SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/02/2007 04:51:00 PM
Five Things We Learned This Weekend
In addition to the historic loss to Appalachian State, Lloyd Carr's Michigan teams have lost five of their last six games to Big Ten rival Ohio State and have dropped four straight bowl games.
1. That property values are rising in that (NCAA Football Championship) Subdivision down the street. In the days to come, I’m guessing Appalachian State will get the full-on Good Morning America/Tonight Show treatment, and deservedly so. But to treat the Mountaineers’ historic win Saturday as some sort of Hoosiers-type miracle would be to severely discredit ASU’s program and its players as well as the Division Formerly Known As I-AA in general. I’m not saying Appy State 34, Michigan 32 wasn’t a gigantic shocker. It was. I’m not saying such events are going to start becoming regular occurrences. I’m not even saying it would happen again if the two teams met again next week.
But Saturday’s result did not transpire out of thin air. It was simply the most dramatic milestone to date in a movement that began nearly 20 years ago and has seen the dispersal of talent throughout the sport, from the rise of programs like Kansas State and Wisconsin to Northwestern’s improbable Rose Bowl run in 1995 (the same year the NCAA instituted the 85-scholarship lmit) to the likes of Louisville, Rutgers, Boise State and Utah becoming nationally competitive. Now, evidently, it extends to the upper realms of I-AA. This wasn’t Butler running some frustrating, slow-down offense to upset a Maryland in the NCAA basketball tournament. And it certainly wasn’t a case of Michigan fumbling eight times or some other freak occurrence. Appalachian State simply beat the Wolverines with some seriously talented athletes.
I can think of a half-dozen BCS conference teams off the top of my head -– Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina and Baylor –- that would be instantly better with Armanti Edwards as their quarterback or Dexter Jackson as a receiver, and there are probably far more than that. It’s still going to take the perfect confluence of events for a future I-AA team to beat a future Michigan, but it’s going to happen again sooner than later.
2. That this will be Lloyd Carr’s final year as Michigan's coach. What was previously just a widespread hunch is now a foregone conclusion. Carr has a better chance of watching the Wolverines’ 2008 season opener from a broadcast booth (as Larry Coker so awkwardly did for the Miami-Marshall game Saturday) than he does of coaching it from the sideline. Personally, I’ve always been on the fence regarding the criticism surrounding Carr. While I’ve long believed Michigan to be either perpetually overrated (both in the polls and the recruiting rankings) or, more realistically, a chronic underachiever, it’s not in my nature to come down on a guy that goes to three Rose Bowls in four years. So much for that.
I don’t doubt Mike Hart and Co. will rebound to have a decent season, but the fact is, Michigan, for all its national prestige, hasn’t as much as sniffed a national title since 1997, and Saturday’s debacle was definitive proof that the Wolverines never will without some sort of regime change. Carr won’t be fired, mind you. But he loves Michigan football more than anyone on the planet, and as such he will do what’s best for the program and gracefully step aside.
3. That we’re no closer to knowing the true national title favorite. On paper, the three most popular preseason picks -- No. 1 USC, No. 2 LSU and No. 3 West Virginia -- dispatched their opening-week opponents by a combined score of 145-38, but none did much of anything to dispel the primary questions surrounding them.
The Trojans’ work-in-progress offense was, like most of last season, efficient but hardly explosive in a 38-10 win over Idaho. USC mostly played it close to the vest, handing off over and over again to a never-ending rotation of talented but unproven running backs -- seven in total -- who combined to break off just two runs of 20 yards or longer. Man-of-the-hour Matt Flynn didn’t show a whole lot in his second career start for the Tigers, but he didn’t really have to what with the Tigers’ defense completely suffocating Mississippi State in a 45-0 whitewashing. And while West Virginia, as it’s expected to do all season, ran all over Western Michigan in a 62-24 win, the Mountaineers’ oft-scrutinized defense did not exactly inspire confidence by allowing the Broncos to complete 60 percent of their passes and make 42 percent of their third downs.
