If there’s one good thing about the Bowl season, it’s that you get a lot of interesting matchups between teams that don’t otherwise get a chance to meet.
Penn State and Florida, UCF and Georgia, Mississippi State and Michigan, UConn and Oklahoma and Ohio State and Arkansas are just a few of the matchups which, although ultimately meaningless on the grand scheme of things, at least provide fans with a somewhat different experience.
But the Bowl season also puts a microscope on how college football is perceived and what I think is the biggest misconception in all of college athletics.
It seems like each and every non-conference game at the FBS level always has the same story leading up to the opening kick. It’s always “the little guy” versus “the big guy.”
Sure, everybody loves a David and Goliath story, but are we to believe that every time two teams from different conferences take the football field, there’s always a massive underdog?
In fact, aren’t Bowl matchups created specifically to put evenly-matched teams on the field together? That’s what I always thought, anyway.
So why is it that when Central Florida squeaks by Georgia, it is some kind of huge upset? Last time I checked, the Golden Knights won 11 games this year, and the Bulldogs finished with a losing record. Sure, there’s more talent in the SEC than Conference USA, but that doesn’t mean all SEC teams are created equal.
The fact of the matter, one that fans and, yes, the media, often seem to forget, is that in college football, there are 11 students on the field against 11 other students in each and every game.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s hard to win a football game if your offensive line can’t block anybody, and to me anyway, it looked like that’s what happened to UGA.
Isn’t it possible that the CUSA champs who had won 10 games until that point plain and simply had a slightly better team than a middle-of-the-pack SEC squad?
Perception says no — UGA played bad (for the seventh time this season), and UCF got lucky (for the 11th time?).
Then, there’s Texas Christian.
As far as many are concerned, it was a huge upset when lowly TCU knocked off the mighty Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl.
If memory serves, the Horned Frogs have been in the Top 10 for the entirety of the last three years. Wouldn’t the real “upset” have been if Wisconsin won?
It isn’t just Bowl games, either.
The regular season started when Boise State beat Virginia Tech 33-30 on Sept. 6. When Boise trailed with four minutes left in that game, color analyst Kirk Herbstreit was already saying that the Broncos had nothing to be ashamed of and that they had proven that they could hang with the “big boys.” After BSU came back and won, play-by-play guy Brent Musberger proclaimed that Boise had shocked No. 10 Virginia Tech and taken down the giant.
Apparently he forgot that Boise was ranked No. 3 in the nation, and that when the higher-ranked team wins, it isn’t usually even considered a mild upset.
Of course, the following week when James Madison, a middle-of-the-pack team from the Colonial Athletic Association of the FCS, beat Virginia Tech, it was because the Hokies were still in shock from the Boise “upset” and still hungover because they had only five days to recover.
It couldn’t have been because JMU’s 11 guys blocked better, tackled better and scored more points that day.
Sure, sometimes upsets happen. Sometimes a “little guy” gets the better of a team it has no business being on the same field with, and that’s why we watch games that feature two teams with which we have no affiliation.
But in the grand scheme of things, every game can’t be “David vs. Goliath.”
I guess the major media outlets have to come up with some transparent reason for us to watch the 35 (well, 34) meaningless Bowl games they’re broadcasting.
Otherwise, the NCAA would have to do something crazy like set up a playoff system, which as we all know, couldn’t possibly crown a true champion.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.