Tigers know to be wary of lower division foes

Thursday, September 20, 2007 | 10:05 p.m. CDT; updated 12:03 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Appalachian State and quarterback Trey Elder have made it clear that with increased parity, the sky’s the limit for lower division football teams.

COLUMBIA — When Appalachian State upset Michigan Sept. 1, Missouri had just kicked off its football season against Illinois in St. Louis. The Tigers, it would seem, would have to learn about the news after the game.

But the Tigers didn’t need anyone to inform them how the Mountaineers crashed the Big House.

Saturday’s game

Illinois State (2-1) vs. Missouri (3-0) WHEN: 1:08 p.m. WHERE: Memorial Stadium RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM BEFORE THE GAME: Fans can get a look at the MU men’s and women’s basketball teams on Saturday morning. The men’s team has a practice that is open to the public beginning at 10 a.m. at Mizzou Arena. The women’s team follows with a scrimmage at 11 a.m. There is no admission fee for either event. MU football statistics

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After safety Pig Brown recounted his heroics against the Illini (two fumble recoveries and a game-ending interception) a sportswriter thought he would be the first to tell Brown about the victory. But Brown had already heard and shared in the amazement with the reporter.

Nose tackle Lorenzo Williams was the one of the first Tigers to learn the news that day.

“I remember that morning hearing (Kirk) Herbstreit from ESPN saying that no one wants to watch the Michigan-Appalachian State game,” Williams said Monday. “Later that day, I looked up the score on my phone, and the team’s response was a big ‘whoa.’ (The team) talked about it realizing that anyone can be beaten.”

Michigan has taught every team a lesson, one that coaches will draw on for years. The loss illustrated the increased parity in college football like George Mason’s run through the NCAA Tournament in 2006 did for college basketball.

Coach Gary Pinkel has seized on it as MU prepares to take on Illinois State at 1 p.m. Saturday at Faurot Field.

“It’s obvious that what happened at Michigan is a visual aid for everybody,” Pinkel said. “Nowadays there’s so much parity out there, everybody can beat everybody, and we would be foolish not to recognize that.”

That reality is reflected in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Writers are now allowed to vote for teams such as Appalachian State, which is part of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA. The poll had been limited to teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly called Divsion I-A. The Mountaineers are not ranked, but in another sign of parity, they received the same number of votes (5) as Florida State.

A potential upset isn’t the only thing an FCS school like Illinois State can gain when playing an FBS school. It also receives money from its opponent.

Members of the Big 12 Conference pay FCS opponents anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000, said Dr. Sheahon Zenger, Illinois State director of athletics.

But schools like Illinois State can’t schedule too many moneymakers against FBS opponents. Too many losses jeopardize their chances of qualifying for the FCS playoffs, Zenger said.

But scheduling opportunities are always available. It’s just a matter of compatibility.

“It’s kind of like dating,” he said. “You’re all out there looking for who matches who.”

Although the teams are closer in competition, differences still remain. Depth is the major disparity between the FBS and FCS schools, brought on by their allocated number of scholarships. FBS schools have 85 available, but FCS schools only get 63. That’s an entire second unit on both offense and defense.

STULL’s status under review: Pinkel is still reviewing backup defensive lineman John Stull’s status with the team, said Chad Moller, director of media relations for the MU athletic department.

Stull was arrested Monday morning on suspicion of assault, Columbia police said. Police could not release their report because the investigation is still ongoing.

Stull is currently serving two years’ unsupervised probation after pleading guilty for a misdemeanor charge in July 2006.

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