4. That Texas needs to get its cards in order. It was an unusually tumultuous offseason for Mack Brown’s normally fine-tuned program, what with an alarming number of police-blotter items, culminating in WR Billy Pittman’s bizarre three-game suspension Friday for violating NCAA rules by borrowing a friend’s car. Then in their opener, the Longhorns went out and played like a team possibly weighed down by distractions in a sluggish 24-13 win over Arkansas State. QB Colt McCoy, last year’s freshman sensation, was especially unimpressive, throwing two interceptions and, according to the AP account, three others that were dropped by Indians defenders. Perhaps Texas just needed a good kick in the rear and we shouldn’t draw too much from the result. But it’s worth noting that while McCoy earned the lion’s share of credit for last year’s 10-win season, this is Texas’ first year playing without a whole bunch of veteran leaders -- Justin Blalock, Tim Crowder, Selvin Young, Kasey Studdard, et. al. -- from the 2005 title team. The ‘Horns better get their ducks in a row quickly -- No. 22 TCU comes to town next week.
5. That Dennis Erickson’s impact at Arizona State is already being felt. There was no ugly, still-feeling-things-out opener for the Sun Devils, who went out and whipped San Jose State 45-3 on Saturday. Now before you go knocking San Jose State (in light of Appalachian State, are we really allowed to knock anyone’s opposition anymore?), keep in mind Dick Tomey’s Spartans were a bowl team last season that gave 13-0 Boise State its biggest scare of the season (23-20) and whose defense includes one of the nation’s top cornerbacks, Dwight Lowery. The Sun Devils nonetheless went out and racked up 520 yards of offense -- 250 rushing, 270 passing -- with QB Rudy Carpenter (14-of-20, 197 yards, two TDs, no INTs) looking much more like the confident freshman we saw two years ago. Erickson himself called it, "one of the most efficient performances for a first game I've ever had." Think these guys won’t be a factor soon?
One other note: You probably did not see it unless you’re a USC fan or happened to be watching Fox Sports Net late Saturday night, but in a touching moment, the Trojans lined up for their first extra-point attempt against Idaho without a kicker, intentionally accepting the delay of game penalty in honor of Mario Danelo, USC’s much-beloved kicker the past two seasons, who died last January when he fell from a cliff near his hometown in San Pedro, Calif. The crowd at the Coliseum at first seemed confused but then began cheering when they figured out what had happened.
Things do feel different here in Sun Devil land. It's only one game, but like the souvenir cups at the stadium refreshment stand explain, "new coach = new attitude." Look for ASU to start challenging Cal and USC in the PAC10 on an annual basis.
Certainly I will agree with Stewart when he says that Carr will not be the coach next year. Personally I'd love to see most of the coaching slots wiped clean and Michigan have a complete rebuilding. It's much needed and I hate to say it but at pretty much any other college football program Carr would have been fired already for the loss yesterday.
I'm sorry, but wasn't Michigan in sniffing distance of a national title last year? They were exposed at the end, sure, but they were still a major player. If a play or two goes the other way against the Buckeyes, Florida would have been kicking our butts in the title game.
As for Carr--he has to go, but firing him now would be asinine. It would kill the season, and worst of all it would just entrench an assistant, when what U-M really needs is a thorough makeover. But who?
And as a Michigan fan, I'd really like to see Mandel's ideas as to who might replace Carr. He needs to be a great recruiter who can graduate his players, like Carr. Unlike Carr, he needs to help his players improve and come up with solid aggressive plans on offense and defense and be able to make adjustments during games.
Who out there fits that bill? What major coach would leave his school to come to U-M? Would a hot-shot young coach from a small program satisfy the most smug alumni in the world? And please, not another "Michigan Man"!
With regards to "...property values are rising in that (NCAA Football Championship) Subdivision down the street..."- I'd be a lot more impressed if you had acutally PICKED App. St. to beat Michigan, instead of offering arm-chair QB analysis, AFTER the dust has settled.
I have read all day about Michigan... Michigan.... Mich-again and again and again. Appalachian State was absolutly finominal (Thank God it wasn't my school, Alabama!) So what is going to happen now? This is what I think should guide us through this unchartered territory:
1.Congratulations Appalachian State! Next step.. MOVE UP TO 1-A! It is only legitimate next step. They are the National Champions of Division 1-AA 2 years in a row now.. and will probably win it again this year. Classic signs they have out-grown their division. Don't worry about becoming a Duke or Vandy! Dudes! You beat MICHIGAN!!!! Welcome to the club of the FEW universities that can claim that!!
