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September 5, 2007

SCS.comWhen Appalachian State safety Corey Lynchís hands met pigskin on Saturday afternoon, it clinched perhaps the biggest upset in the history of college football. Lynch blocked what would have been a game winning field goal by the Michigan Wolverines, and the celebration in Boone, North Carolina began. It was the first time a Division 1-AA program had ever defeated a nationally ranked Division 1-A team. But this wasnít simply any team. This was the number five team in the land. This was Michigan. This was in the Big House.

The history of David vs. Goliath upsets certainly is a long and illustrious one, and college sports in particular has provided a plethora of memorable games. This one ranks right up there with the best; but is it the greatest of all time? As far as college football goes, many will argue yes. However, when considering other sports, Appalachian Stateís shocker brings to mind another unforgettable defeat: Chaminadeís 1982 upset of then number one Virginia in menís basketball.

So which was the greater upset? Can one simply choose a winner across both time and playing field? It isnít easy, but there are many factors to be considered in a comparison like this.

The Davids: Appalachian State and Chaminade

While Appalachian State may not be a D 1-A powerhouse program, they certainly have had success in the world of D 1-AA football. The Moutaineers are two-time defending 1AA national champions. Hidden away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the school has just over 15,000 students and has fielded a football team since 1928.

Chaminade was a literal nobody in the college athletic world. Their basketball program had only been in existence for seven years at the time of its matchup with Virginia. With a student body of just 800 students and situated in Hawaii, Chaminade was as far outside the sports world as a school could be.

Advantage: Chaminade

The Goliaths: Michigan and Virginia

Michigan is one of the most storied names in college football history. The Wolverines have been in national title discussions each of the last few seasons, and this season was certainly no different. Chad Henne was considered by many to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country, and running back Mike Hart is a Heisman candidate. Michigan is an absolute force, not just on the field, but as a name too.

Virginia was ranked number one in the country when they made the trip to Chaminade. Led by eventual three-time National Player of the Year Ralph Sampson, the Cavaliers were steamrolling the competition. A week prior to the game with Chaminade, the Cavs had defeated one of the country's elite teams in Houston, without Sampson who was ill.

Advantage: Even


Michiganís Big House is a site to behold. It's a monument to college football that holds over 100,000 screaming Wolverine fans every Saturday during the season. For opposing teams, it is one of the most intimidating stadiums in the country to play in. For any team that isnít among the nationís elite to walk in a beat Michigan at home is very impressive, let alone for a D 1-AA team to do it.

Chaminade may have been a tremendous underdog in their matchup with Virginia, but they at least had the advantage of being able to play in the confines of their own gym.

Advantage: Appalachian State

Physical Matchups

To look at the average size of Appalachian Stateís players versus that of Michiganís is simply astounding. The Wolverines' average defensive lineman actually outweighed the Mountaineerís average offensive lineman, 279 pounds to 275 pounds. Appalachian Stateís defensive line was giving up nearly 40 pounds to Michiganís offensive line. Despite these tremendous physical mismatches, Appalachian State was still able to prevail against a physically imposing Michigan team.

When Chaminade chopped down Virginia, they had to slow down 7í4Ē Ralph Sampson. Sampson was the most dominant big man in the country at the time and towered over an undersized Chaminade squad. The man assigned to guard Sampson was 6í6Ē Tony Randolph, who played a stellar defensive game, and actually outscored the All-American.

Despite this though, Appalachian State had to deal with an entire team that, in terms of physical size, dwarfed them tremendously, and in a sport where size and strength play crucial roles.

Advantage: Appalachian State

Historical Significance

Appalachian State is the first D 1-AA program to ever defeat a ranked D 1-A team. The fact that it was a Michigan team ranked in the top five nationally makes the win all that more monumental. Will this victory mark a turning point in the history of college football, and reshape the game towards having more parody? That is yet to be seen.

College basketball was not instantly changed by Chaminadeís shocking upset of Virginia, but since that time, the game has seen a tremendous rise in parody. Every year there are major upsets by ďmid-majorĒ programs, and of course the crowning jewel for small schools was George Masonís Final Four run in 2006. However, as history has shown, college basketball sees its share of major upsets every year.

Advantage: Appalachian State

Based on this list of criteria, it can at least be argued that Appalachian Stateís win over Michigan is the greatest upset in the history of college sports. The beauty is that this is a debate that more than likely can never be settled, with the differences in the sports and time periods. One thing is certain however: Appalachian State, like Chaminade, will now forever have their name etched into history.

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