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Column: College football thrives on unthinkable upsets

The impossible is possible in college football.

John Hunt

Oct. 2, 2009

For the last four Saturdays, amid the afternoon game on ESPN's College Football GameDay segment, a short piece has run counting down the top 30 plays in college football in the last 30 years.

Coinciding with the 30-year anniversary of ESPN, ESPN reveals a different play from each game broadcasted, leading up to what they consider the greatest play in the last 30 years.

Although we only have four weeks of college football under our belt, it struck me as interesting that many of the plays so far revolve around tremendous upsets.

Looking back, this really shouldn't have come as much of a surprise at all. Last weekend alone, eight teams previously ranked in the Associated Press top 25 were defeated, with five of those previously in the top 10.

One of the many pulls of sports in general is the potential for upset and the subsequent rise of the underdogs.

The wonderful thing about college football is it seems like it could happen to any team at any time, almost more than in any other sports. This could be because the collegiate level boasts so many more programs than the professional leagues that the discrepancy between the traditional powerhouses and the "little guys" is greater due to the sharp contrast in funding, recruiting, resources, etc.

Perhaps this is why when a mid-major school upsets a perennial contender, the college football nation goes nuts, more than when, say the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now, this being said, there are exceptions to every rule. I, for one, was more thrilled seeing the Detroit Lions snap their 19-game losing streak against the Washington Redskins than any of the recent upsets that rocked the AP poll this weekend.

Although an upset of that caliber rolls around the NFL maybe twice per year, it seems to occur on the collegiate side weekly.

The unpredictable nature of college football is certainly one of the major contributing factors as to why the sport is so exciting and popular. When BYU upset Oklahoma in its first game of the season, BYU seemed destined for greatness. That is, until they played Florida State two weeks later. Then it was the Seminoles' chance for the spotlight.

Although these teams can't seem to hold onto a consistently respectable spot, other programs have been thrust into the national focus recently and made themselves at home.

The No. 5 Boise State Broncos burst onto the scene two years ago, with an upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and haven't looked back since. It's hard to believe the Broncos would have had similar success without that first upset for the ages.

After all, the game is being played for a reason. Florida International schedules Alabama not only for the experience of playing against elite level competition and substantially increasing revenue for the athletics department, but also because there is always that ever-so-slight shot that they could be this year's Appalachian State or next year's Boise State.

The odds against you are 1 to 100? 1 to 1000? It doesn't matter.

Every game starts with ordinary equal zeroes for each team on the scoreboard and the familiar 11 men on either side of the ball. The potential for the extraordinary begins immediately after.

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Article comments

Oct. 2, 2009 at 9:57 a.m.

BroncoSpud: Spot on brotha! Your argument is exactly why a playoff system is the only rational/reasonable/realistic/fair/credible... way to decide the NCAA Football championship. The BcS so totally blows!

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