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An underappreciated part of the early college football season is seeing some of the smaller schools take down the big boys. Football fans will never turn away when they see little Appalachian State beating a nationally ranked Michigan team in front of over a hundred thousand angry fans. Players who suit up for Appalachian State, and teams of this stature, are usually overlooked by neighboring power five conference universities. Big time programs like to schedule FCS schools in the beginning of the season to get their players ready for conference play. Last weekend this strategy backfired for the University of Kansas as they welcomed in a more determined South Dakota State. Never take for granted a determined underdog with nothing to lose!
The South Dakota State Jackrabbits walked into Memorial Stadium last Saturday and scored on their first five possessions. The Jacks never took their foot off the gas and ended up with a 41-38 upset. This counted as SDSU’s first win over an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) opponent since moving to Division one in 2004. Power five conference schools will now think twice before inviting the Jackrabbits into town. Kansas is by no means a juggernaut when it comes to football, but all over the nation FCS schools are taking their “Superior” counterparts to the limits. So this weekend when you’re watching college football keep an eye out for under the radar teams like a Jacksonville State, Western Illinois, or Cal Poly. One of these squads might turn into Cinderella come Saturday night.
On September 4, 2004 the longest winning streak in the history of high school football came to an end. On this Fall Saturday evening the unbeatable Spartans from De La Salle in Concord, California traveled to Seattle to take on local power house Bellevue High. I remember this game well as I was one of the 24,987 fans that filled Qwest Field (now Century Link Stadium). Even as the four-time defending national champion Spartans took the field optimism filled the air amongst the strong contingent of Wolverine fans. By 2004 Bellevue had already established itself as Washington’s premier football team, having won three straight state championships. Even with all the accolades, could a team with a 14 year old starting quarterback really take down a squad that hadn’t lost a game since 1992?
Bellevue winning 39-20, and controlling the Spartans maybe didn’t shock the world but how they did it is pretty unbelievable. A De La Salle team that amassed 39 shutouts during their streak allowed 460 total yards against the Wolverines, all rushing! Inexperienced sophomore quarterback Eric Block never even attempted a pass while future All-American J.R. Hasty punished the Spartan defense with 271 rushing yards. As time expired a shocked crowd watched as players hugged and danced on the giant Seahawks logo at midfield. This win established Bellevue as a household name and enabled them to take on other nationally ranked teams from across the nation. Next week, the number one ranked team in the nation Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas will travel to the Pacific Northwest and add yet another chapter in this storied program’s history.
I understand it’s still August and for most of us the college football season doesn’t really kick off till next weekend. For those who can’t wait till next weekend I strongly suggest you tune in this Saturday to Watch four-time defending national champion North Dakota State take on perennial powerhouse Montana in Missoula. Even though these teams are in college football’s subdivision (FCS) they could easily hang with the big boys. NDSU for example is 8-3 over FBS schools in the last decade with wins over teams like Minnesota, Kansas State, and Iowa State. Montana will have to pull out all the stops if they look to upset the Bison for the first time since 1941.
The 12th ranked Grizzlies are entering the season with a new head coach who brings with him a new innovative offense. Coach Bob Stitt and his fly sweep offense came to Montana after 15 years of dominance at Division II Colorado School of Mines. He’ll have his hands full as the Bison come into town with an astonishing record of 58-3 since 2011. Can the Bison become the first team in the college football history to win five straight national championships? It might be too soon to make these assumptions but hey at least we have football back!