The Gridiron Geek's College Football Report Vol. 2: Bully Beatdown!
Mark McCormack once wrote that in the British Open golf tournament, many a 72 is a greater round than many a 65. It depends on time, place and circumstances.
And so it goes with college football upsets. The most famous upset in modern times, Boise State over Oklahoma at the Fiesta Bowl in 2007, wasn't really a shocker in terms of athletic ability and coaching. The Blue Broncos have proven in the five years since that their achievement was no miracle. But the historical significance of David-trumps-Goliath Mach One, and the fact that there has never been a more dramatic or entertaining 60-plus minutes on a gridiron, give the game its lasting legacy.
Week 2 of the 2012 season was filled with upsets, some of them jaw-dropping. But who do we celebrate more, those Davids who shook the BCS and the mainstream media by knocking out a ranked team, or those who faced such a disparity in talent that it's almost surreal that they could win?
Wanting to give credit where it's due while duly feeding the hype machine, the Geek has devised a handy ranking scheme for this week's shockers. Upsets are rated 1-10 in 3 categories: A) The drama and quality of each game, B) its significance on the college football landscape and C) the actual disparity in talent, coaching and resources faced by the unlikely winner.
We'll call it the Boise-Oklahoma rating, or BOK.
Which games made the top of the list? Scroll down to find out.
Louisiana-Monroe 34, No. 8 Arkansas 31, OT
The Sun-Belt conference is one of those "minor leagues" found in the FBS division, hovering somewhere between the MAC, the Mountain West and Coastal Carolina. As of Saturday morning, no team from the conference had beaten a top-25 school since 2004. SEC teams often book their Sun Belt neighbors as cupcakes, since not much travel is involved for either party and the friendly thrash-for-cash games pose no threat to the big shots.
But as they say, don't tell that to the Warhawks. Louisiana-Monroe rallied, incredibly, from a 28-7 deficit in the third quarter to push the Razorbacks into overtime, then scored the winning TD on a thrilling scramble by QB Kolton Browning, who is playing like John Chung of Plainfield Teachers College, except he's real. The junior finished the game with almost 500 total yards.
Arkansas coach John L. Smith told the AP that "we still have the league in front of us," and I know what he means. He means that the SEC is still the bully, and that the loss was a fluke. Feed that to the BCS computer, which will now rank the Razorbacks closer to Coastal Carolina than Florida or LSU.
Drama/Quality rating: 10
National significance: 9 (it wasn't the Fiesta Bowl, after all)
Talent Disparity: 9
BOK Rating: 28/30
Sacramento State 30, Colorado State 28
This upset is especially noteworthy for a few reasons. First, Sacramento State is not expected to contend for the FCS title, and Colorado is in the Pac-12. Second, CSUS kicker Edgar Castenada is a walk-on who made the winning field goal with :01 seconds left and (attn: ABC Family Docudrama squad) earned a scholarship with his performance.
The Hornets (seriously, how cool of a prep-style nickname is that?) out-gained the Buffaloes 466 yards to 341 after losing their Week 1 game with New Mexico State by four touchdowns. Get blown out by the dregs, beat the Pac-12 the next week? College football is not always as hierarchical as Colin Cowherd would have us believe.
D/Q: 10 (Castenada's triumph is a bad TV movie waiting to happen)
Natl. Significance: 6
Talent Disp: 8 (Colorado isn't a contender, but this is an average FCS team against the Harbaugh/Walsh/Carroll conference.)
BOK Rating: 24/30
Oregon State 10, No. 13 Wisconsin 7
Bret Bielema has always slightly annoyed me. I think it's his way of throwing in an "On Wisconsin!" at the end of every interview, as if to say "despite what humble and sportsmanlike platitudes I have just parroted, my team is better than yours, and we'll steal from old ladies if we have to."
That said, Bielema's program is a mean display of power football that should have handled the Beavers without too much trouble.
