Wild Weekends: Opening Arguments 2007

Disaster has hit Ann Arbor.

Of all the upsets in all the places, nobody ever would’ve thought that Appalachian St. would do it in one of the most fabled stadiums in college football history. But that’s exactly what took place this past Saturday as the Wolverines’ defensive woes continued. Whatever positives that Michigan showed on Saturday—there were some—were completely blown over by two blocked field-goals in a two minute span proving that maybe you can’t count a team out, maybe all games are created equal. The Wolverines do have a name opponent in Oregon this weekend and while that isn’t a big game (obviously not now), it would have been perceived as one compared to Appalachian St.; it would’ve been on Friday that is.

I have three words for you: Henne, Hart, and Manningham. The one positive that came out of one of the biggest college football upsets ever was that Michigan’s offense still works. Hart, with a bruised hip at game time, still ran for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns. Despite the events of this past Saturday, this team is going to live or die based on the performance of these three individuals.

This past off-season, the Wolverines lost too many big names on defense and the damage is showing with a lackluster showing overall, but particularly with their linebacking core depleted and their corners showing no way of stopping the Mountaineer attack until they had to go into comeback mode. Special teams is a whole different story as the Wolverines weren’t particularly riddled in the off-season, but somehow were able to let up two blocked field-goals not just in the game (how often does that happen?), but in two minutes! It’s almost fitting that those two minutes were the final two minutes, the crunch-time minutes, and for the Wolverines, the championship minutes maybe.

In short, special teams and defense took a back seat on Saturday, or maybe they’re not that good this year, and the offense was left to carry load. It got them far, but not far enough.

Emotion Wills Hokies to Opening Day Win
It was an emotional day in Blacksburg, and the all-important goal was achieved: a W. Imagine if the Hokies were the second victims of the upset bug? Instead, a day of remembrance and tears was allowed to go all according to plan: the victims of the V. Tech massacre were properly remembered and the opening entrance of the Hokies was able to stand as college football’s emotional moment of the year after only one week of play.

But are they ready for LSU? The Hokies did show signs of weakness in that they could only put up seventeen against East Carolina. That says more about the Hokies than it does about East Carolina because the Hokies are capable of more than they showed on Saturday with the team they have. Yes, it was run & defense, the way tough football is won. However, will that performance hold up in Baton Rouge on Saturday? There won’t be as many cheers and the ones that the Hokies will hear will be loud and in the direction of their opponents. This is the first big game of the college football season—two top 10 teams against each other, and the national title hopes of both teams rides on them getting into conference play unbeaten as both of their conferences—LSU’s more so in my opinion—could be deadly. One team will fall short that goal Saturday.

It is fitting that this matchup takes place, as these teams are associated with the two biggest tragedies in recent history (Katrina and the V. Tech shooting). It was a swelling of emotion when the Tigers returned to Baton Rouge and it was a swelling of emotion when the Hokies took the field Saturday. Now they meet again. Now it’s not about the sadness over the events that have further endeared these teams to their fans, but about football.

Quickie NFL Thoughts

AFC East
New York Jets: No Curtis Martin=problems.
Buffalo Bills: No Willis McGahee=big problems
New England Patriots: My Super Bowl pick as of now. If Moss plays, I’m almost positive they’ll play in February. Maroney balances out losing Corey Dillon, and Harrison being out shouldn’t be disastrous.
Miami Dolphins: Trent Green is a gamble since the injury last year and getting rid of Culpepper may come back to bite the Fins later.

AFC North
Pittsburgh Steelers: This is Roethlisberger’s year to prove his true worth after flipping between good and bad the past few seasons.
Cleveland Browns: Luck of the Irish? Not if that O-Line keeps giving up sacks like they have.
Baltimore Ravens: Here’s a team that should surprise everyone. Nobody is really counting on them, but they’re a team that could make a run for it all with the addition of McGahee. Losing Adalius Thomas was huge, but they still have one of the best defenses in football.
Cincinnati Bengals: When they play good, this team is always in the playoff hunt. If they can win the close games, they’ll be in the hunt.

