Sunday Afternoon Quarterback: The Revenge of the Underdog

David WilliamsSenior Analyst ISeptember 30, 2007

Icon Sports MediaThis weekend in college football was the most exciting in recent memory, as underappreciated underdogs all across the country rose up against their favored opposition. 


From Auburn over Florida to Florida State over Alabama to Illinois over Penn State, analysts across the land were left scratching their heads.

Over the first month of the season, the equilibrium of college football had been relatively undisturbed. The four teams predicted by many to rise to the top—USC, LSU, Florida, and Oklahoma did just that. 


Michigan didn't live up to lofty preseason expectations, but the Wolverines still figure to be in the hunt for a Big Ten Championship.  Virginia Tech lost badly to LSU, but are the favorites in the ACC.  Sure, South Florida, Oregon, and Kentucky have played better than expected, and Louisville, Tennessee, and Arkansas have played worse, but there had been no major shakeup in the rankings.


Until now. 

The 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 10th, 11th, and 13th ranked teams in the AP Poll ALL lost in the same week for the first time in years. None of these games, except for Oregon-California game and possibly South Florida-West Virginia, were meant to be even close. 


One common theme was that many of the underdogs had beaten the favorites the year prior.  In 2006, South Florida upset West Virginia, Kansas State upset a Colt McCoy-less Texas team, and Auburn beat the eventual national champion Florida. 


Still, no major analyst was ready to even whisper "upset."  It was supposed to be redemption weekend for the favorites...but only Cal Berkeley got the memo.

South Florida started off the weekend on a good note by easily handling the West Virginia Mountaineers.  The South Florida defense—which has now allowed only 11.8 points per game through five games—once again shut down a ranked opponent. 


The Bulls D held the three-headed monster of Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Noel Devine to a mere 126 yards rushing, although White left in the second quarter with a deep thigh bruise. 


Had USF QB Matt Grothe performed even moderately well, he would have been on my Heisman short list—but he didn't exactly step up to the plate in throwing for 135 yards and a  touchdown with two interceptions.  


Still, USF won this one for the underdogs—and for Big East, which has to be recognized as one of the best conferences in the country.

As for Auburn and Florida—the Gators were supposed to redeem themselves for last year's loss against a vastly inferior Tigers team. Instead, they got victimized by another high point in the roller-coaster ride that is the Brand Cox Experience.


The mere mention of the inconsistent Cox brings most Auburn fans to tears or rage, but the embattled quarterback always shows up against Florida.  Cox is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get...except against the Gators.

In his three games against significant opponents (Mississippi State, South Florida, and Kansas State), Cox threw for a meager 49.3 completion percentage with 436 yards, two touchdowns, and six interceptions.  But against Florida—in the vaunted “Swamp”—he posted a 65.4 completion percentage with 227 yards passing. 


I guess we won’t hear chants for freshman quarterback Kodi Burns for a few weeks...until Cox returns to his old form, complete with poor decision-making, worse elusiveness, and a weaker-than-average arm. 


Last night, though, we should’ve all remembered that Auburn owns Florida.  Auburn fans, don’t forget to pick up “Your Season Is Over!” T-shirts at an Auburn University Fan Shop near you.

Colorado wasn’t even supposed to contend with the explosive Oklahoma offense, but somehow held redshirt freshman Sam Bradford—whose QB rating was over 200, which I assure you is pretty good—to a 42.1 completion percentage with 112 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. 


Stud freshman running back DeMarco Murray also struggled, gaining only 39 yards on eight touches. 


While Cody Hawkins threw two interceptions for the Buffs, the redshirt freshman was still 61.1 percent with two touchdowns and two or more completions to seven different receivers. 


Oklahoma was no doubt looking past this game toward the Red River Shootout in Dallas on October 6th—as was archrival Texas.

The #7 Longhorns choked away their season at the end of last year, losing to Kansas State and Texas A&M.  One would assume that the Longhorns would have been chomping at the bit to get some revenge...but the team just plain came out flat.

Colt McCoy is suffering from “Rudy Carpenter Syndrome," also known as a horrible sophomore slump.  Under-the-radar linebacker/defensive end Ian Campbell may begin to get some national recognition after his interception return for a touchdown.

#10 Rutgers and #13 Clemson also lost, proving they weren’t who we all thought they were. 


Maryland’s defense held Heisman hopeful Ray Rice to 91 yards rushing.  Although the Terrapins don’t really have a quarterback, the offense pounded the Scarlet Knights on the ground for 239 yards. 


Rutgers may have been slightly overrated, but a team without a quarterback will usually be the underdog to the #10 team in the country.

Clemson proved that you do in fact need a competent playcaller to win football games.  Few would argue that James Davis and C.J. Spiller aren’t the best two players on Clemson’s football team, but somehow they only had 23 touches between them. 


I know Cullen Harper has been putting up Heisman-esque numbers, but when you have two of the best running backs in the country on the same team, you give each of them the ball much more often than Tommy Bowden did. 


