There is a reason that Rocky, Rudy, The Sandlot and even Little Giants did so well at the box office. They were all sports stories built around the underdog. Genres revolving around the individuals or teams that no one gave a chance. Stories proving that heart, passion and desire outweigh ability, size and the infamous word, ‘potential.’
Simply stated—we love undersized underdogs because most of us were.
As we watch college football each Saturday we reminisce about our playing days, in between plays we quietly say to ourselves, “I could have made that play.” And while many of us have not had the opportunity to play at a high level of college football, we do live vicariously through the gladiators on the gridiron each Saturday in the fall.
Two weeks into the 2010 season, it’s safe to say that the little guys have made their point quite clearly—they may be small in stature, but they are giants on the field as they continually prove they can play with the big boys of college football.
It began with Jacksonville State and North Dakota State’s upsets over Ole’ Miss and Kansas in week one. It was punctuated with a right hook by Boise State on Labor Day as they beat Virginia Tech on the final drive like Rocky beat Apollo in the final round in Rocky II.
And like any Rocky film, there were a few sequels in week two. They went by the names of South Dakota over Minnesota, Gardner-Webb over Akron and James Madison over Virginia Tech.
Yet while this is seen as a shocker to some it only takes one glance back at small school success in college football and it’s evident that these upsets have been a work in progress, just like the Little Giants and “The Annexation of Puerto Rico.”
I saw it for my own eyes as a wide receiver at Pitt in 2001 when the South Florida Bulls, who were a Division I-AA team at the time, walked into Pittsburgh and beat the Panthers 35-26. It continued in 2007 when Appalachian State beat Michigan 34-32 at the Big House. Those wins were highlights around the nation as Fresno State, Utah, Boise State and TCU were continually putting up one-loss seasons or even finishing undefeated ever-so quietly.
Sure, upsets by FCS schools are likely over for 2010 as we enter conference play, but it must be noted that while programs like Ohio State, Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma will remain upper echelon teams, the little guys are coming and like Rocky against Tommy Gun in Rocky V they won’t back down.
And we wouldn’t want them to.