Tuesday, October 9, 2007

VSL Hot Topic: What's the Bigger Upset, Appy State over Michigan or Stanford over USC?

This tread comes courtesty of resident Rome-clone Boyer in the District. By the way, I disagree with him:

While this is almost completely non-Vanderbilt football related, Bobby and I had a friendly debate after the Stanford upset win over USC. The question arose: What is the bigger upset? Division I-AA Appalachian State over then #5 Michigan in the big house, or Stanford over the USC Trojans at the Coliseum?

While there is no question that Appalachian State beating Michigan AT Michigan was one of the greatest upsets in sports history, I have to think that Stanford over USC is even bigger. I have several reasons.

First, Michigan did not have nearly the same expectations of USC coming into this year. Ask anyone – before this college football season kicked off, who was going to play for the national title? 99% of the responses were some iteration of "USC and someone else." There was an almost insurmountable amount of hype surrounding USC – from their almost absurd depth in the backfield to the supposed lack of competition in the PAC-10.

Until last Saturday night, USC had not lost at home in SIX YEARS. What's more, Tavita Pritchard, the winning quarterback in that contest in the coliseum, was Stanford's backup quarterback. Even more, Stanford wasn't just a two or 3 touchdown underdog, they were a 41 point underdog (for those counting, that's roughly 6 touchdowns). They weren't supposed to be on the same field as the mighty Trojans, much less make any attempt at legitimate competition.

The reason this is bigger than Appalachian State? I'll say it again: Expectations. Let's not forget that Michigan, while a good football team, was a preseason #5. As it turns out, Michigan is good, but not #5 good. Also, Appalachian State, while a I-AA team, has for the past two football seasons been THE dominant team in I-AA. That wasn't Northern Colorado or Towson coming in – it was a team that proved it probably could hang with some of the lower teams in Division I-A football.

I could, and probably will go on. But I'm curious – what does VSL Nation think?

54 comments:

Aaron said...

Appy state is a much bigger upset. They are a 1-AA opponent playing a pre-season national championship contender on their home field. While Michigan may not have had as much hype as USC coming into the season there was significant hype with the return of their qb, the (arguably) best running back in the nation, and one of the best WR's in the nation.

Stanford is an in conference rival, who was the last team to beat USC at home 6 years ago. Stanford is a bigger program than Appy state and has the ability to get better talent.

Furthermore, the Appy state win had never happened before. A 1-AA school had never beaten a ranked BCS opponent before. #1's have lost to lesser opponents before.

Bobby O'Shea said...

Yeah...what he said.

Stanimal said...

The contention that the Stanford upset over USC is bigger than the Appy State upset is simply ludicrous.

Yes, expectations play a key role. We all agree that USC was a national title favorite. Your point Boyer about the team having not lost a home game in six years is also convincing.

HOWEVER, despite the fact that Appy State is a I-AA powerhouse, their upset over Michigan is clearly more immense, and here's why.

There's no doubt that Stanford has had an atrocious football program for the past couple of years. Despite that fact, Stanford is still an attractive university for recruits drawing from one of the top 3 state pools in the country for football talent, California. Their recruiting classes are not devoid of talent. Appy State's aren't either, but a comparison of the two isn't close. Stanford is a I-A program, Appy State is I-AA. If you don't think there's a tremendous difference, ask Bobby J. how he thinks his Furman squads would have held up in the SEC.

There's a major distinction between these two upsets. Stanford and USC are both Pac-10 teams who's schools have name-recognition, history, player legacies, and a deep talent pool to draw from. Stanford's upset was tremendous because it effects the national title landscape.

Appy State was the David knocking off the Goliath. The small school from the mountains of North Carolina defeating the juggernaut program. I haven't looked at the budgets of the two programs, but I'm willing to make a bet that Michigan's probably doubles, if not triples App. State's. App. State certainly doesn't have the potential or capabilities to beat out the likes of USC, LSU, or even Stanford for 4 to 5 star athletes. In short, they are a program who without all the resources and grandeur of the big boys, went in a shocked everyone. The magnitude of that upset is tremendous not because of where the teams were ranked, but because of the tremendous difference in each program's funding and recruiting capabilities.

