By Arnie Leshin
They play all kind of college football, especially on Saturday, but the only thing they have in common is the football itself.
There are the schools like New Mexico State last Saturday looking for a big payday by hitting the road to Alabama and getting shellacked before 80,000 Crimson Tide fans that don’t take prisoners, just root for the score to keep climbing.
Of course, the Aggies had no real chance, but to them, money talks, and they went home to Las Cruces with a check for a million or two. They also got national exposure and big-time newspaper space. The final score wasn’t important, NMSU knew what it was getting into.
The University of New Mexico, one Saturday later, followed in its state rival’s “losing game,”, flying into South Bend to face Notre Dame. Same thing, an overwhelming trouncing before 80,000 Fighting Irish fans who showed no mercy.
Yup, just like the Aggies, the Lobos knew they would lose big, but that they too would be able to return to Albuquerque a million or two richer. Plus, the national exposure and the newspaper headings bragging about how Bama dominated.
This is nothing new, it’s been going on for decades. It’s a big-time program welcoming a small-time school to have a good time, tour the campus, get slaughtered on the gridiron, and have a nice check to bring home.
But sometimes it can backfire. Appalachian State, a good football program that doesn’t play a usual strong schedule, went to nationally–ranked Michigan in 2013 and stunned the Wolverines and a capacity crowd. North Dakota has done the same, knocking off nationally ranked Utah in 2014.
But only once this past Saturday was there a shocker of this magnitude. All but two of the top-10 schools emerged victorious, with No. 1 Clemson winning 35-7 at Syracuse, No. 2 Alabama turning back South Carolina, 44-14, on the road, No. 3 Georgia, at home, shutting down Arkansas State, 55-0, No. 4 LSU overwhelming visiting Arkansas State, 65-14, and No, 5 Oklahoma playing UCLA in the Rose Bowl and romping 55-21.
But down went No. 6 Michigan State at home to Arizona State. This was a dilly.
It was a low-scoring defensive struggle where the Spartans led 7-3 with the clock ticking down, and the Sundevils, on fourth down and one, sent their running back up and over the stacked defense. The PAT was good and Michigan State, with no timeouts remaining, had just 54 seconds to go 85 yards to win or get into field goal territory, knot the score and force overtime.
And it got into field goal territory by virtue of its passing game. It got to the Sundevil 26 for a 43-yard try. After two time out by Arizona State to ice the kicker, it sailed right through the uprights, but while the home crowd was still celebrating, the officials were huddling, looking at video of the play, and counting just like the broadcasters in the TV booth.
Twelve players on the field for the stunned Spartans and their shocked fans.
A 5-yard penalty, making it a 48-yarder. Up it went, way left, and undefeated Arizona State was the 10-7 winner and advanced to 3-0. Disappointed Michigan State dropped to 2-1.
The other surprise took place in Philadelphia when 2-0 high-scoring, No. 21 Maryland, which put up 115 points in those two games, was surprisingly only a 7-point favorite over also 2-0 Temple. The Owls hung tough, played a stout defense to contain the Terps, and were down 17-13 when they crossed the end zone with only 23 seconds left on the clock.
But No. 7 Notre Dame had no problem handily disposing of overmatched New Mexico, 66-14, and No. 8 Ohio State clobbered visiting Big 10 rival Indiana, 54-10, No. 9 Florida trailed 14-7 at halftime at SEC foe Kentucky, forced a 21-all tie after three quarters, and scored in the fading seconds to win 29-21. As for No. 10 Utah, it greeted Idaho State with a 31-10 defeat.
Other surprises was Georgia Southern hanging a loss on Big 10 Minnesota,
Underdog West Virginia knocked off visiting North Carolina State, and in not much of a surprise, unbeaten Kansas State won 31-24 at Mississippi State.
Can’t forget Brigham Young winning on the last play versus visiting No. 14 Southern California, 31-24, and Iowa scoring on a long final drive to edge state-rival Iowa State, 14-13, on the road.
Of course, some of these schools are not national threats, but these same
power school have scheduled some that are not known to the average fan.
Take Division 2 Citadel for instance. Georgia Tech put it on its home schedule and wished it never did. Citadel was up 14-12 when the Yellow Jackets attempted a 37-yard field that sailed way right as time ran out and Citadel stormed the field for one of its best-ever victories.
Yes, that’s an average sum-up of college football that runs from morning to night on Saturdays.