SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/01/2007 01:39:00 PM
Saturday Observations: They're Back
Appalachian State torched Michigan's new defense for 28 points in the first half.
The all-day Saturday blog is back for another year. And as I do nearly every year, I’m spending the first such Saturday at home so as to get a first glimpse at as many different teams as possible.
The day is only an hour old, but there’s been a recurring theme: the questions we had about most of the major teams -- so far, at least, they appear to be valid.
∙ Appearing on the GameDay set just a couple hours before kickoff Saturday amidst an emotional and touching scene in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said he’d just told his team before they left the hotel: “There’s so much at stake, these people want to rally around us and there’s a lot of people tuning in, but the thing that’s going to make a difference is how hard we play and how well we execute.” Asked by Chris Fowler, “Think that will happen?” Beamer replied: “I hope so.”
For most of the first half ... that hasn’t happened. Perhaps the Hokies came out drained from the emotion and expectations surrounding this game, but it appears one of Beamer’s biggest concerns about his team, which he expressed to me during a visit there in early August, is coming to fruition. Much like last season, Tech’s suspect offensive line simply has not been able to protect QB Sean Glennon, who threw an interception on his first pass attempt, has been sacked at least twice and is mostly having to throw short passes on the run. Tech finally jumped ahead in typical fashion -- a deep punt, followed by a Macho Harris interception for touhdown. Its defense is dominant enough that it should eventually pull away. But if the O-line is having this much trouble with East Carolina (which, admittedly, has a pretty darn good defense), one can only wince thinking about next week’s trip to LSU.
∙ Meanwhile, much bigger things are afoot at the Big House. We knew defending I-AA champ Appalachian State had a high-powered spread offense, and we knew Michigan had to replace a whole bunch of stars on defense. Still ... it’s a little bit stunning to see the Mountaineers come in and jump to a 28-14 lead thanks to QB Armanti Edwards starting 7-of-7 for 129 yards and three TDs (while running for another 41 yards and a score). The Wolverines’ secondary has been absolutely helpless against track-star receiver Dexter Jackson, whose caught 68- and 20-yard touchdowns.
The typical protocol in these type games is the I-AA team -- playing with at least 22 less scholarship players -- eventually wears out, but Michigan’s D is going to have to make some serious adjustments at halftime to avoid the upset of all upsets.
∙ Long-suffering Colorado fans had to be pleased to see new QB Cody Hawkins come out and throw two touchdowns right off the bat against rival Colorado State. The Rams have answered right back, however, to tie the game at 14-14.
∙ Tim Tebow is doing his best to show that he does in fact have an arm, starting 5-of-5 for 148 yards and two touchdowns against Western Kentucky. That includes touchdowns of 59 yards to Riley Cooper and 48 to Andre Caldwell.
∙ Finally, a reader pointed out this unfortunate coincidence during ESPN’s coverage of the memorial events in Blacksburg this morning: “I am all for sports helping to heal, but what is the first thing I see when I turn to GameDay broadcasting from the Virginia Tech campus this morning? A trailer for Jodie Foster's new movie, in which she plays a vigilante with guns blazing. How does that help?” It doesn’t. Might want to screen those commercials better, guys.
Stew, The national writers seem to be leaning heavily toward Cal. I know the press coming out of Knoxville hasn't been great with the Coker thing and the Ainge injury... but reports that don't get picked up nationally have Hardesty and Foster looking strong and the line playing well. Isn't there a chance that Cal's defense with a thin front is at least as bad a matchup for Cal as UT's secondary is against Cal's offense. Factor in the Vols linebackers abilities to make big hits and I would think the Vols have better than a puncher's chance. P.S. Fulmer always excels when he can play the underdog card... see the Cal game last year. Being a dog to a team they manhandled last year has to be a good motivation tool, right?
Could only follow the Mountaneer/Wolverine game on your fancast, but I have to say, it was inspirational. Neither team would give up. This can't be a black mark for the Wolverines. Just goes to show those who make schedules - yesterday's Twinkie can become a tough cookie. Well done, Mountaineers.