2. Michigan should not be ranked. It would disgrace the other unranked teams that WON their first games or even those other Division 1-A teams that lost to other ranked teams.
3. Appalachian State should NOT be ranked on the AP Poll. Come on... Appalachian State WILL be rewarded for their victory on their division's poll. Want to be ranked on the Coach's Poll or AP? Move up to Division 1-A.
4. Michigan should not be considered for a National Title, regardless of how the rest of the season turns out. Other Division 1-A teams, even losing 2 or 3 games have more of a right than a team who lost to a Division 1-AA team. Sorry Mich! There's always next year!
5. If Michigan wins the rest of their games this year or has the better record in the Big Ten, they have every right to be the Big Ten Champs and go to the Rose Bowl. It's about your conference wins and losses.
It really sucks that this had to be such a "shocker" to everyone. Keep things fair. I think this was more of a "I'm ready!" win for Appalachian State to move up to Division 1-A, than a "Michigan sucks" loss for Michigan. Quit scheduling Division 1-AA schools! Alabama played Western Carolina yesterday. I am ELATED that we won, but would have a better feeling of how Alabama could do this year if it was Indiana or SMU.
Different note: USC - Y'all are a truely CLASSY team. Nicely done for your teammate! God bless y'all! and Roll Tide Roll hope to see you soon for a National Championship REMATCH!... decades overdue! ;-)
I was not aware that USC had lined up without their kicker on the first PAT - This, more than their success on the fields lifts them high into the realms of my respect level. Kudos to the Trojans & Pete Carrol - class acts!
Here's an interesting question to ponder for those of you who have suggested Appalachian State should move up to I-A.
Which do you think would be the more rewarding experience for a college football player -- to play in I-AA for four years but win multiple national championships and knock off Michigan, or play in I-A, but in one of the non-BCS conferences, never beat a ranked opponent and play in a couple of Poinsettia Bowls.
Where are all the Tennessee devotees now? Last year one couldn't get past 2-3 blogs without hearing about how Cal and the Pac-10 were a joke. It seems that this year, now that the shoe is on the other foot, Cal/Pac-10 fans are being a lot more restrained and gracious.
That was absolutely touching and classy on SC's part to line up without a kicker as a tribute to Danelo. When I realized what was going on a lump in my throat appeared.
To "anon blogger's" point, you're absolutely right. We (Cal fans) could probably offer several explanations why. Perhaps we just accepted what we knew last year - that the team that showed up at Neyland wasn't the team that won 10 games and beat an A&M that missed being undefeated by 6 points. Perhaps that this was but a game between two good teams. I'm sure there are those fans (and there are on both sides) who will continue to go back and forth, but that game just left huge smile on my face and allowed me to enjoy the 3-day weekend that much more. I think we also realize that there's a lot of work to be done. As much as Ainge last year said this was about West Coast vs. South, Pac-10 vs. SEC, I think, to characterize it the way Tedford did, it was more about Cal football playing the way we knew we could play.
The question I have out here in Never Never Land - Hilo, Hawaii has to do with U of H and Colt Brennan. Is he a very good quarterback? Will he play on Sundays or just be a QB for Saturdays? Is he really a Heisman candidate? Can UH be in a BCS game or will big names schools unwillingness to play UH hurt their chances?
In response to your most recently asked question Mr. Mandel, I would honestly say that it depends. Most (not all) college football players have the dream of playing in the pros one day. Granted, the NFL is doing a much better job at scouting talent on ALL levels of football these days (Justin Durant of Hampton, Laurent Robinson of Illinois State, Jacoby Jones of Lane, Allen Barbre of Missouri Southern, Zak Deossie of Brown & Johnny Baldwin of Alabama A&M to name a few recent players drafted this past year). And my philosophy has always been, if you're good, you will get noticed. Even with that being said, the more exposure you get, the better chance you have of going to the pros. Bottom line, in college these days, your Boise States, Troys and Northern Illinois', are going to get more pub than even the BEST FCS teams these days.