The disparity between App. State and Michigan is much, much great than that between Stanford and USC.

Seamus O'Toole said...

At the moment it happened, I think Appy State was the bigger upset. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and right now it looks like Stanford may be bigger.

Why? Because Michigan just ain't that good.

Point of relevance to Vandy fans: Two weeks ago, the Commodores beat Eastern Michigan 30-7. Last week, Michigan beat them 33-22 (in the Big House) in a game that reports indicated "didn't come easy" for the Wolverines.

Who else has Michigan beaten? *Notre Dame = terrible
*Penn State = WAY overhyped and they barely slid by them (14-9)
*Northwestern = Are you kidding? Michigan had to come back to win in the 4th quarter against a team that lost AT HOME TO DUKE, the Blue Devils' first win in 22 games.

If you've watched Michigan play this year, you can't disagree that their defense looks slow and confused. They just don't look very good to me, and I won't be surprised if they drop another two or three games along the way.

Bottom line: Time will tell.

The week after their loss to Appy State, Michigan responded by getting the pants beaten off them, AT HOME, by Oregon. Let's wait and see if the Trojans were as overrated as the Wolverines appear to have been. IF USC trounces the rest of their schedule and Michigan continues to look utterly mediocre, we'll be hard-pressed to keep calling the Wolverines getting beat by the defending I-AA national champion a "bigger" upset.

Stanimal said...

Way to completely ignore my points

Seamus O'Toole said...

Stanimal:

With all due respect, I didn't ignore your points at all. You're saying Appy State = David and Michigan = Goliath. I'm saying, based on what we've seen so far, Michigan doesn't look like much of a Goliath at all. They look like an average to slightly-above-average big-conference team.

Your points about comparing program funding, recruiting capabilities, etc. all miss the mark. Allow me an analogy of my own to make this clear.

You point to "name-recognition, history, player legacies, and a deep talent pool to draw from" as factors that make Michigan-Appy State a more disparate matchup and thus more deserving of the label "bigger upset."

Take a look at Notre Dame. Name recognition? Check. Player legacies? Check. Deep talent pool? You get the point. It's the most storied program in the history of college football. This year, the Irish are an abysmal 1-5 and everyone knows they're just not a particularly good team. But by your logic, if Appy State had beaten Notre Dame THIS SEASON, it would have been a bigger upset than Stanford over USC THIS SEASON. I don't think you'd be willing to concede that, nor would anyone else reading this blog, and yet that's the corner I think you paint yourself into by emphasizing funding and recruiting capabilities over on-field performance.

Jason said...

Relative talent levels, recruiting capability, et al, aside: AS is a 1-AA team, and that's always a bigger upset.

Boyer in the District said...

Seamus -

Your point that "time will tell" is dead on. I'll be the first to admit that USC *probably* had this coming. Their first win of the season over Idaho wasn't as impressive as many thought, and they had simply shown a lack of poise and focus leading up to the Stanford upset. The only real dominating win that I witnessed this year was USC trouncing Nebraska in Omaha (as it turns out, Nebraska, another one of those teams with name recognition and a talant pool to draw from, might be mediocre at best).

However, I'll re-emphasize how much hype USC had coming in this year. As I said in the post - it was going to be USC and someone else playing for all the marbles, end of debate.

Who was that someone else? The only ones I really heard were LSU, Louisville (!), and Oklahoma. Michigan was expected to have one or two Heisman trophy candidates, not dominate the college football landscape.

And if hype doesn't mean anything, just check with the BCS system and show me how many polls are NOT included in the final calculation.

Boyer in the District said...

Also, Division I-AA Cal Poly only lost by 7 to Idaho!

Douglas James said...

This is not even a close argument. A I-AA team beating a Top 5 ranked team WIL NEVER HAPPEN again in our lifetimes. Also as a law student you should see the flaw in arguing both "pre-season" hype and 20/20 hindsight. Should we judge the upset by preseason expectations or what the team turns out to be at the end of the year? Obviously they both can be argued but if you use one the other loses credibility.

Boyer in the District said...

I bet my salary it will happen again in our lifetimes.

Parity in college football increases annually - it's only a matter of time.