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts: Saints are a good opening test for a team that kept their main players, but lost some good people in the off-season. Why a good test? Because it will be an indication as to whether this team can win the big games.
Jacksonville Jaguars: I would’ve kept Leftwich for one more year. Keeping “Fragile Freddy” was smart, however.
Houston Texans: Same shit, different day. Maybe six wins like last year, but I’m not getting a vibe that they’ll get more.
Tennessee Titans: Can Vince overcome the sophomore jinx? I think so, but that doesn’t mean his team is going to win 10.

AFC West
Denver Broncos: The NFL’s Virginia Tech. They’ll obviously be the emotional fav’s in the AFC, but their own division is so damn tough.
Kansas City Chiefs: L.J. finally reporting to camp is a good thing, losing Trent Green is a bad thing, and Priest Holmes coming back is something.
San Diego Chargers: Marty ball is out of the equation. Watch, they’ll win the playoff games they should’ve now. If any team looks like they’re going to go to Phoenix, these guys fit the part.
Oakland Raiders: Getting Culpepper means they’ll at least have someone with experience (can’t say the same about the coach), and that means that JaMarcus Russell will have a mentor of sorts if he’s even on the sidelines.

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles: If McNabb lasts the season, these guys take the division and maybe a first round bye.
Washington Redskins:The odd man out in a good division.
New York Giants: Losing Barber is going to hurt this team offensively as Manning’s only crutch has been taking away. It’s put up or shut up time for Peyton’s bro.
Dallas Cowboys: T.O.’s the same, Romo isn’t holding kicks, and Parcells is gone. I’m thinking it’s pretty hit or miss.

NFC North
Green Bay Packers: Everyone’s looking to send Favre off on a high note (if this is it), and it could happen.
Chicago Bears: If Grossman is still their quarterback, he’d better get real good real quick after the loss of Thomas Jones.
Minnesota Vikings: Still a pretty young team, but if Adrian Petersen makes the transition quick (he looks like he may), this team could have something offensively.
Detroit Lions: If this season is par the course, then fire Millen. Please.

NFC South
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Simms seems to be the man in Tampa. I think he’s the best choice, but there aren’t that many choices are there?
Carolina Panthers: Delhomme got this team to a Super Bowl once, he can do it again. He just has to play like it, that’s all.
New Orleans Saints: My pick to take the NFC. This team seemed to have it all last year, and they lost nothing in the off-season. Yet, they still might be 0-1 after week one. Crazy, huh?
Atlanta Falcons: They’ll miss Vick’s 1,000 rushing yards. With Harrington they’ll get more passing from their quarterback. Same results? Maybe, but I’m not betting on it history considered.

NFC West
St. Louis Rams: Still fun to watch, likely to play the role of spoiler rather than be spoiled.
Seattle Seahawks: They’ve got Shaun Alexander. The NFC’s L.T. is all you need sometime.
San Francisco 49ers: Remember, Frank Gore did lead the NFC is rushing last year. However, for this team to succeed Alex Smith needs his coming out year.
Arizona Cardinals: Maybe all the talent this team does have will finally click this year. If not, expect more of the same.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Every year there is a football team—college or pro—that pisses everything away. Michigan has already done this, but it’s only week one. Who’s next? At this point, every game is a critical game, and every possible upset could be that upset. Texas nearly experienced this last weekend, and there are still a couple weeks of non-conference play before everyone slips back into their own conference and the rivalry games begin to take place. Until then, are all bets off? Was this an isolated incident or are the big teams getting too cocky? Are the little teams getting better or more determined? Or is this simply fate? Upsets seem to point to that, as they are history in the making (cliché as that phrase is these days) while getting bigger and bigger in recent years. Maybe the upset in itself reached its peak this past Saturday. Upsets in the pro ranks aren’t that big a deal anymore due to the parity that is in just about every pro sport these days, but in the college ranks due to the high number of teams and the fact that college sports still have teams that are expected to do good every year regardless of any outside factors. That is what makes college sports exciting. Without upsets, sports would get more and more boring until people would clamor for an upset to shake things up. Thankfully, the NCAA won’t have to worry about that with the big upset of ’07 already taken care of.

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