Underdogs in college football keep the sport entertaining

Shaun Knight, Evergreen columnist

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

September is finally here.

That means College football is officially underway. Roaring fans, superstar plays, and big hits. It’s Saturday football, and it’s here. Despite what you think you love about the game, though, there’s one aspect of college football that keeps our interest piqued year after year: upsets.

Sure, everybody loves a powerhouse. An Auburn Tigers’ team going a perfect 14-0, like in 2010. An Alabama Crimson Tide team winning three national titles in four years, like in 2009-2012.

But we’re supposed to love domination, right?

There’s nothing wrong with supremacy. Huge games between dynasty teams in college football are as competitive and exciting as you’ll find in sports. But it’s the smaller programs that keep fans compelled each week.

Many people remember the historical Appalachian State upset of No. 5 Michigan back in 2007, a smaller number probably remember who won the national championship that year. Apart from a few college football die-hards, not a lot of people remember who took home the trophy.

Why, then, does a school that went 5-2 in a conference that’s part of the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly I-AA, get more recognition than an Football Bowl Subdivision National Title winner?

Because upsets compel us.

As sports viewers, we are inherently intrigued by teams that nobody thought had a chance: the underdogs, the Davids to the Goliaths, the Appalachian States to the Michigans. We have grown, as sports followers, to learn that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Wins equal money, money equals resources, resources equal stars, and stars equal more wins.

That’s why we as viewers become so intrigued by upsets; we understand the lopsided level of talent, skill, and money between the big guys and the little guys. Yet somehow, every so often, that understanding gets thrown out the window and we want to know how. There’s no tangible way to know why. Sometimes, the perfect storm just comes along and a tiny school from who-knows-where takes down the Alabamas and Oregons of the nation.

College football fans have already been blessed by a few potentially historic upsets this year: the mighty Kansas State fell to North Dakota State in Week One of the college football season just this weekend and Eastern Washington University knocked off No. 25 Oregon State (according to the Associated Press) the same day.

That’s the simple beauty of upsets; nobody knows how an upset happens, or when one is forthcoming, until after the fact. And when they do occur, it’s when the sports world least expects it. That’s a level of surprise college football fans just surely wouldn’t enjoy living without. Luckily, they don’t have to.