related note, it would have been a smart (though not ethical) move for the Appalachian State defensive backs to tackle Manningham (and any other close Michigan WRs) when Michigan's last ditch pass were in the air. The penalty would have only cost them 15 yards, kept Michigan out of field goal and Hail Mary range, and taken enough time that Michigan would have had no chance to score on its final play.

73
by Derek (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:14pm

Dolfan,

I agree that recruiting rankings are less predictive than the NFL draft...that is why I used "fairly predictive" with a few examples that hinted at the weaknesses of a still developing process.

A few years of Rivals Top 5 rankings suggest both the genius and the folly of the system.

2002
1. Vince Young
2. Haloti Ngata
3. Lorenzo Booker
4. Ben Olson
5. Reggie McNeal

2003
1. Ernie Sims
2. Reggie Bush
3. Whitney Lewis
4. Andre Caldwell
5. Kyle Wright

2004
1. Adrian Peterson
2. Theodore Ginn, Jr
3. Early Doucet
4. Rhett Bomar
5. Keith Rivers

It certainly looks like the #1 and #2 players are worth signing...6 players who ended up being chosen in the top half of the 1st round. After that it is a bit more interesting.

74
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 11:40pm

Okay, I hadn't thought of just taking a knee and spiking the ball, that would've been the only way to go. It might've been a move so utterly presumptuous though as to invite wrath from the football gods.

But I've never understood the whole "bring out the kicking team on second/third down so you can get another down if anything goes wrong" philosophy. I don't recall ever in my life seeing a team in that situation botch the FG and then get the ball back for another down. The kick either misses, or is blocked, or there IS a bad snap, but a player picks it up and tries to run, gets tackled, and the other team always gets the ball afterwards. ALWAYS.

Now I'm not saying there's *never* in the history of football been a situation where something went wrong on a FG and the kicking team didn't get the ball back and kick the winning FG on the next play, I'm just saying I've never seen or heard of it happening.

#71: You just HAD to mention Ted Ginn, didn;t you? ):-( Seriously, except for Bomar that '04 recruiting top 5 actually looks pretty good. Doucet and Rivers should both be first rounders in '08.

I do find it interesting, in a disturbing sort of way, that the Fins drafted two top 5 players in a recruiting class this year (Booker is the other) who don't look like they'll ever amount to anything beyond situational and one-dimensional straight-line speed guys. Perhaps the inherently non-competitive nature of high school football causes that kind of player to look much better than he actually is?

75
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 12:38am

But I’ve never understood the whole “bring out the kicking team on second/third down so you can get another down if anything goes wrong� philosophy. I don’t recall ever in my life seeing a team in that situation botch the FG and then get the ball back for another down. The kick either misses, or is blocked, or there IS a bad snap, but a player picks it up and tries to run, gets tackled, and the other team always gets the ball afterwards. ALWAYS.

Now I’m not saying there’s *never* in the history of football been a situation where something went wrong on a FG and the kicking team didn’t get the ball back and kick the winning FG on the next play, I’m just saying I’ve never seen or heard of it happening.

I can think of one example where a team WOULD have had the chance to rekick after a bad snap on a 3rd down FG attempt, but the holder panicked (and the refs screwed up, but that's a whole other story): the Trey Junkin game.

76
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 12:53am

I think the final blocked kick showed that — the DB from ASU was run down by Michigan’s kicker! That shows the athletic disparity between the two programs.

ASU's DB has said he started to cramp up in the middle of the run. You can see it on the replay. Had the game continued, he would have had to be taken out.

77
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 12:53am

#73: Oh, you mean the game where the refs missed blatant pass interference after a Giant player (I forget who) tried to throw it after the bad snap but a Niner guy was mugging who he wanted to pass it to? That game?

That one still makes me want to retch BTW. Yeah, blame a 41-year old guy picked up the week before for your team blowing a 24-point second half lead (with just a little over a quarter to go mind you) and even being in a position where you HAD to kick a FG to win. Yup, it's all Trey Junkin's fault.

78
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 1:04am

BTW 26: Amen brutha. I knew there was someone I forgot to give props to earlier.

#60 and 74: I was thinking the same thing. All these people propping up Appy State as a legit threat (after the fact) missed the whole point: when Team A's KICKER is faster than Team B's star DB, Team A should always win and it shouldn't even be close. That one play told you all you need to know about the athletic difference between 1A and 1AA, or whatever the hell they call the two now.

Reminds me of when I saw the famous Princeton upset over UCLA live in '96. Every single UCLA player on the court looked *much* taller, bigger and athletic than his Princeton counterpart. The physical difference just leaped off the screen. It literally looked like an NBA team going against a bunch of guys from the local Y, which in a lot of ways it basically was. When a team triumphs over another who is that clearly and vastly superior physically, it's an upset and should be remembered as such forever. The Appy State QB weighed 175 for God's sake! Your average 1A sophomore QB weighs 210-220 or more.

79
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 1:06am

And by #60 I meant #58 :)

80
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 1:15am

a Giant player (I forget who) tried to throw it after the bad snap

Punter Matt Allen. Like Junkin, it was his last NFL game.

the refs missed blatant pass interference [when] a Niner guy was mugging who he wanted to pass it to?

The refs didn't realize that Rich Seubert was an eligible receiver on the play, so they waved off the pass interference.

The NFL apologized for the non-call a couple of days later, but I think they got something wrong in the apology:

One additional note on the play: Giants holder Matt Allen did not have the option of spiking the ball to stop the clock, which only can be done by taking a hand-to-hand snap directly from the center. If Allen had spiked the ball, it would have been a penalty for intentionally grounding the ball and the game would have ended due to a 10-second runoff of the clock.