Now, if your goal is just to go out there on Saturdays (or Thursdays) and play football, then I say go to the school where you are given the best chance to do that. If it's Florida State, then go. If it's Florida A&M, then so be it. When I made my college decision, I wanted to go to a school where I would have to opportunity to play college football not be a tackling dummy or defensive scout team player for two to three years before I even sniffed the field. Some athletes these days look at it the same way. Why go to USC where I have to sit on the bench for 2-3 years because the team is STACKED and pray that I have a monster coming out party when I actually do get the chance to hit the field. Why not go to Bethune Cookman, Duquesne or Elon, where I will have the chance to play early and often, thus increasing my chances at playing professionally, having fun and not to mention winning a championship (odds are a little higher when playing in every division of football besides the FBS...one loss and you might as well kiss your title hopes goodbye).
Championships, no matter how you look at them, are just that, championships. It doesn't matter if it came at the FBS level or the NAIA.
Sign me up for the school that will give me the best chance of succeeding in life AFTER football, whether its Stanford, Harvard or Howard. Football was great to me when I played it all the way through college (end of Freshman year at least before I was sidelined with injuries and hung it up).
With that being said, I'd probably pick a D-I AA team every day of the week and I'm sure it doesn't hurt my argument that I did in fact go and play at a D-I AA school.
On UVA-Wyoming - who felt UVA would be the ACC's most improved? Probably the same writers who projected UVA for a bowl. Has anyone looked at their talent - or lack there of? They have no WR's of note, their running backs aren't anything near what they once were, their quarterback has some potential but it's not come together yet, and the defense isn't anything like what people rightly expected it to be when Groh took over.
He had 1 or 2 decent recruiting classes. That talent is gone, and soon, Groh will be, too.
I'd like to point out that Div 1-AA was renamed Football CHAMPIONSHIP Subdivision rather than Football PLAY-OFF Subdivision. It appears that the NCAA even subconciously recognizes that PLAY-OFF = Legit CHAMPION however BOWL does not. Now we can no longer say that the BCS finds a champion because the NCAA doesn't even believe it's own lies. The only way to further expose their true feeling while renaming the subdivisions would have been if they called Div 1-A the Football MONEY Subdivision rather than the Football BOWL Subdivison.
Hats off to USC. Lining up without a kicker in honor of those departed was extremely classy. I may wish that the rest of the PAC-10 would give y'all more competition from side-line to side--line, but off the field, I wish you all the best.
All those wanting to start arguments about Cal/TENN, can't y'all appreciate that two fairly evenly matched teams had it out, kept it close most of the game, and the home team that wanted it more ended up coming away with the W. By the way, very impressed by Cal holding Tenn to 0 pts off of 1st and goal from the 2 yd line. Had Tenn pounded it in, they likely would have maintained momentum and broken the game the other way rather than letting the game slip away.
I am a current student at the University of Texas, and if we play like we did last week against TCU...we are going to get massacred. Everyone on the field looked awful. The game would've been a lot closer too if Arkansas State had at least a decent kicker (He missed two field goals). Hopefully this will just be a wake up call, but if not...this could be a long and very disappointing season.
I am tired of people calling the ASU vs Michigan game an HUGE upset! It wasn't! Was it surprising, yes. But I agree with Carr, to call it a HUGE upset would be to discredit the ASU Mountaineers. Did the fact that ASU was BACK-to-BACK National Champs and voted number 1 in every single one of their polls to win again another year not give any clue that this team doesn't play around? HELLO!!!! Give ASU it's credit!
As for not being ranked in the AP poll, who cares. ASU is ranked exactly where it needs to be in the polls that matters most to them.
Sould 1-A keep playing 1-AA schools? Why the heck not? It only makes the competition better. And if more teams like ASU can surprise other teams like Michigan, what is the harm in playing them. It is a win-win situation. Both teams get the practice they need.
Should Michigan get dropped out of the top 25? No. They played one heck of a team. I bet ASU could play and come close to beating if not beat some of the other top 25 teams. So back off!
