The Coogs' loss aside, the first weekend of the 2007 college football season certainly did not disappoint. Let's start with the big story:
Even though I-AA (or, if you must, Football Championship Subdivision) schools are generally considered to be a rung lower than I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools in terms of athletic talent and resources, it is not at all uncommon for I-AA schools to score victories over I-A schools. It happened here in Houston last Saturday, in fact, as Rice lost at home to Nichols State.
Appalachian State's 34-36 upset of fifth-ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor, however, is a completely different story. It's simply unprecedented. It is, roughly, the equivalent of, say, Malaysia invading the United States and defeating all of our armed forces. It's just jaw-dropping.
Sure, Appalachian State is a good program with a winning tradition, having won back-to-back Division I-AA championships. Yes, Michigan has always had difficulty defending spread offenses with mobile quarterbacks.
But still. This is Michigan! One of the most storied programs in college football. The same Michigan that has been playing football since 1879. These same Michigan that has won nine consensus national championships. The same Michigan that plays in a stadium that seats 107 thousand people. The same Michigan that has gone to 31 consecutive postseason bowls. The same Michigan that hasn't suffered a losing season since 1967. The same Michigan that entered Saturday with legitimate national title hopes. And they lost to a I-AA school. At the Big House.
The Michigan program, players and fans will never, ever live this down. This is, after all, not just the most embarrassing defeat in the history of their program: it is the biggest upset in the history of college football. This is something that the sports world will always remember; fifty years from now, fans at Ohio State and Notre Dame and Michigan State will still be reminding Wolverine fans that their team once lost to a I-AA program. Indeed, the Wolverines can feel nothing but searing shame right now. Driving home that reality are the latest AP and USA Today top-25 polls. The Wolverines, sitting towards the top of them last week, have now disappeared from them completely.
Other schools had rough weekends, too. Perennially-overrated Notre Dame might be in for another tough season as they suffered their worst-ever season-opening loss - at home, no less - to Georgia Tech (but at least the Yellow Jackets are I-A, right?). Tennessee suffered a nine-spot drop in the AP poll after losing to Cal, 31-45; however, there's really no shame in losing to a very good Golden Bear team on the road. Texas slipped a few spots after an unimpressive season-opening victory over Arkansas State, and Florida State fell out of the top 25 entirely after losing on the road to Clemson. It's safe to say that the glory days of the Bobby Bowden era are over. Then there's North Texas. The Dodgeball era got off to a poor start as the Mean Green were RUTSed by Oklahoma in Norman, 10-79.
But none of these schools suffered quite as badly as Michigan.
The Wolverines will try to salvage their season, beginning this weekend against the same Oregon that defeated my Cougars last weekend. But it won't be easy for the Wolverines: the Ducks run the same spread offense that Appalachian State ran. And they, like the Mountaineers, have a highly mobile quarterback. Unlike Appalachian State, however, Oregon features Division I-A talent and depth.
At least the Wolverines can take solace from this fact: as rough as their upcoming games might be, no loss will be quite as shocking, embarrassing or pitiable as the one they suffered at the hands of little Appalachian State last weekend.