Underdogs Rock College Football Rankings

This year has been a whirlwind for college football.  NCAA titans Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Texas have fallen out of favor, while Purdue, Oklahoma State, and the heretofore unknown Old Dominion (ODU) have been thrown into the national spotlight. These upsets have shaken up the top 25 rankings, casting doubt on what was supposed to be a predestined playoff.

The first shock of the season came on September 22, when the Virginia Tech Hokies, then ranked the no. 10 collegiate team in the nation, traveled to Norfolk to face the then unknown 0-2 Old Dominion Monarchs, who had just lost their starting quarterback. Virginia Tech was favored by 28½ points, although even this prediction was generous; the year prior, the Hokies made quick work of ODU, winning 38-0. This year, however, was a different story. ODU backup quarterback Blake LaRussa came off the bench to throw for 495 yards and four touchdowns, torching a Virginia Tech defense that had recently held the 20th-ranked FSU Seminoles to a mere three points. Old Dominion’s defense did just enough to hold off the potent Virginia Tech rushing attack, and ODU came out victorious with a score of 49-35. ODU has since failed to sustain its uncanny success, as the Monarchs currently hold a record of 2-7. As for Virginia Tech, they have remained outside the top 25 ever since that loss.

Perhaps even more unexpected was the ignominious fall of the formerly undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes to the unranked Purdue Boilermakers on October 17. Ohio State, undefeated at the time, was favored by 14 points against Purdue, which was 3-3. To its credit, Purdue had rebounded well after an 0-3 start, and was riding a three-game winning streak. However, few expected the smackdown that followed.  The Boilermakers crushed the Buckeyes 49-20, dominating on both sides of the ball. Purdue quarterback David Blough passed for 378 yards, running-back D.J. Knox ran for 128 more, and the Purdue defense held the Buckeyes without a touchdown until the final quarter. The lopsided defeat sent Ohio State spiraling outside the top ten. The team, which ESPN predicted would qualify as one of the top four teams sent to the College Football playoff, now finds itself on the outside looking in, currently ranked no. 11 in the AP top 25 rankings.  Purdue’s victory, like Old Dominion’s, seems to have been a fluke as well. The team lost to Michigan State 23-13 on the following Saturday and remains unranked.

On Saturday, October 28, the Oklahoma State Cowboys made their own mark on this surprising season, taking down the no. 6 ranked Texas Longhorns, 38-35. The stands were filled in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with the unranked Cowboys looking to play spoiler on their homecoming day. The team jumped out with a 31-14 lead after a dominant first half. Texas made a fervent late push in an attempt to facilitate a massive comeback, but it was too little, too late. Oklahoma State’s lead fell to 31-28; quarterback Taylor Cornelius scored on a 10 yard run that put the game out of reach for the Longhorns. Receiver Tylan Wallace was a nightmare for Texas’s defense, torching the Longhorns for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns. Texas fell to 6-2 on the season, while Oklahoma State improved to 5-3. The Longhorns’ frustration was evident in the penultimate play of the game, a kneel-down in which a Texas defender rammed an Oklahoma State blocker. The play led to a heated altercation between both teams.  Texas Head Coach Tom Herman had to be restrained by officials after he stormed on the field in anger.

These upsets demonstrate the extreme volatility of college football. No team’s spot in the College Football Playoff is guaranteed; Ohio State experienced that firsthand. In the NCAA, your record, your ranking, and the odds don’t always matter. This season, the underdog just keeps coming out on top.