Sometimes a game comes along that makes me wonder exactly why I invest so my time, energy, and money on following sports. I'm not talking about going to the games, or being a fan. That much will never change. You love your team win or lose, undeafeted or winless. I'm talking about the other stuff: Reading season previews, following recruiting, paying any attention at all to spring practice reports. Because the fact of the matter is that no one really knows anything. And with a program like Michigan, which doesn't let reporters into practice, all you're getting from them are puff pieces. I mean, is Mike Hart really going to say "I'm pretty sure our defense blows"? No. All you get is bravado. And we lap it up.
I made some cracks a couple days ago about how I wasn't going to the game and that I wanted my first real football-watching experience of the year to happen against a real team like Oregon. How I couldn't get excited for football since we were playing a Division I-AA team. Well I hope that my team has been humbled as much as me.
This loss changes everything. Hopefully it knocks our football team down a few pegs in their own minds. Hopefully they realize that rather than planning out how many freshmen backups we can get into the game once it's out of hand, they focus more on winning the game. Rather than trying to "not show anything to future opponents" they PLAY! TO WIN! THE GAME! I don't know that it was the case yesterday that they played vanilla, since I wasn't there. I do know that in past seasons they have done so against "weaker" opponents (remember how everyone was freaking out last year that we couldn't throw the ball during the lead up to the Notre Dame game?).
It's hard to emphasize just how bad this loss is. The whole sports-watching world is laughing at this program right now, and quite frankly it's deserved. For all the cracks I've made about Minnesota getting beat by Holy Cross, I deserve anything I get. And that's fine.
This game is evidence of a couple things:
1) Preseason polls are stupid. We already knew that, but this might be the crowning example of why it is so.
2) There is no benefit to playing a Division I-AA team. Especially if you're going to play a good one. You have all the risk & then some of playing a high-MAC team, with none of the reward. If we lost to Central or Toledo or something, everyone would be making fun (and rightfully so) but there'd be no "Biggest Upset Ever" talk. And if we won by 60 points and played lights out football in the process, it was only a Division I-AA team, so that's what we should do. ASU was a team with nothing to lose. This was their Super Bowl. They were 41 1/2 point underdogs. No one would've batted an eyelash if Michigan had gone Louisville on them. And that's a scary situation to be in if the opponent you're playing has some talented players.
To go one step further, it's evidence that we probably shouldn't be scheduling teams that we're expected to absolutely destroy--if it's at all possible (which it might not be). Michigan's not the type of team to hang 70 on someone, and that's the only way to "win" in a game like this. If you win 35-3, no one is impressed. If it's a close game, everyone laughs. If you lose....you're a laughing stock.
And based on past history, it's pretty evident that our team doesn't meet the expectation of scoring ten touchdowns in games like this. Ball State should have been a wakeup call that no matter how "bad ass" they think they are, other teams can beat them. And that game was definitely not the first time we've gotten a scare against an "inferior" opponent.
Lloyd should take all kinds of heat for this debacle. I'm not going to be one of those people that goes all "OMG FIRE CARR!" or anything, but it's really disturbing to me that he can come out after the first game of the season and say "We just weren't prepared." You had 7 months to get them prepared. The implication there is that they completely looked past this team and were more worried about getting ready for Oregon, ND, and PSU. Every coach I've ever heard speak loves to throw around expressions like "We've gotta take it one game at a time" and "The most important game is the next one". And yet, they weren't prepared for the opening game of the season? Against a team that spreads out the defense and has a running quarterback? There's just no excuse. It's one thing for the fans to look ahead (me to not care about watching/attending the game, Brian to not write an App State preview, etc.), it's another entirely for the coach and the team to do it.
This one isn't going away. We could win the next 11 games, win the Rose Bowl, and all anyone will talk about is the loss to App State, which derailed another shot to go to the BCS Championship. It's going to be mentioned every game this season when TV shows each team's record. It's going to be mentioned over and over whenever we play a "cupcake" opponent--this year or ten years from now. Spartan fans, Buckeye fans, PSU fans....it's all we're going to hear, even if we beat their team.
It's been a long, hard offseason with all those players getting arrested and doing generally dumb things, along with the Jim Harbaugh controversy. And on the first day of the season, the football team just proved that the season itself isn't going to be any easier.
This isn't the "end of the world" as I claimed before. Crable was right in his postgame comments: They still have goals and it's very possible to all of them save for a national championship. (I wish he had said "WHY'D IT SEEM LIKE WE ONLY GOT TEN GUYS ON THAT LAST FIELD GOAL???!!!") But it is the end of any real satisfaction with the outcome of this football season. I've got to believe that any Michigan fan on the planet would've happily taken 12-1, Rose Bowl win, undefeated Big 10 season in the lead-up to the season.
Now, if that happens (and I'd have to say it's very unlikely), I'll be thrilled, but at the same time it will be strangely unsatisfying because all I'll be able to think about is "If only we hadn't stuffed up against ASU".
I was very wrong about the score yesterday, but I was right about one thing: I made the right decision about what event to attend.