Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fun in the Big House

The Monk is laughing his a** off after Michigan's home loss to Appalachian State yesterday. There is no preseason in college football, so a lot of major teams schedule cupcakes for their openers -- like USC playing Idaho, Ohio State scheduling Youngstown State, Oklahoma setting a game against North Texas, Texas setting a match with Arkansas State, and Penn State lining up a home date against Florida International. Indeed, to my chagrin, Penn State (I've been a big fan since I was 7) has three of the worst teams in Division I-A (now known as the Football Bowl Division or some such nonsense) to ensure it obtains the 6 wins necessary for a bowl bid: Fla. International, Buffalo and Temple.

Appalachian State is in Boone, N.C. No, I don't know either. Its only previous wins against Division I-A competition were cross-state match-ups against former ACC cellar-dweller Wake Forest. It does have a legacy of success because it's the two-time defending I-AA champion (that's a division that actually has playoffs instead of polls). Michigan, however, is the preseason consensus pick to win the Big T(elev)en and was ranked #5 yesterday. It returns its top running back, starting QB and a future first round WR pick for the NFL. And it has Division I-A quality players. App. State just outplayed it -- the Mountaineers ran up more than 380 yards, blocked two field goals, scored 28 points in the first half and ultimately played equally well against a top 5 program to win. Michigan's players complained about their mistakes and bad penalties after the game, but App. State actually committed more turnovers and still beat a top-tier Big T(elev)en team in front of 100,000+ in its home stadium.

It's disgraceful that major teams play against these cupcakes. Penn State set itself a schedule that rebuilding programs should not even play; it should schedule two of Pitt, West Virginia and Boston College as non-conference opponents to re-establish the traditional rivalries (Pitt-Penn State decided the Lambert Trophy winner each year from 1971-83 and used to be a Thanksgiving Friday national telecast) it used to play. Michigan should play a Pac-10 team each year like it did in the 1980s. But football is the financial lifeblood of most major athletics programs, therefore major teams need 7-8 home games each year and easily offset the $250-400K they pay the cupcakes to serve as sacrificial lambs with the extra home date. The revenue from a real playoff could change all that . . . but that's a wish for another day.

Until then -- I think App. State should play the BCS winner this year after the BCS "title" game. After all, it may well have earned it.

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