I bet Spiller wishes he had transferred to Florida after last year, as he almost did.  I’m sure Urban Meyer could use him now. 


Georgia Tech has officially claimed the title of the Most Inconsistent Team in the Country. After getting handled by BC and Virginia, the GT defense and RB Tashard Choice played inspired football for the Yellow Jackets—probably saving Chan Gailey’s job.

This weekend may not have provided the unforgettable moment that was Appalachian State 34 – Michigan 32, but I can't remember ever being prouder of the underdog. 


The upsets give hope to other teams out there who might think they have little or no chance at winning.  But that’s why they strap it up on Saturdays.


As Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards once famously pronounced, “You Play to Win the Game!”



Extra Points 

-With their upset of the Penn State Nittany Lions—and their first win over a ranked team since 2001—the Illinois Fighting Illini have officially returned to respectability in the Big Ten. 


While Penn State had been wildly overrated after their blowout victory over Notre Dame in Week Two (back when Notre Dame still seemed capable of scoring offensive touchdowns), the Illini's victory proves they can contend in the conference. 


They probably don’t have a chance to win this year, but with talents like Rashard Mendenhall and Arrelious “Regis” Benn, the Illini could potentially have an eight- or nine-win season.

-Purdue has had the most under-the-radar 5-0 start out of any team I can think of...but when they're playing mid-majors and/or cupcakes such as Toledo, Eastern Illinois, Minnesota, Central Michigan, and Notre Dame, they don’t deserve much recognition. 


A big test will be when Ohio State travels to West Lafayette, IN, to face the Boilermakers this Saturday.  In my Big Ten Preview, I said Purdue would upset OSU. I also said Michigan would go 11-1, so I’m going against my initial intuition. 


As far as Notre Dame goes—I'll start referring to Charlie Weis as “Chaz” Weis until he wins a game.  Also, can Lou Holtz ever bring himself to pick against his beloved Fighting Irish or his Gamecocks? Maybe when ND plays USC...

-Speaking of USC, did they just almost lose to Washington? USC has a bad habit of playing down to  its opponents, as evidenced by the Trojans’ three-point victory over the Huskies. 


Hopefully John David Booty’s two interceptions against a questionable Washington defense take him out of the Heisman running for the time being.  One can only rely on hype over production for so long. 


If I remember correctly, Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman went into Seattle and carved up the Huskies secondary.  By that logic, should Boeckman be considered for the Heisman? Never! Of course not!

-Kudos to THE Miami University in Oxford, Ohio—not to be confused with the University of Miami in Florida—for their 17-14 upset over Syracuse. 


Since the 2-3 MAC member is better than Syracuse and Syracuse is better than former National Championship contender Louisville, by the transitive property Miami University is better than the University of Louisville.

-By his standards, quarterback Graham Harrell had a pedestrian performance in Texas Tech’s 75-7 victory over Northwestern State. 


Harrell only threw 40 passes, completing 26 of them for 338 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions.  On the year, Harrell has a 71.6 completion percentage with 2,301 yards passing, 24 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. 


If Tech has any semblance of defense, which I’m not sure they do, they'll give Oklahoma and Texas Tech some trouble down the road. 


Freshman wide receiver Michael Crabtree—who infamously dropped Texas Tech’s game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State last week—is on pace for 144 receptions, 2,208 yards receiving, and 34 touchdowns.  I know Crabtree is part of the prolific Texas Tech offensive “system,” but a player with 14 touchdown receptions this early deserves some recognition.

-Remember Rhett Bomar?


The former Oklahoma quarterback who got kicked off the team for taking money from a car dealership he didn't really work for now plays for Sam Houston State of Division I-AA. 


Sam Houston State played Oklahoma State yesterday—and while Bomar had the chance of a lifetime to show up his former Big 12 rival, he instead had an interception and a 44.9 completion percentage as the Bearkats (not a typo) lost 39-3 in Stillwater.

-Before, I would’ve said that Matt Grothe was a poor man’s Matt Flynn for his savvy pocket presence, mobility, and good decision-making.  Now I would say the opposite. 


Bleacher Report writer Will Schmidley and I have been at odds over whether Flynn is a good player or not.  I say he is the worst LSU quarterback in the history of football. 


While that is a gross overstatement, Ryan Perrilloux is better than Flynn, although his -1 passing yards last week aren’t making the best case for me.


Flynn couldn’t throw a touchdown against Tulane, so what can we really expect out of him against Florida? Remember, Flynn is no Brandon Cox.  Okay, I can’t say that with a straight face, but expect Florida to expose Flynn’s weaknesses, beat LSU, and leave every SEC team not named Kentucky with at least one loss halfway through the season. 


Might the precious SEC be overrated? I think so.  I’ll await demeaning, belittling responses from overzealous SEC diehards.

-I was completely wrong about Pittsburgh’s football team this year. 


