As I’m sure some of you were this past Saturday, I sat on my couch in utter amazement at what I was watching go down in college football.
Maryland beat Clemson?
Navy is on top of Wake Forest??
Mississippi might knock off Florida???
USC lost to Oregon State????
Okay, so we knew that last outcome because it happened on Thursday night. And we shouldn’t have been that surprised when upsets happen in college football because, well, upsets happen in college football.
But the reason they’re happening this year is more prevalent than in years past: From smaller to big-time programs, the talent level is better across the nation.
Ole’ Miss isn’t afraid to walk into Gainesville these days because they have players like Jevan Snead and Shay Hodge that can compete with Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. The Beavers could care less that the Trojans are the top ranked program in the nation not just because they beat USC in Corvallis two years ago, but also because quarterback Lyle Moevao and freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers can play for just about any team in the nation.
Granted, Florida is going to beat Mississippi on most Saturdays and that’s why the Gators were No. 5 in the nation and the Rebels weren’t anywhere near the top 25 coming into weekend. Voters are often clueless, but they’re competent enough to recognize that the Gators and Trojans have more overall depth and talent than the Rebels and Beavers. But the fact of the matter is that the mid-level programs have caught up dramatically over the years.
And on any given Saturday, Ole’ Miss can beat Florida. And Navy can beat Wake Forest. And Maryland can beat Clemson, and so on.
This might be an obvious revelation to most college football fans, but there’s still a large group that assumes that these smaller schools are just getting lucky. That the bigger programs are shooting themselves in the foot on game day and playing down to their opponents. Granted, that might be the case in some situations, but it’s no longer the main reason why more storied programs are falling to mid-level and even FCS (previously known as Division 1AA) teams.
Michigan losing to Appalachian State last year in Ann Arbor is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Anyone who tuned into that game knows that the Wolverines didn’t necessarily shoot themselves in the foot for four quarters; the Mountaineers had enough playmakers to not only keep themselves in the game, but also win it.
Michigan still had more total yards (479 to 387), fewer turnovers (2 to 3) and just as many penalties (each team had seven apiece), but they couldn’t stop ASU quarterback Armanti Edwards from passing for 227 yards and three touchdowns, or running for 62 yards and a score. He was the best player on the field that day and it showed.
Whether these smaller schools are getting better at recruiting or the top tier programs are just flat out misjudging what these kids can do on the field, it’s clear that the talent has spread out across the nation.
Or better yet, the overall talent level is just better on a whole. Maybe the bigger programs have just as much recruiting power as they always have, but there’s so much talent across the country that even the mid-level schools are finding Heisman candidates. (See Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour as proof.)
That theory plays into how more and more undrafted free agents like Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo are becoming stars in the NFL. There’s just so much talent that there’s enough for every team to get a piece of the action.
Either way, we shouldn’t be surprised when Ole’ Miss beats the Gators in Gainesville or when Navy pulls upsets over Notre Dame and Wake Forest. And quite frankly, things are better this way. (Or at the very least, they’re more exciting.)
As college football fans, let’s hope that these mid-level programs continue to land some of the talent they’ve been able to over the past couple years. Because this past weekend in college football was fun as hell.
College Football Quick Hitters:
- Georgia got smoked by Alabama on Saturday evening not because Heisman Trophy candidate Knowshon Moreno wasn’t 100% healthy, but because Nick Saban’s Tide were more physical. UGA is a talented team and deserved to be ranked that high going into Saturday, but eventually the inexperience on the offensive line was going to catch up with them.
- Wake Forest beat Florida State one week and than lost to Navy the next. Clemson fell out of the preseason top 10 after losing to Alabama in Week 1, then climbed back to No. 20 only to lose to unranked Maryland. Will someone please step up in the ACC? After they lost to East Carolina earlier this year, people started writing off Virginia Tech. But maybe Frank Beamer’s Hokies are still the class of the conference after all. Or maybe a relatively unknown like Maryland or (gasp!) Duke will emerge. Either way, things are going to be interesting in the ACC throughout the rest of the year.
- I wrote this in my recap of the Navy-Wake Forest game but I think it bears repeating: The Midshipmen are often undersized, out-manned and usually have less talent than most of their opponents on game day. But the reason they can beat Notre Dame after failing the previous 43 times one year and then defeat a No. 16 Wake Forest team the next is because of their heart and determination. They never go into a game assuming defeat and for that, I love watching them play.
- I realize to a large extent that Florida choked against Ole’ Miss on Saturday (a blocked extra point attempt, Urban Meyer? Really?), but that game just proves how hard it is to win in the SEC. Even the proverbial bottom dwellers of the conference are no pushovers.
- How Wisconsin lost to Michigan after building a 19-0 halftime lead is still beyond me. In the first half, the UM players were playing like they had bet on Wisconsin before the game. The Wolverine defense is a little better than what people give them credit for, but there’s no way the Badgers should lose a game in which their opponents cough the ball up five times in the first half and spot them a 19-0 lead. What a disaster.
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Posted in: College Football
Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, College football upsets, Duke Blue Devils, Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Maryland Terps, Michigan Wolverines, Navy Midshipmen, Navy upsets Wake Forest, Nick Saban, Ole Miss Rebels, Ole' Miss upsets Florida, Oregon State Beavers, Oregon State upsets USC, USC Trojans, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Wisconsin Badgers