OF THE BODY BAGGERS
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (Sept. 2,
2007) — The expression is quite expressive, yet so apt.
The Body Bag Games.
That’s how it was for Gene
Murphy, coach of the woebegone Cal State Fullerton football program until its
bitter end in 1992. The Titans were a Division I-A team all right, to
this day the proud owner of two NCAA D-IA records: Most fumbles (73)
in a single season, and most fumbles lost (41).
I should know because I was
part of that traveling circus from 1987-91. We still have bruise marks
after receiving beatdowns in places like Gainesville, Auburn, Baton
Rouge and Morgantown. And on occasion, the Titans would bus to the
Rose Bowl to get a neighborhood spanking.
All for a glorious $250,000
Before Saturday, I was going
to eviscerate the continued existence of those Body Bag Games, 15
years after Fullerton’s football program joined the dearly departed. I
was on a mission to rid this dastardly concoction, a collusion
of the Haves’ desire to fill up their stadiums by showcasing live
tackling dummies and the Have Nots’ need for cash flow.
Until this happened:
Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32.
If you don’t recognize this
game as the biggest upset in the history of college football,
may I recommend a copy of "Football for Dummies?"
Never mind that the
Mountaineers are the two-time defending Division I-AA champion, this
is unprecedented. No D-IAA team has ever beaten a ranked D-IA team
during the entire existence of the AP poll … let along one ranked
No. 5, with national championship aspirations … in the biggest
stadium in the country … against the winningest program (in both
wins and by percentage) in college football history.
This is Meeeechigan we’re
Now Michigan has big problems.
Michigan’s defense had no answer for APU’s fleet-footed quarterback
Armanti Edwards. Michigan’s offense had no rhythm and no pause.
Michigan’s special teams had no organization to keep field goals from
being blocked. Michigan’s coaches had no clue.
Michigan’s administration also
didn’t do its homework, either. The Wolverines had the pick of the litter for
this Body Bag Game, with a $400,000 payout dangling from the gates of
the Big House. The
Mountaineers practically begged for this game — that right there
should’ve aroused some suspicion.
Mercifully, this public
humiliation was not televised — not unless you had DirecTV and
therefore access to the 3-day-old Big Ten Network. The highlights,
which will burn into the minds of the Maize and Blue faithful for
eternity, didn’t do the game justice, for Appalachian State actually
dominated most of the game.
The outcome of this cautionary
tale should affect the future of Body Bag Games. Big schools will
now more carefully vet out potential Body Bag applicants for fear of
another season-killing, reputation-tarnishing loss. Little schools
will have a harder time going out of its region in search of a big
paycheck. Rest assured, Appalachian State is not coming anywhere near
Big Ten country in the next 10 years.
Yep, the repercussions will be
most keenly felt by the Big Ten. In many ways, this entire conference
needs to get into the 21st century. Bo and Woody have moved on, and so
should Big Ten football. There’s a reason why that, aside from Ohio
State’s lone (and fluky) 2002 national title, the Big Ten has not been
a factor in the BCS Era.
The Big Ten has fallen far
behind the SEC and Pac-10 in terms of coaching and talent development.
The staid conservatism that has served the conference well in the past
is no longer working when it gets outside of the Midwest. The Big Ten
has to improve on its speed, skill, aggression and creativity to stay
But before we get too much of
the big-picture stuff, Saturday’s upset for the ages was for the
little guys. For all the kids on the wrong side of a 65-0 wipeout. For
good ol’ Murph and all the coaches who needed the check to fund the
next recruiting trip and fix broken shoulder pads.
Hail to the Body Baggers.
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