I figured that the defense along with a solid offensive line and running game would make up for the losses of key players Tyler Palko, H.B. Blades, and Clint Session.  But in the Panthers’ last two games, the defense has allowed an alarming 39 points per. 


On the bright side, two true freshmen are gaining valuable experience in key positions.  Running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy (509 yards rushing, six touchdowns) and quarterback Patrick Bostick (61.6 percent for 411 yards) may not lead their team to victories now, but watch out for the return of the Panthers in 2008 or 2009.

-Vanderbilt is 3-1 and three wins away from going to a bowl game.  With away games at Auburn, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee and home contests against Georgia, Miami (OH), Kentucky, and Wake Forest, the quest will probably go down to the wire.

Vanderbilt will beat Miami and is due for at least one upset, but the Commodores will need one more victory if they want the opportunity to play in the Emerald Golden Nut Bowl.

Washington University (MO) Watch: The Bears improved to 4-1 on the season as they easily beat Rhodes College 24-3.  The Bears were led by junior quarterback Buck Smith, who went 19 for 30 with 228 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore running back Matt Glenn, who scored his sixth touchdown of the season.



Some links 

-I’m pretty sure 99 percent of you have seen Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy tearing a new one out of Stillwater newspaper editor Jenni Carlson.  It’s moments like these that make it so entertaining to be college football fans—unless you're somehow offended by the hair gel maniac that is Mike Gundy. 


With priceless quotables such as, “Come after me! I’m 40! I’m not a kid!” and “The newspaper is garbage! And the editor who let this article come out is garbage!,” Mike gave us some humor for our relaxing Sunday afternoons.  Gundy’s tirade against all newspapers around the world was almost as good as Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins “It’s Division One Football!” outburst on February signing day.  


The only thing that Hawkins could’ve said to make it better was, “It’s Bowl Subdivision Football! It ain’t Championship Subdivision Football!”...but maybe that’s just me.


-Mike Gundy isn’t just mad at Jenni Carlson, Mike Gundy is mad at you.


-Nick Saban Hate: This is really old, but pretty funny for you Harry Potter fans. In addition to being signed as the head football coach, Saban was also hired as new Alabama Defense against the Dark Arts teacher.  He has to earn that $4 million dollar a year salary.  Saban’s two straight losses to Georgia and Florida State have prompted a funny, albeit premature Fire Coach Nick Saban website.


-Speaking of websites dedicated to firing coaches, a Columbus law firm bought the rights to Fire Jim Tressel, because anyone thinking that must be out of his mind.


-This rap video is dedicated to Ohio State Buckeyes fans.  I don’t know whether I should be proud or embarrassed after watching this, but I swear we are not all like these people.


-Speaking of Ohio State, third-string redshirt freshman quarterback Antonio Henton was arrested after being accused of soliciting a prostitute in Columbus.  Apparently, he offered $20 for sex.  Now I don’t know much about this practice, but something tells me that for that amount of money, Henton should be glad he was arrested before anything happened.


-Because I’m sure you all are tired of watching various interpretations of the Soulja Boy, watch the Deion Sanders dance tutorial.


-Flashback to the Greg Jones Jacked Up Era.


-This guy needs a little practice on his celebration dance.


-Because you’re probably laughing at Jimmy Clausen too.


-Howie Mandel doesn’t like to shake the hand of this 5’9” running back with cat-like agility.  What about 6’5” quarterbacks with laser rocket arms?


-Did you know Tim Tebow was born in the Philippines?  A country with Roman Catholicism as its predominant in the world couldn’t Chaz Weis recruit him to Notre Dame? 


Tebow was also home-schooled in Florida but legally allowed by Florida legislature to participate in high school football due to a special bill.  This has prompted Alabama citizens to propose the “Tim Tebow Bill”—asking Alabama state legislature for a similar rule.


-I apologize for this in advance, but...Leave Herm Edwards Alone!


-After you wash your hands, Jim Harbaugh says you should buy Stanford tickets.


-In the Classified ads, Duke is looking for a kicker.  Scholarship potential!


-Leading up to Matt Stafford’s game-winning touchdown pass to Mikey Henderson in overtime a week ago, ESPN announcer Mike Patrick has an important question for the booth...What is Britney doing with her life?


-“Momma Says Knock You Out”—Navy Goat style


-Two mascots in a Professional Basketball League in Rome, GA, duke it out.


-The Kansas City Chiefs wolf mascot body slams an intruder on the field.


-Cheese Rolling, the strangest yet most entertaining sport I’ve ever seen.


-Former Texas Longhorn All-American Roy Williams doesn’t tip the pizza guy.  Let me just say, he’d better not be my cousin.

Next Week: Sunday Afternoon Quarterback will be in Champaign, Illinois to see whether the Fighting Illini can knock off “skinny” P.J. Hill and the rest of Bret Bielema’s Wisconsin Badgers.


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