Seamus O'Toole said...

When did I ever argue preseason hype? Never. If all you care about is preseason hype, then I'm agreeing that Appy State is a bigger upset. That was my whole argument about "at that time" it was bigger. My follow-on point is that preseason hype maybe shouldn't be all we look at in determining whether it was a big upset. If a team is preseason #1 and loses its first game to a 1-AA opponent, and then goes on to lose all other of its 11 games, would we call it such a big upset? No. I don't understand how you can deny what I'm saying. If you don't deny that, then you have to argue with me that Michigan is ACTUALLY a really great football team. My argument is that they certainly haven't shown that so far, so let's wait and see what happens to make a fair judgment.

I also responded to Stanimal's focus on funding and recruiting ability (see above), but that was sort of a separate issue.

What am I missing here?

Boyer in the District said...

Seamus -

We're a small but awfully mighty contingent.

This has been a fun little debate!

andrew banecker said...

Re: Boyer's bet

The statement "I'll bet my salary it will happen again in our lifetimes" is not a valid bet for one obvious reason: Only Boyer can win the bet. For the other person partaking in this gamble, the both of you would have to die before he'd be proven right, and you'd have to pay up. The difficulties of such a transaction are obvious.

However, there is a way out of this quagmire. If all of us, at this very moment, agree to enter into a tun din (a bet in which the last surviving member wins it all) I think we can pull this off. At the time of our death, one year's salary (taken by the average of all of our tax returns up until death) will be placed in a high yield mutual fund in the name of a limited liability corporation we start on this day (a very easy thing to do... just go to the bank and give them $15, and you're a LLC). The last living member on the right side of the bet takes it all. Who's in?

Boyer in the District said...

Andrew -

HILARIOUS!!

Tell ya what, I'll be a jillian gabillion dollars...that's more legit, right?

BP said...

Michigan-AppSt was the first time in the history of college football that a I-AA team defeated a ranked team. That's enough said right there, but when you add in the fact that not only was Michigan ranked, they were ranked #5 and playing at home, it's really no argument.

Point spread is the only truly quantifiable way of comparing two upsets. Obviously, because AppSt is I-AA, there was no spread, but if there had been, I think it definitely would have been in the neighborhood of 41 points, if not more.

BP said...

By the way, off topic, but did ya'll see that Luke Winn at SI put Shan Foster in his list of the top 15 seniors in the nation? Pretty cool.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0710/cbk.seniors/content.1.html

Dr. Mz said...

Can we stop calling it Appy State please? Seriously. I went to school in North Carolina for four years and there isn't a damn person in that entire state who calls the school by that moniker, let alone anyone who goes there. You can spit out the whole thing. Or just say App. But this Appy State business was contrived this season by those jackasses at ESPN/ABC.

Let's take Ms. Davis' advice on this one: discard the nomenclature and move on.

Douglas James said...

Also on Andy Katz's blog he talks all about Vandy being awsome in hoops this year....
http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=katz_andy

Dr. MZ said...

And the App victory was a much, much bigger upset. Need I remind you that Stanford played in the Rose Bowl game seven years ago and was humming right along until George O'Leary lied on his resume and Notre Dame hired Tyrone Willingham? The Cardinal still haven't recovered from losing Coach Ty, but it's not like they've gotten so bad that they should be deported to 1AA.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Dr. MZ -- Thanks for the education. I had some friends who went there, and I've always known it by that name, so I'm 100% positive ESPN didn't make it up as you suggest. But far be it from me to offend a Tar Heel. Duly noted.

I'm still confused as to why so many of y'all thought the "App" upset was so big just because Michigan was PRESEASON #5. Their last impressive win was over a year ago (Sep. 23, 2006) against Wisconsin at home.

If Michigan tears it up the rest of this season and proves they DESERVED a top-5 ranking, I'm fully willing to concede that "APP" was a bigger upset than Stanford (as I've said twice before).

If they puddle through, however, give me one good reason to let the preseason pollsters (same ones who predicted Arizona to be top-5 several years back when they chunked the whole season, same ones who put Florida State and Miami at #10 and #11 last season before both teams went 6-6) dictate for me what counts as the "bigger" upset.

