Appalachian State 34, University of Michigan 32

Okay, first the disclaimers:

  • I’m a Michigan State Fan; this implies a healthy hate for the teams from Ann Arbor (which means I got great enjoyment from Michigan’s loss, never mind the joy from a massive underdog’s victory).
  • The Appalachian State University Mountaineers are repeat champions. I-AA champions true, but the past two years they’ve played a full playoff schedule and won the national I-AA championships. They’re probably better than Minnesota, Michigan State and a couple other B10 also-rans. Many other teams have backed out on playing them, so give Michigan props for sticking with their scheduled game.
  • Lloyd Carr is not worthy of his present post (assuming he still has the post when you read this). 1997 no longer exists.
  • The Big Ten is no longer an elite college football conference (and is probably fading in other sports). The Big Ten is based in a group of states which have stagnated population-wise since the seventies (if not earlier), the bowls are in places that give the other conferences what amounts to a regional advantage, and Big Ten teams have generally not done as well in bowls as the other three conferences.

But still….hunh?

Appalachian State is an excellent team in their league, but they’re still I-AA (or whatever they call it now), a second-rate team. Michigan had the talent, the name, the wherewithal and the home field advantage.

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This hurts the Big Ten deeply. More than the bowl losses (to good teams). More than losses to MAC teams and other lesser teams (lesser yeah, but one can say they’re playing over themselves).After all, we’re talking about Michigan, a flagship team in the conference. The team everyone knows, for good or ill. The team that’s used as the measuring stick. THE brand.

How big is Michigan? Here’s a joke I’ve heard and said myself:

Q: Do Michigan and Ohio have pro football teams?
A: Yes, they’re based in Ann Arbor and Columbus.

And they were consensus #5, at least. Some places had them ranked #1 or 1A with Ohio State (again!).

And #5 just shouldn’t lose to a Division 1-AA team.

This bodes ill for all B10 teams. From Minnesota to Ohio State, the conference is by definition ranked lower. Any team’s victory is reduced, all losses more expected. And since image counts for a lot in College Football (and all college sports), Michigan’s loss spreads to the rest of the Big Ten.

This defeat also harms the Mid-American Conference. Being the second conference (below the Big Ten) in the midwest, it pretty much takes whomever doesn’t make it in the Big Ten. Ergo, their fortunes have dropped by extension. They may be able to avoid much of the harm, as they’ve become as much a national conference (thanks to their willingness to do whatever it takes to get on TV and their reputation as a giant-killer), but some will still be transfered to them.

Benefitting directly are The Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference. The Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA also benefit by extension. And the Southern Conference (probably the most important conference historically, given the list of its former members) got yet another notch in its belt.

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Congratulations to Apallachian State. As I’ve said before (and it bears repeating), this is a good team. They’ve won the 1-AA championship twice in a row, are favorites to win their third championship, and would probably beat some of the lesser B10 teams (like Michigan State…).But still….hunh?