Two College Football Upsets that Weren’t
On Saturday, the first College Football Saturday of the year, we had two underdog, non-BCS schools beat two perennial college powerhouses. But don’t confuse these underdog victories for upsets, because upsets they were not.
East Carolina University welcomed Virginia Tech to its campus just a year after having lost to VT 17-7 in Blacksburg last season. VT came into ECU’s stadium with a busload of fans and a #17 ranking, but all of that proved futile in their efforts beat ECU. East Carolina clearly was not scared of VT. And even though they entered halftime down 14-7, they knew they could ahead of VT had it not been for so many first half mistakes; afterall, they had dominated the time of possession and the yardage throughout the first half. So they quickly took control of the game in the second half, where they beat the VT Hokies at their own game…”Beamer Ball.” You all know Beamer Ball. It’s VT’s head coach’s emphasis on special teams that has made VT the epitome of what special teams should look like. But not on this day. In this game, it was ECU making field goals, covering kicks, and scoring the game winning touchdown off a blocked punt. T.J. Lee’s block and score gave ECU a 27-22 win and a little more credibility when fighting VT out for those coastal recruits next spring.
As for the boys in Ann Harbor, well, they are no strangers to the upset bug. Just like last year, they got down big to their Utah University opponent, 22-10 at halftime, and then they started to play football. Only it was too late, because you really can’t afford to fall behind in their new coach’s option offense. But they tried. After giving up 22 points to Utah in the first half, the Michigan defense only gave up 3 points in the 2nd half, and the offense put up 13 points in the 4th quarter. However, after scoring their 2nd touchdown of the 4th, they attempted a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 25, but the attempt failed and Michigan would go on to lose to yet another non-BCS school in their first game of the season. Call it a coincidence, but Michigan’s 25-23 loss to Utah was the same margin of loss in which Appalachian State defeated the Wolverines a year ago.
For the next week or so, you are going to hear so many analysts talk about how these were losses that should not have happened, that the recruiting ability of Michigan and Virginia Tech should make Utah and ECU’s efforts to beat them futile. Yet in this age of the spread offense, advanced scouting, and the growing trend of top athletes avoiding the big name schools to dominate in other conferences, college football powerhouses like Michigan and Virginia Tech are finding it hard to stay at the powerhouse level. Not to mention, Utah and ECU are no jokes. Utah’s quarterback, Brian Johnson, is a potential All-American candidate. And ECU is fresh off a Hawaii Bowl victory over the wonderful Boise State program, and they are also potentially in the running to join a major conference within the next few seasons.
So slow your roll on calling the ECU and Utah games upsets, because they weren’t. Those were just two good football programs taking it to powerhouses that are powerhouses no more. Sure, at the end of the day, VT and Michigan have more talent on their roster and more pipelines into high schools than Utah and ECU could ever imagine. But 5-star players and highly ranked recruiting classes don’t equal wins on the football field. Execution, game planning, and a little heart win football games. And if you didn’t believe that before, I hoped Saturdays results changed your mind.
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