Rooting for the Underdogs in College Football: So Much More Fun

The SportmeistersAnalyst ISeptember 7, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Steven Thomas #24 of the Brigham Young Cougars at Cowboys Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

By Ryan of The Sportmeisters

Flipping through the college football games on ESPN, one of their little teasers came on saying something to the effect of “Underdogs make it interesting.” The funny thing is, they’re right.

Just with this past weekend of college football, we saw a top five talent get knocked off in Oklahoma, and a top-10 team almost get upset in Ohio State. Yet, both times in both games, I found myself rooting for their opponents. It was almost like I was in a mind-trance, seeing David top Goliath.

What makes it so much more fun to see the favorite get spoiled?

Why, here in Afghanistan, with it being 11:00 pm, could I not turn away after Navy scored to make it 29-21 in the fourth quarter? At the same time, when BYU took the lead on Oklahoma, how could I be rooting for the Cougars (especially knowing they face my FSU Seminoles in two weeks)?

It’s simple, really. Seeing little teams come out of nowhere and earn a level of respect by knocking off a powerhouse team, especially one with more resources available to them, brings out the underdog in all of us. Every time we are told we can’t win at this, or we can’t take on this challenge, it brings out an inner desire to prove them wrong.

Remember all the people FCS school Appalachian State proved wrong when they beat Michigan in their own stadium in 2007?

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We crave respect when we accomplish a goal people didn’t expect us to achieve. That desire drives us to a level of adrenaline far beyond our wildest imagination. It’s that same desire, put into a team of young men, who have trained their bodies to take on this challenge, against an opponent much bigger, faster, and stronger, that makes a cupcake game more than meets the eye.

The same can be said for bowl games at the end of the year.

In 2007, Oklahoma and Boise State met in the Fiesta Bowl. The whole game, Boise State was in control, but in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma did what favorites are expected to do. They quit toying around with their opponent and in a 24-second span went from losing 28-20 to taking a 35-28 point lead with 62 seconds left in the game.

Did Boise State roll over, as most expect an underdog to do? No.

Even when they were down, with time against them, they dug deeper, finding that desire to be respected on a national level, and won in overtime 43-42. That game gave a new-found fighting chance for a non-BCS school, as Boise State finished 13-0, warranting national championship discussion.

The Broncos' upset victory helped open the floodgates for college football underdogs today.

Before, big programs could rely on their prestige and merit to recruit the top talent from around the country.

Not anymore.

As multiple TV contracts allow teams to be showcased on national and regional television every weekend, and recruits aren’t as concerned anymore, as even small schools get NFL scouts' recognition through the combine and film tape. In a manner of speaking, the underdogs are a whole lot stronger.

College football doesn’t have a playoff system, and in fact, still allows teams to schedule their own out of conference games. Many teams look for cupcake games, designed to allow their players to “ease” into the season.

Well, in today’s NCAA Football, don’t sleep on an underdog, because they’ll bite you in the butt and destroy your season before it even started. Just ask Oklahoma fans who’ve been bitten twice in the last three years.

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