Thursday, September 5, 2013
Ranking the Week 1 Upsets
Goodness me. You know me, right? You know how much I love upsets, right?
What an orgy of upsets Week 1 of college football was! Not only did a slew of D1-A teams fall to D1-AA teams (new readers: I refuse to recognize the terms "FCS" and "FBS" much like China refuses to recognize Taiwan), but a couple of them were multiple-possession wins, which is practically unheard of in these already-rare circumstances, and rank them.
6) Southern Utah 22, South Alabama 21
Okay, so this one won't send anyone into a tizzy. South Alabama just transitioned to D1-A and had a woeful first year in the Sun Belt. But Southern Utah themselves had a losing record last year, and has to try to recruit kids to not only come to Utah, but Southern Utah, far from the dizzying blitz of fancy-schmancy Salt Lake City or Ogden.
SUU got the win despite finishing -2 in turnover margin, making it all the more impressive. The Thunderbirds raced out to a 10-0 lead, then South Alabama went on a 21-3 run before SUU came back to with a touchdown and then a field goal as time expired to pull out the win.
5) Northern Iowa 28, Iowa State 20
Paul Rhoads has never had unbeatable teams at Iowa State, but he sticks around because he has a penchant for big upsets (none bigger than coming back to beat Oklahoma State and knock them out of the NC game two years ago) and great halftime speeches. And they did go bowling last year.
This year ... maybe a better halftime speech? Rhoads has to be worried about his run defense, because if there is one area that a Goliath should dominate a David, it's in the trenches. But UNI's David Johnson went off for 199 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns in a game Iowa State never led.
4) North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21
Okay, so NDSU are defending D1-AA champs, and came into the game ranked No. 1 in the D1-AA polls. And Kansas State lost a lot of guys from last season. Still, that team was one game away from playing for a national title last year, and now ... this.
Again, rushing was the difference. NDSU: 215 yards rushing. KSU: 41. That means the Bison dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. To ice the cake, NDSU accomplished that rare feat of a D1-AA comeback over a D1-A team. KSU led 21-7 late in the third quarter before NDSU closed them down.
3) Towson 33, Connecticut 18
Towson is coming off a decent year, ending the year ranked No. 17 in D-1AA. UConn only finished 2-5 in the lowly Big East (RIP), but did well enough outside the conference to finish just one win away from bowl eligibility.
But this game ranks higher than the others because unlike all but one No. 1, this game was not a one-possession affair, and Towson is pretty bad most years.
For the third time, I must point out the rushing disparity: 201 for Towson, 81 for UConn. But in case you think that's unduly tempered by Towson's possessions with the game already in hand, check out the Yards Per Rush: 4.0 for Towson, 3.0 for UConn.
2) Eastern Washington 49, Oregon State 46
Oregon State came into the game ranked 25th, so this is only the third or fourth time a D1-AA school has beaten a top-25 D1-A team (Appalachian State over Michigan was the first, but I can't find info on what has happened since).
For such a barnburner, the score was actually closer than the actual game played out on the field. EWU had the edge in yards per pass, yards per rush, and turnovers. Both starting quarterbacks threw for over 400 yards and had staggering completion percentages (76.7% for EWU's Vernon Adams, 86.0% for Oregon State's Sean Mannion)
1) Eastern Illinois 40, San Diego State 19
In 2012, Eastern Illinois had a decent year and won the Ohio Valley Conference, but it wasn't an outstanding year. They got bounced in the first round of the playoffs to the tune of 58-10 to South Dakota State and finished 7-5.
Meanwhile, San Diego State had a banner year by their standards. They finished the season as Mountain West co-champs, knocking off Boise State on the road along the way. They finished 9-4, the best season the Aztecs have had in a long time.
So EIU travels across the country and throttles them. The Panthers outscored San Diego State 33-6 over the final three quarters, thanks to 5 turnovers by the Aztecs. I think Adam Dingwell may not be the man for the SDSU quarterback job. 27-63 (42%) 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions.
The interesting part about these upsets underscores a point that is becoming clearer every year: as high school programs become more streamlined, there are just more great players, and the talent gap between the haves and have-nots shrink. None of these upsets happened because of fluky things like turnovers ... and before you say, "You just talked about the turnovers in the Eastern Illinois game!" consider that EIU took advantage of those turnovers not to win 24-22, but 40-19.
It's getting to the point where we can say "any given Saturday..." as well as we can say "any given Sunday..." And I love that.