Don't be slaves to the polls, gentlemen. You know how those sports writers work...even if THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE, the media will still want to CROWN THEIR ASS. Think about it...

Woody said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boyer in the District said...

Seamus is right on about this.

Let's imagine that no team is ranked until week 6 (like some analysts have suggested might be worth a try, since preseason rankings tend to not be remotely close to accurate). Who would you say, prior to Saturday, would win on a neutral field? USC or Michigan?

I'd like to find someone who isn't a Michigan fan to answer accordingly.

If USC tanks and loses a couple more times, then I'll concede that App. State was a bigger upset.

Lastly, Dr. MZ - Despite the success that Stanford has had in the past, and the type of folks that have come out of that school, I'm not convinced that that has much bearing on this year. Hell, just two years ago Notre Dame was rolling over people...now they're 1-5.

BP said...

Guys, Stanford is in the Pac-10...AppSt is I-AA. So one team lost to a team from a BCS conference and one team lost to a school that only has 60 scholarship players. You tell me which is a bigger upset...

Dr. Mz said...

I'd like to know Jim Harbaugh's opinion on this, being as that he's a former Wolverine and all.

I think that Stanford's past success is relevant in this debate because it proves the school's ability not just to compete, but to win in the modern Pac-10. And for me, it's also a matter of associative thinking. I think it's hard for me to associate the program that produced John Elway and John Lynch with futility, even if they've been losing for the past couple of years. Most casual fans knew little or nothing about App, and that certainly created more of a shock effect.

On a sidenote, how many of you knew that Eliel Swinton (aka Kilmer's black workhorse Wendell Brown) played DB at Stanford?

Hitting you with knowledge,

THE DOC

Boyer in the District said...

bp -

Baylor is in the Big 12.

Duke is in the ACC.

Minnesota is in the Big 10.

As Big Bird from Sesame Street would say - "these three teams all have one thing in common - they're from BCS conferences and are all terrible."

Seamus O'Toole said...

All of what y'all are saying is perfectly reasonable, so long as Michigan doesn't turn out to be a mediocre team. All the talk about institutional factors and associating a school with a certain history and what the "casual fan" would think mean a lot less if the 1A team you're talking about isn't that good THIS SEASON. Appalachian over Notre Dame THIS SEASON would NOT be bigger than Stanford over USC THIS SEASON. If you disagree and think App over ND would be bigger, THEN we can have a lively argument. If not, then you have no disagreement with me or Boyer. Period. (And we'd therefore appreciate you conceding that we're right. Thanks.)

BP said...

I think AppSt over Notre Dame would still be bigger, if for no other reason than Notre Dame as a brand is the Cadillac of college football programs.

Bottom line here: AppSt is DIVISION I-AA!!! Unless you're Baylor or Duke or...sorry...Vandy, you have no business losing to a I-AA team. Period.

Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron said...

I am pretty sure you need to draft articles of incorporation to create an LLC, and file those with the state corporation commission of the respective state you are attempting to incorporate within. But those are easy to draft, so for the bet i am in... Is anyone going to be at Vandy this weekend to watch them play UGA? It is homecoming so i would hope that all of you who went to vandy will be there, if not, how can you call yourselves fans.

Seamus O'Toole said...

So basically we have two very different ways of determining what constitutes an "upset."

All those in favor of classifying upsets according to the brand name of a team, say "aye."

(I think going this route logically forces you to make doubtful claims, e.g., VCU beating Duke in basketball last year was a bigger upset than if VCU had beaten, say, Ohio State. Ohio State was the better team LAST SEASON though it has less of a name brand than Duke. The same analogy applies across the board.)

Dr. Mz said...

I kinda feel that App over Michigan this season will still be bigger than Stanford over USC this season, regardless of how Michigan finishes. And this is going by the sheer shock factor of the moment it happened. Michigan's final record this season doesn't change the fact they came into it with two Heisman candidates, fresh off of a campaign where they came within one score of playing in a national championship. So at the time, they certainly deserved a top-5 ranking. I also think it's pretty dramatic that a team with title hopes that high had them destroyed in the first week of the season. Up in smoke. Finito. No chance for a Florida-esque one-loss title run.

