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Is David Catching Up To Goliath?

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In recent years, we’ve seen a huge shift in college sports, most notably college basketball. Teams like George Mason have changed the face of the game, rendering the term “cinderella” obsolete by proving that smaller schools can’t just be competitive with bigger programs, but can beat them. The effect of these small programs’ success is only starting to be felt, but the outcome is clear; college basketball’s playing field is slowly becoming more level.

But basketball is not the only place this change is going on. A similar change is going on in college football, where the historical powerhouses are still around, but the little guys are catching up to them. They might never be at the same level as a USC or Texas, but they’ll certainly be able to compete.

Notre Dame got pounded into the ground by Georgia Tech, and with games coming up against the likes of Penn State and Michigan State, things don’t look too good. Michigan got humiliated on national television as they completely overlooked an underestimated Appalachian State team and likely saw their entire season go down the drain. Miami (FL), while defeating Marshall 31-3, has not been the juggernaut it once was. Florida State is still ranked, but the question on my mind isn’t how high they’ll go, but rather how long they’ll stay in the top 25. Even USC’s path to the national championship is not easy, as they have to go through both UCLA and Cal, perhaps the two Pac-10 teams that could unseat the Trojans.

On the other hand, teams like TCU, BYU, Hawaii, Boise State, South Florida and Rutgers may all make cases this season for a BCS bowl game bid. Half of them made cases last year, and Boise State not only ended up in a BCS game, but left the Fiesta Bowl victorious against a powerful Oklahoma team.

That game was the wake up call for many college football fans across America that the “little guys” were getting stronger, but in truth, it had been that way for years. These small schools had spawned some of the best NFL talent in recent memory, from TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson and New Mexico’s Brian Urlacher to Marshall’s Randy Moss, San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk and Miami (Ohio)’s Ben Roethlisberger.

Heck, look at the NCAA Football 08 cover; former Boise State QB Jared Zabransky is on the cover, and for good reason – he was one of the star players on perhaps the best team of 2006. You don’t get on the cover of NCAA Football by being a crappy college football player.

And let’s not forget the even smaller guys, the teams that are supposed to be “cupcakes.” There are some superb teams in the Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) besides Appalachian State. The Colonial Athletic Association’s New Hampshire and Massachusetts are solid teams, as well as schools like Youngstown State, Georgia Southern and Montana. After what happened at The Big House today, it’s going to be interesting to see how those big schools view these tune-up games from now on. I imagine they won’t be taking it as easy.

South Bend and Ann Arbor are no longer the places where championship teams are born. With each success that smaller schools and conferences have, the distance closes between them and their bigger counterparts. As long as it gives me hope that my Bowling Green Falcons might one day be able to compete with the best of the best in college football (stop laughing), it’s something I can definitely get behind.

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About Brian Szabelski

  • nicolas

    a fair point, but you could do a better job supporting it.

    a handful more 9-12 seeds going further than the first round of the basketball tournament is nice, but it doesn’t really say anything about parity as much as it does about the unpredictability of the tournament itself.

    Notre Dame got stomped by Georgia Tech because Tech’s new tailback is a monster and Notre Dame is the same overrated team (who wasn’t even rated this year).

    Teams like Boise, Hawaii, and BYU wind up being undefeated because they don’t play ANYone of consequence. for Boise State and Hawaii, the game they play against each other is the only true test on either team’s schedule.

    Yes, there are a number of dominant smaller-conference teams out there who can compete on any given Saturday with any given team, but we have a loooooooong way to go before the gap truly closes between the big six conferences and the other 50 D-I schools.

  • Woodcock

    How many times do we have to hear the old they don’t play anybody argument. Lets be honest you are seeing these so call big confernce teams getting their as* kicked on a more consistent bases. If you look at the WAC and Mountain West they are playing more BCS schools and beating them on a consitent basis. So Nicolas your argument for those schools not playing anybody is a typical simplified and uniformed answer as to what is going on in these conferences. We can see how competitive these conferences are when they beat the BCS teams during the season and at the end of the year in the BCS bowl games.

  • Doug Hunter

    “How many times do we have to hear the old they don’t play anybody argument”

    As many times as they have to hear the ‘yeah you stomped the crap out of us 99 times, but that one fluke means we’re equal’ line of BS. It makes for good fun but there’s a reason a ranked team hasn’t been hasn’t been beaten by divII in god knows how many tries until now.

    The mountaineers may have beat michigan this time but they’ve been trounced two or three times in their last two championship years by second tier DIV I schools.

  • nicolas

    actually, woodcock, it isnt a simplified argument. LOOK at Hawaii and Boise’s schedule. every team they play SUCKED last year and didn’t make some incredible lea forward this year. sure, some credit for teams like fresno state or missouri, but not enough to do anything more than offset the really bad teams they play. i stand by my statement that (in their specific situation, since they are, or were, both ranked) their game agaisnt each other is their only hard game