Non-BCS Schools Flex Their Muscles
by Mike Mitchell
Please don't call it an upset weekend. It is far too cliche and does a complete injustice to the magnificent football programs being operated in Boise, Hattiesburg and Fresno. Besides, the weekly picks based on the Congrove Computer Rankings picked the wins by Fresno State over Kansas State and Southern Miss over Nebraska.
Boise State is one of the best and, yet, least respected schools in the country. The Broncos are riding a 20-game home winning streak and 13-game over-all winning streak, both tops in the nation. They have also won 18 straight WAC games and 26 of their last 27 games played. On Friday, they rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to defeat Oregon State convincingly 53-34. The victory avenged Boise State's only loss in just over two years. The Beavers downed the Broncos in Corvallis last season, 26-24.
Fresno State's 45-21 win over Kansas State can not even come close to the definition of "upset". For the Bulldogs, it's their sixth win in the last eleven games played against BCS schools over the past three seasons.
Since 2000, Southern Miss has rebuffed such notable programs as Alabama, Illinois and Oklahoma State (twice). Southern Miss coaches and players expected to win at Nebraska. The closeness of the 21-17 score probably upset more than a few Golden Eagles players.
Even Troy's 24-14 Thursday night win at home over Missouri didn't shock me or the computer which predicted a much-tighter ballgame than the oddsmakers. Remember, the upstart Trojans dispatched BCS member Mississippi State back in 2001 in their very first season as a 1-A school.
If you want to use the term upset, affix it to Notre Dame's win over Michigan. The Fighting Irish looked awful in last week's loss at Brigham Young. But in the friendly confines of their own stadium, Ty Willingham's club overcame a 9-0 halftime deficit to stun the Wolverines 28-20. Michigan was the computer's preseason pick to face Oklahoma in the BCS title game. The chances of that occurring are not completely out the window, but the loss was entirely unexpected by everyone but the most ardent Irish fans.
A bigger upset would've been Marshall knocking off Ohio State. The Thundering Herd came close, losing on a 54-yard field goal on the last play of the game in Columbus. Just last week, Marshall lost at home to Troy.
South Carolina over Georgia would have been a big upset. But the Gamecocks stared prosperity in the face and promptly shot it as they blew a 16-0 lead and lost 20-16.
Indiana's 30-24 win over Oregon can only be called a "mild" upset even though it snapped the Ducks' 21-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents. The 20-point line in favor of the Ducks was considered way too high by the computer which forecasted only a 6-point home win for Oregon.
You can call New Mexico's 27-24 win over Texas Tech an even more "mild" upset, despite the fact that they had not beaten the Red Raiders since 1984. The Lobos put Washington State on the ropes last week before falling 21-17. This week, a 43-yard field goal on the last play of the game gave New Mexico the win.
Cincinnati's 45-26 victory over Miami (Ohio) is a bigger upset. The RedHawks had won 14 straight games before losing at Michigan last week. The Bearcats had lost to Miami in each of the past three seasons.
Texas escaped the upset in Fayetteville where the Longhorns downed Arkansas 22-20. Both schools were former members of the Southwest Conference which disbanded after the 1995 season. The Razorbacks jumped ship to the SEC after the 1991 season. It was Texas' first win over Arkansas since 1990.
I'd have to say that New Hampshire's 35-24 defeat of Rutgers is an upset. Just when it looked like the Scarlet Knights could have a good season after knocking off Michigan State in their opener, they go out and lose at home to a 1-AA school that went just 5-7 last year.
Rutgers wasn't the only team to be bitten by a lower-division foe. Florida Atlantic, which upended Hawaii last week, thumped North Texas this week. The Howard Schnellenberger-coached Owls took down the Mean Green 20-13 at UNT. FAU is making the switch to 1-A and will join the Sun Belt conference next year.
1-A teams are now a combined 28-3 against their 1-AA opponents for the 2004 season.
The strangest finish I saw came at Clemson where the Tigers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. With only seconds remaining, Clemson tried to punt from deep in its own territory but the long snapper dribbled it back to the punter who could only fall on it to save a touchdown with 11 seconds left. On the very next play, Georgia Tech scored on a "jump ball" pass to the end zone and stunned Clemson, 28-24. Clemson returned the ensuing kick-off to the GT 31 but a heave to the end zone fell incomplete and the Yellow Jackets had completed their comeback by scoring 21 points in the final 4:36 of the game.
You Don't Play Nice: Western Michigan has played Virginia Tech three times since 2001 and has yet to score a point on the Hokies. Virginia Tech's wins have been by scores of 31-0 in 2001, 30-0 in 2002 and 63-0 this past Saturday.
Streaking: Boise State won its 13th-straight game with a 53-34 win over Oregon State Friday night. It was the 20th straight home win for BSU. It was a non-conference game but the Broncos have won 18 straight over WAC foes.
USC has the nation's second-longest winning streak with 11 after their 49-0 dismissal of Colorado State.
North Texas has won 18 straight over Sun Belt conference foes, but they better be glad Florida Atlantic doesn't join their league until next season. The 1-AA Owls shocked UNT 20-13 for their second consecutive win over a 1-A program. FAU beat Hawaii last week and both victories have come on the road.
Army's 52-21 loss to Louisville was their 16th straight.
SMU has lost 14 straight after being pummeled 44-0 by TCU.