August 2, 2014

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Dan Coughlin: Big Blue blows a sure thing

Appalachian State gave a bad name to small football programs everywhere. The Mountaineers from Boone, N.C., took the money and ran. It wasn’t supposed to work that way. After this, anybody would be crazy to schedule Appalachian State.
Appalachian State was brought up to Ann Arbor for a payday. These early season cupcakes pocket as much as half a million dollars to take their beatings. Think of them as checkbook rivals.
But to think they can actually win? Absurd!! That would be ungrateful. Take your beating, deposit your check and get out of there. That is a well-mannered cupcake.
Appalachian State got the money and the win Saturday when it beat fifth-ranked Michigan, 34-32, ruining the Wolverines’ season.
Unspeakably rude.
It’s not even Labor Day and Michigan is eliminated from the national championship race. Even if Michigan runs the table and finishes 11-1, who could campaign for Michigan in the BCS championship game with a loss to a I-AA team on its record?
This could be it for Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. This was supposed to be an easy win and he blew it. The Michigan athletic director should ask for his money back.
Appalachian State won the Division I-AA national championship last year, a far cry from the BCS national championship game. You probably didn’t notice. Nobody pays attention to Division I-AA. These schools are limited to fewer scholarships and usually draw 10,000 per game — or less.
Jim Tressel would never lose to a I-AA team. The Ohio State coach is well-intentioned when he spreads the money around the state of Ohio but he also wins. This year the Buckeyes’ non-conference schedule includes three other Ohio colleges. Saturday the Buckeyes easily beat Youngstown State, a I-AA school, same as Appalachian State. Later this season, Ohio State will host Akron and Kent State.
Outsiders might criticize Ohio State’s soft non-conference games, but we give plaudits to Tressel for sharing the wealth. The money is important to the football programs of the Mid-American Conference schools and Youngstown State. Tressell coached for more than a decade at Youngstown State. He knows it’s not easy to make ends meet on that level.
It’s fine to play these schools, but you’re supposed to win. The tough part should be holding down the score. The idea is not to embarrass anybody — especially yourself.
Big Ten schools might hesitate when scheduling these lower-division cream puffs. There’s no glory in beating them and only disaster if you lose. The risk-reward quotient is out of kilter. Plus, you give them a hefty check.
The Mid-American Conference schools have a long tradition of beating Big Ten schools. It happens just often enough that the Big Ten should be on its guard, but they still get caught by surprise. When Dick Crum coached Miami of Ohio in the early 1970s, he went to the Tangerine Bowl three straight years and beat, in succession, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.
But the MAC, at least, is Division 1.
They don’t even make a betting line for Appalachian State. You probably can’t even lay down a bet on them in their hometown in North Carolina.
Too bad.
Anyone inclined to bet with their heart could have made a killing. As it was, the only thing killed was Michigan’s national championship hopes.
Dan Coughlin is a columnist for The Chronicle-Telegram and a sportscaster for Channel 8.