But there is nothing like a 12th man. The Oregon State defense, buoyed by hundreds of thousands of, ahem, mildly intoxicated fans in Mandarin orange, pressured and badgered the Badgers into this devastating loss.
Credit also Beaver QB Sean Mannion, who threw for 276 yards and could have put more than 10 points on the board.
Natl. Significance: 8
Talent Disp: 4
BOK Rating: 20/30
UCLA 36, No. 19 Nebraska 30
Former Nebraska head coach Tom Osbourne is the type of guy who would be rolling over in his grave at a loss like this, except he's still alive and helping out with the program. UCLA QB Brett Hundley deserves credit for throwing for four touchdowns, but the 'Huskers are playing a brand of ball that Ol' Tom could never be proud of, giving up 653 (gag!) total yards and giving up a crucial safety and then a crucial interception in the final minutes.
Sketchy Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini will now slink his way back to the heartland, but you can't help but think he would be better off staying in LA, where the culture better suits him.
Natl. Significance: 8
Talent Disp: 3
BOK Rating: 20/30
Arizona 59, No. 18 Oklahoma State 38
Mike Gundy is a man, and I'm going to criticize him. Overlooking an obvious lack of production from his defense for several seasons, Gundy has trotted along without making major changes, thinking that his offense would outscore everybody. As is simple to explain to a kindergartener but not to football coaches, both sides of the scoreboard count equally. Bad defense will eventually kill you.
OSU also took a comical number of personal fouls in the game, while Arizona stayed sharp and disciplined. I don't really have anything special to say about the Wildcats, other than they are a good team with good talent and coaching, but they don't do anything that should have beaten an annual BCS contender by 21 points. Maybe they're happy that in-state rival Brock Osweiler and his Wilt Chamberlain height advantage have graduated to the NFL.
Oh, and it's a dry heat, even in spring time.
Natl. Significance: 9
Talent Disp: 4
BOK Rating: 19/30
North Dakota State 22, Colorado State 7
We expect FCS-over-FBS upsets to follow a familiar pattern. Division I team comes out overconfident, gets a few bad breaks, grows frustrated while the opponent is heartened to take the lead. Thus follows a second half of "Hey we can beat these guys!" fanaticism vs. "Hey, these guys might actually beat us" panic.
The game ends with a bang, like Browning's OT scramble or the famous blocked Michigan field-goal attempt by Appalachian State in 2008.
Not so on this night. After a Garrett Grayson touchdown pass in the first minute for C-State, the NDSU defense smothered the homestanding Rams. The hosts were held to 11 first downs and 72 yards rushing, while the Bison offense calmly gained 366 yards and only turned it over once. A Pac-12 representative, CSU appears to have packed it in sometime in the last 12 minutes.
Natl. Significance: 7
Talent Disp: 4 (Judging from this game, zero, but then again it's the FCS vs. the big boys.)
BOK Rating: 18/30
Northern Arizona 17, UNLV 14
The NAU Lumberjacks have one of the coolest kickoff rituals in all of football, thousands of enrolled students joining in a fierce yet fun chopping chant. Since NAU is usually doing more receiving of kickoffs against top-level competition, the upset of UNLV comes as a nice surprise.
Northern Arizona lost 63-6 in its opener against Arizona State, so coach Jerome Sauers was understandably pleased with the turnaround. He noted after the game that "when (the team) plays better, this is what happens," a statement almost brilliant in its obviousness. The win was NAU's first over a Division IA school since 2003.
NAU is scheduled to blow out Division II cupcake Fort Lewis next week, completing the seesaw from being loudly chopped down, to chopping down, to making paper confetti.
Natl. Significance: 3
Talent Disp: 7
BOK Rating: 17/30
In the honorable mention category, Air Force nearly knocked off No. 19 Michigan, losing 31-25 in a tense contest. The Geek is a fan of Air Force and lives in Colorado, so at this point, I have nothing witty or charming to say.
Follow the Gridiron Geek on Twitter at @brgridirongeek.
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