I do not know what is more upsetting this saturday: The humongous upset the wolverines were handed, or the fact that 95% of the nation couldn't watch it happen because of the big ten network's anti-compliance strategy...
Every week you seem to be biased on how great the Big 10 is. Great game by Michigan earlier today. The Big 10 is a joke. Wisconsin has its hands full with Washington State today. Quit promoting the Big 10 and call it like it is.
Not a black mark on Michigan? The difference in money spent on their programs is in the millions. I don't care what the teams are, any D-1AA team should not beat a perennial powerhouse such as Michigan. Usually an upset of a top 10 team drops said team approximately 10 slots in the polls. I'll be surprised if they are still in the polls period. Inspiring game to be sure, but the result is nearly incomprehensible. Too little too late by Michigan. That all said though, serious congratulations to App State an a completely stunning victory.
Appalachian State will get some credit, but the majority of the talk will be about how overrated Michigan is. I would expect nothing less. However, App State is a two-time defending National Champion, albeit I-AA, with a team, in my opinion, that could finish in the top half of the ACC, Big East or Conference USA. Mark my words - you can call me stupid now - Michigan will end up in the Capitol One Bowl when it's all said and done. This has done a ton of damage for Carr, Henne, Manningham, etc., but I honestly think they rebound because of the weakness of their conference. As for the Mountaineers, they will three-peat. There's no question about that.
This is the first time Michigan has faced a formerly-known-as-Division 1-AA team. It may very well be the last after this fiasco. Any Michigan Heisman hopeful has just seen their stock hit rock bottom...forget it. I'll be interested in how the Michigan faithful react and respond to Lloyd Carr. Certainly he still has his job, but that lukewarm seat he was sitting on was just dialed up to boiling. Congratulations to App. State, however, in executing certainly one of the greatest upsets in the history of ANY sport. After reading the debate Mandel had about college vs. the NFL, i think a lot of the arguments against college (mainly its lopsided victories against no-name teams) has just been quieted in the most powerful of ways. If this is how the season starts, I for one certainly cannot wait to see the many other storylines that show up as the season progresses!
Ahh . . . to have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and re-do those preseason picks. But I'm confused - when the voters fill out their ballots will they remember "the upset of the year" and that beating a Sun Belt or Division 1-AA team is something less than a major accomplishment? Probably not - their story line will be the same as it has been for years; that all victories are more or less equal and they will focus on the number of wins rather than the number of quality wins. For the record, 11 teams ranked in the pre-season top 25 opened the season against Sun Belt/Div 1-AA teams. The Big 12 and Pac 10 each played three top 25 teams this week and the Big Least and Little 10 (based solely on the quality - or lack thereof - of their schedules) didn't play any. The Least is the biggest offender, partly because a previous commissioner publicly encouraged the league to play pushovers because the number of wins was all that the media and average fan would remember. That's why half their teams opened the season against 1AA opponents and the two games they played against teams from BCS conferences were against teams that finished last and next to last (and that are predicted to be at that bottom again this year)in their respective conferences. Despite that, the teams that played BCS schools went 1-1.
Its Karma. All those ND fans giving you no end of grief and what happens? ND falls down to put it nicely. I think there would not be as many ND "haters" if ND didn't go around with this sense of entitlement. Every year a national championship, you should repect us because we are ND and we pull in all kinds of money (think that is what one of the more venomous posters wrote). I think I could like ND if they were a little more humble and less spoiled. That coming from an SC alum. But I suspect ND won't change their attitude and the rest of college football will step up their game bringing ND into the fold with everyone else.
About your Power Rankings.....I cannot believe you actually dropped OSU three places because of the performance by their rival. Now, if you thought they should have blown Youngstown State out by 60, or if you think Beanie Wells is not the real deal, then fine. But to base a ranking off a Michigan's loss (i.e., they are overrated so OSU must be too) is asinine. Just poor reasoning.
Stewart you said: "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."
Isn't that comment illogical? How can you say that Michigan has less talent than is perceived, yet is underachieving based on those perceptions. It makes sense that "if" they have less talent than is perceived than they are in fact acieving right about where they should be.