Personally, I think Henne and Manningham, in particular, really haven't shown much heart over the final stretch of their careers. A tough loss to OSU and they folded to USC. Another tough loss to App and they got bitch slapped by Oregon (granted a lot of folks have Oregon as a top-5 team now). Henne, in my mind, has become the Chris Simms of Michigan. Anyone agree on this one?

THE DOC

BP said...

Aaron, my 10-year high school reunion is this Saturday night. Otherwise I would be there.

Someone please give me hope that Vandy won't be completely embarassed.

Seamus O'Toole said...

"...going by sheer shock factor at the moment it happened." -- The Doc

As you'll see by reading my first comment on this topic, I agree completely with your assessment given the "at that time" rationale.

Aaron said...

BP,

That is acceptable. I dont think vandy will be embarrassed. The game is at 5:00, and is sold out. While i know that UGA travels well, and that there will undoubtedly be a large sea of red at the stadium (because Athens is so close and because we beat them last year) Students and alumni will go to the game. It is homecoming, and there is still some hope for this team to pull out a win (although not that much in my mind). That being said i will be there at kick off and everyone else should be there to. I think a 5:00 game gives you plenty of time to get bombed and walk the few feet the the stadium. If not, then get creative and duct tape some moonshine in a plastic bag to your leg and take it in!!

Boyer in the District said...

Once again, Seamus is right - you have to compare teams THIS YEAR. The only reason I threw Minnesota in my last comparison with BCS conference teams that were bad is because the gophers are a whopping 1-5 this year. I know from experience they've been good in the past - they just suck this year.

Stanford sucks this year, and has sucked in recent years. They had NO BUSINESS even hanging with USC. I'll give App. State credit for shock value at the beginning of the season, but I was more shocked at Stanford piling on USC.

Dr. Mz said...

I realize this Seamus. But I was saying I disagreed with your point that time will tell. I don't think anything Michigan does at this point will take away from what App did to them. If anything, you could argue that the loss triggered their utterly tragic and unfixable collapse.

Disagreeing that Seamus doesn't think he's disagreeing --

THE DOC

Boyer in the District said...

Doc -

What if Michigan loses 4 of their last 6, including one to abysmal Minnesota?

Meanwhile, USC pulls it together and beats the piss out of Cal and Oregon and wins out.

Still?

Seamus O'Toole said...

See Boyer's question, inter alia.

Dr. Mz said...

Yes. It takes nothing away from what App did to them, in my view. Period. See that shoe? That says Adidas.

MZ

Stanimal said...

Alright, I left this conversation because I had to go to Nashville. And I don't have a lot of time because of school work, so I'll be brief. (also don't have time to read 40 posts so if this is already said then fine)

It doesn't matter how good Michigan ends up being this year or how good Stanford or USC are. In terms of big in season upsets USC clearly had the most to lose. The reason I think App. State is a bigger upset is because despite the fact Michigan isn't good, they SHOULD be good. The advantages Michigan has in terms of money and recruits is far greater than App. State can or ever will have. So when a team that clearly is disadvantaged from the beginning pulls off a win like that, it's a more memorable upset than one based solely on ranking. The reason is because of the vastness of Michigan's advantage compared to that of App. State. Stanford and USC are on a more comparable level.

Stanimal said...

"Take a look at Notre Dame. Name recognition? Check. Player legacies? Check. Deep talent pool? You get the point. It's the most storied program in the history of college football. This year, the Irish are an abysmal 1-5 and everyone knows they're just not a particularly good team. But by your logic, if Appy State had beaten Notre Dame THIS SEASON, it would have been a bigger upset than Stanford over USC THIS SEASON. I don't think you'd be willing to concede that, nor would anyone else reading this blog, and yet that's the corner I think you paint yourself into by emphasizing funding and recruiting capabilities over on-field performance."

I would say that App. State over Notre Dame would be an upset greater than Stanford USC for the same reason and logic I discussed and I believe that is a perfectly valid contention. It'd be basically the same as the Michigan win (although maybe a little less so because at the time of the game everyone knew Notre Dame wouldn't be any good).

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