Poor journalism, Stew: "hasn’t as much as sniffed a national title since 1997." Uh. They were within 3 points of beating OSU at OSU last year to play in the National Championship game. Oh, and if you remember, even despite that loss, a down 1 michigan was in the talk alongside a down 1 florida to play an undefeated OSU.
I'm a graduate student at Appalachian State University, and I'm very proud of the Mountaineers. Just like in school, those who are prepared do better when tested; this certainly was a big test for ASU's football team. However, they were prepared and Michigan obviously was not. Michigan expected little ol' 1-AA App to be an easy win, but someone forgot to do their homework. ASU is the reigning two-time national champion with the nation's longest winning streak for a very good reason. ASU won because they knew their opponent and they're a very strong team in their own right. Michigan lost because they weren't prepared for the reality of ASU's hurry up offense and skilled players. If ASU played Michigan again next week, ASU would probably lose because Michigan would be prepared and they would be passionate about winning after their ignominious defeat. But don't discredit ASU's achievement by saying that Michigan just sucked or that it was a fluke. ASU won because our coach prepared the players well, and the team played very well. This was a big upset mainly because few people outside of North Carolina knew anything about Appalachian State University. Performance wise, it was an upset but not as shocking as some have portrayed it to be. Go Mountaineers!
LSU will beat VT 24 - 0 in Red Stick this weekend. The O-line of VT is so bad, while our D-line is the cream of the crop. Look for Dorsey to do his little side step through a weak double team and punish their QB.
Since you moved Ohio State down for Michigan's poor performance against what may be the best team in North Carolina for fear The OSU is overrated too, shouldn't you move Oklahoma down because of Texas' poor performance against a worse team than App. St., and move LSU down because of Auburn's woes? Your reasoning skills are aweful sometimes (not often though).
Stewart Stewart Stewart. What are we going to do with you? You didn't leave a comment box on your rankings page, so I'll leave one here. You dropped Ohio State for whipping up on Youngstown State? You penalized us for Michigan's embarassment? Let's be objective. Even without Troy, Ted and Gonzo, we could still beat Virginia Tech (look at their O-Line), Rutgers, Nebraska, Texas and even Wisconsin. Everyone doubted our defense last year. Except for that last game, that was a big mistake. Watch the games. In five weeks, OSU will be in your top 5.
There was more than just the "missing man" formation for Mario Danelo. His parents walked out with the team and there were other various remembrances for USC's fallen player. Camera shots of Pete C. showed tears in his eyes when his team took the delay of game penalty. It was an emotional moment for the team,family and fans at the game.
Michigan clearly stumbled very badly against App State. App State is an incredibly tough and talented team but I believe with a better coach directing the preparation and the development and execution of the game plan, Michigan would have won by a 10 point margin, or more.
As Stewart Mandel has stated, Michigan truly is overated and they have been perennial underachievers in the big games for the last several years.
Michigan does not have a lot of speed on defense and is totally predictable on offense. Other teams have a lot more speed and they make Michigan pay a very heavy price for their lack of speed.
Michigan frequently appears slightly off-balance and out-of-sinc in big games. It is almost as if they did not know what to expect from the other team. This can only be due to poor preparation and a poorly designed game plan. That is the coaching staff's responsibility and Michigan's coaching staff has not been able to match other teams for a very long time. It is time for them to go.
First of all, i hate USC, but what they did for their kicker was classy. If i think it is, then everyone should. Cal vs Tenn wasn't Pac-10 vs SEC, that will hopefully come in the NC with USC vs LSU. If Cal played UF, it would be a representation, maybe. I think the SEC is better, from top to bottom, and 2 vs 6 doesnt prove anything. Still, hats off to Cal for a good win.
Why is it that before the Cal-Tenn game the cries from the South were, "The SEC is the deepest conference top-to-bottom, and the Pac-ONE is just USC and a bunch of cupcakes"? Now after the fact, Tennessee is a 5th place SEC team and Cal is a Pac-10 powerhouse. Make up your mind!
Are you serious? What makes you think Urban Meyer would even think of leaving Florida for Michigan? Are you really that delusional to think you guys are still are a more attractive option than Florida? Evidently that loss last week hasn't sunk in!