Unmatched Matchups

In a week of should-have-been blowouts, some games are still worth talking about

Sept. 4, 2007

By Carolyn Braff

CSTV.com

 



Carolyn Braff

Carolyn is an assistant editor and writer for CSTV.com.
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College football season is notoriously short. Teams don't get the luxury of 162 contests, or even a preseason, to work out their kinks, audition personnel or test new schemes in settings that don't matter. Every game counts, so early-season opponents should test a congealing team and prepare them for the season.

 

Unfortunately, most do not.

 

In Week 1, the doormats usually outnumber the dark horses, and this year was no exception. There were plenty of cakewalks between programs that should not be in the same sentence, much less the same stadium (see Oklahoma 79, North Texas 10), but there were a handful of should-have-been-blowouts that are worth talking about. Starting with arguably the greatest upset in college football history, Saturday's unmatched matchups ranged from the sensational, to the bad, to the very, very ugly.


 

 

 

The Brilliant - FCS (I-AA) No. 1 Appalachian State 34, FBS (I-A) No. 5 Michigan 32

What should have been Michigan's chance to prove it does have a defense quickly turned into one of the greatest upsets in college football. An FCS program beat a ranked FBS school for the first time ever, and they managed to do so in The Big House. It was a battle between the nation's winningest program and the program with the most consecutive wins, and today topped yesterday in proud fashion.

 

"We're sort of shocked but not really shocked," Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore said. "That may be one of the great victories in college football - maybe the greatest. You've got to remember that these kids have won two national championships, and that [Saturday's win] is not bigger than those because the championships are in our league, our division."

 

That league, that division, includes teams like Chattanooga, Wofford and Western Carolina. Not exactly the Ohio States and Wisconsins of the world that Michigan plays week in and week out, which makes the Mountaineers' victory even sweeter. They're now up to 15 straight wins, the longest streak in any division of football.

 

For next year's Week 1 slate, schedule more of these. They're much more exciting, and much less is expected, than 45-0 shutouts between conference opponents LSU and Mississippi State. Try sending UMass to Boston College in Week 1 instead of Week 5, and stick Montana on Wisconsin. As long as they keep it close, both teams will benefit from having a competition that actually pushes their players to compete.

 

Other good un-matchups: FCS-level Nicholls State topped Rice, a bowl team in 2006, 16-14 at Rice Stadium. Not exactly a Top 25 upset, but still impressive.

 

The Bad - No. 9 Virginia Tech 17, East Carolina 7

The Virginia Tech defense picked a bad day to not show up. In a game billed as an emotional-must win for a community hoping to move on, the Hokies all but gave the game to East Carolina, playing uncharacteristically poor defense and failing to produce a run game. Against a Conference USA team picked to finish second in the weaker East division, the Hokies should have had no problem putting away their opponent, especially in such a nationally spotlighted contest at home. Granted, East Carolina did play well, but more than that, Virginia Tech played poorly.

 

This game was a classic case of the better team playing down to its competition. East Carolina's myriad of mistakes revealed the weaknesses of the young team and the 69 yards they lost on 12 penalties arguably kept them from the upset.

 

Virginia Tech had the nation's best defense in 2006, but ECU's defense looked tops on Saturday, holding the Tech offense scoreless for more than three quarters of football. The Hokies were woeful in the run game, averaging just 1.1 yard per carry and gaining only 33 yards on the ground. The Pirates out-possessed the Hokies 31:33 to 28:27, out-sacked them 4-0 and nearly outscored them.

 

"We're not happy with the way we performed," senior linebacker Xavier Adibi said. "They had a lot of yards on us, so we're going to watch film on Monday and get better."

 

With a trip to LSU just days away, they need to get better quickly. And never play an opening game that poorly again.

 

Other bad un-matchups: No. 4 Texas barely snuck by Arkansas State, 21-13, in what should have been a blowout for a highly-touted Longhorns team. Texas has plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball.

 

The score says No. 1 USC creamed Idaho 38-10, but the nation's top team looked mostly bland and beatable in the contest. Three turnovers and a less-than-stellar run defense are not what champions are made of.

 

The Ugly - No. 10 Louisville 73, Murray State 10

The four Top 25 matchups on college football's opening night produced a combined score of 212-20. Not exactly a nail-biter of an evening, but Louisville takes the cake, demolishing FCS-level Murray State by 63 points.

 

What reason could Louisville, the nation's No. 10 team, possibly have for scheduling a meeting with Murray State? The Appalachian State "it could happen" line of thought does not really apply here; the Mountaineers are two-time defending FCS champions and have a history of winning, while the Racers were 1-10 last season. And they didn't even play Appalachian State.

 

The Cardinals racked up 655 yards of total offense, averaging one touchdown every four plays in the first half. By the third quarter, even the Louisville fans had had enough - with a 60-point lead as comfortable as Egyptian cotton, the number of cars leaving the stadium quickly eclipsed the number of fans left in it. Clearly, this game did neither team any good.

 

The 72 underclassmen on the Racers' roster had little to take away from the shellacking but a bowed head and wounded pride. And Louisville running through the motions of what was effectively an open practice does not prepare the team for the real competition they'll face at West Virginia. Louisville is so far out of Murray State's league that halfway through the first quarter, it was just better not to watch. Why waste a twelfth of the season on a game that doesn't help either team and compels fans to leave early?

 

Attention scheduling managers: Never again.

 

Other ugly un-matchups: No. 16 Rutgers topped Buffalo 38-3 in what amounted to a Rice-Teel-Underwood highlight reel. The Bulls never had a chance.

 

No. 24 Boise State scored touchdowns on each of its first seven possessions to bury FCS-level Weber State, 56-7. The Broncos have already proven that they're too good for their conference, so why not schedule a real opponent for the season opener?

 

No. 23 Hawai'i blasted Northern Colorado 63-6 in Colt Brennan target practice. Other than inflating the QB's statistics, this game was useless all around.

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