The Giants had a timeout remaining; I'm pretty sure they could have used that timeout to prevent the 10-second runoff. (Alternatively, Allen could have taken a knee/declared himself down and immediately called for timeout.)

That one still makes me want to retch BTW. Yeah, blame a 41-year old guy picked up the week before for your team blowing a 24-point second half lead (with just a little over a quarter to go mind you) and even being in a position where you HAD to kick a FG to win. Yup, it’s all Trey Junkin’s fault.

Of course not, but it's the simplest way of referring to the game.

81
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:04am

#78: Allen would have had to stand up, run to his right or left (outside the tackle box), and throw the ball out of bounds. Not clear whether he could have done that with six seconds left.

82
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:12am

#79: Not necessarily. Allen could have immediately spiked the ball, taken the intentional grounding penalty (a spot foul, leaving the Giants with about a 48-yarder), and the Giants could have used their final timeout to prevent the 10-second runoff.

83
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:57am

76

Why is it believed that kickers can't be fast? Their only requirement is that they have to be able to kick well. Some of them are fast, some of them aren't. They don't just say "Hey, you're our least athletic guy! You get to kick!"

84
by hector (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:17am

Fair and balanced, Russell, excellent piece.

To me Carr's legacy will be his inability to do two things: 1. Get the most out of his assembled talent, and 2. Win games that come with extra preparation time. His recent bowl record has been well-documented, but let's not overlook what's happened in the month of September over the last decade:

Ten September losses in all, from 1998 to Appalachain State, with nine of them "upset losses." In five cases, Michigan was favored by more than a touchdown and lost anyway (I'm counting last week in this; no line was posted, but obviously Michigan would have been a gigantic favorite). I hope the new regime will have the kids ready to play when the bell rings every fall.

85
by hector (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:20am

And as a post-script, I'll add that surely a lot of Michigan's "upset losses" over the years were a result of them being overrated, their opponents being underrated, or a combination of both. Sometimes a game looks like an upset in the early part of the year, and later in the season we see the true colors and realize, wait a minute, that wasn't a fluke after all.

86
by hector (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:30am

20: Michigan fans are among the most arrogant in my experience

Just out of curiosity (and maybe it's already posted on the thread), what major power out there has realistic, respectful fans? It seems to me that if you mix success, testosterone, alcohol and mob rules, you're getting a bad element somewhere.

I remember the year Glenn Foley engineered a Boston College upset win at Notre Dame, and I was (as a Massachusetts native) so happy to see those snotty jerks in South Bend get their comeuppance. Then the local Boston news stations started showing the boorish reaction behavior at BC, and I started to think, "geesh, I almost wish everyone could lose." Why do people have to act that way?

Maybe it's not as bad as I think. But IMHO, any successful program will breed to some degree an "arrogant fanbase" along the way. Comes with the territory. Fortunately sites like this one show that there are plenty of fans above the drunken pack mentality you see at any stadium on any weekend.

87
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 10:28am

Just to clarify my statement in #32 that Appy's win really wasn't that surprising:
By not that surprising, I mean "not one of the greatest upsets in the history of college football, from an unbelievability point." Comparatively, Temple over VaTech from that perspective was more surprising. Part of that is this is the first week of the season, and we therefore have no good feel as to how good Michigan really is-Louisville nearly beating Miami was a big shock because it was well into the season and there were fairly logical reasons to believe Miami was pretty good. Here, people guess (reasonably, IMO) Michigan was good, but we didn't know for sure. And now we have information that suggests they're actually not nearly as great as they were thought to be.

88
by Yosef (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 12:40pm

As an ASU grad, I obviously take great pride and joy in the victory over Michigan. However, I would like to put in a good word for the Michigan fans. I know an ASU fan who was at the game and he said that the Michigan fans were as classy a group of fans as he’s ever been around – both before and after the game.

89
by Scott (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 1:52pm

Regarding the "one of the biggest upsets in college football history" debate: This seems to easily be one of the biggest upsets if you look it more long-term than just pre-game expectations. Appy State has 20 or so fewer scholarships than D1 teams and little football history to provide recruiting clout (other than recent success and a great location). Michigan not only has the scholarships, but a fairly successful track record of knowing what to do with them, unlike some other D1 schools (I'm looking at you Duke). So, maybe if I'd had to set odds on ASU pulling the upset Saturday morning I might have given them better odds than, say, Temple over Virginia Tech in 1998 (I was a Tech sophomore at the time, so thanks for reopening old wounds with that one). But in 1995 if you'd tried to set odds on which was more likely to happen in the next 15 years, clearly Temple, which was in a BCS conference at the time, had a better chance of building a team that could upset a ranked team than ASU would.

In other words, it's not just the great game ASU played Saturday that's so impressive, but the great job they've done over the last few years building a program that can compete with teams that have drastically better resources.

90
by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:26pm

Re 67:
I'm not sure I get your point - this is some insanely big upset but Michigan will lose a bunch of games after this? Isn't the point of an upset that it's by an inferior team?

91
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 12:48pm

Where are the Aggies? Whats your reason for holding them out.

92
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 8:33pm

The Louisville-Middle Tennessee State game is ridiculous. 4:23 played, 5 touchdowns.

93
by stan stendera (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 10:44pm

GaTech beat Ga when George Godsey recovered a missed or blocked FG attempt on third down then GaTech kicked a winning 4th down FG!