Make no mistake: the college football season stands firmly at the top of my list of annual favorites — the fall spectacular that opens every August and continues right through the first days of a much colder New Year. I love the pomp and circumstance that dominate the pregame tailgating parties and other related antics; the enthusiastic singing of school fight songs like “Hail to the Victors” sung upon every successful field goal, touchdown, defensive sack or interception by diehard “Wolverines” like me, my former wife, my son, my daughter and my brother-in-law; and the comradery that overflows among alums when a rival team dares to challenge us on our home turf — the stadium that we affectionately refer to as “The Big House.”
But what I like the most about college football is the fact that on any given Saturday or Sunday, a so-called “underdog” can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, sending the highly-favored team home away in humiliation, forced to “eat crow” until the next season allows them the chance for revenge.
That’s exactly what happened last weekend during the season openers for both the University of Michigan [UM] and Howard University [HU] who, respectively, upended Florida for its first season-opening loss in nearly three decades and a 45-point underdog who edged out an opposing UNLV for the Howard Bison’s first win over a Bowl Subdivision (top-level/upper division) team in team history.
More surprise wins dominated sports news last weekend as Maryland defeated Texas and Liberty stopped powerhouse Baylor in two more upsets.
For Michigan who trailed 17-13 at halftime, three scores in six minutes helped push them to victory, giving them a real boost in confidence as they prepare for an upcoming division schedule that will put the mostly underclass team to their limits. As for Howard, led by new head coach Mike London, a former Maryland assistant who took on a team that had only won three games in its last two seasons, Sunday’s 43-40 win spoke volumes in securing London and his team’s new mantra, “Mission Possible.”
In the efforts over the past several years against Bowl Subdivision teams, Howard lost to Maryland by 39, to Rutgers by 38 and by a combined 125 points to Boston College and Appalachian State.
Can you spell “humiliation?”
But it’s a new day. There’s also the caveat that comes along with H.U.’s storybook victory and the college record books: the team’s undersized freshman quarterback, Caylin Newton, pulled off the largest upset of any game with a point spread in college football history, beating a record previously held by 40-point underdog Stanford with their win over USC in 2007. By the way, Caylin has an older brother who knows “a little something” about being a successful quarterback in college and the NFL — Cam Newton is his name.
Do you now understand why I can’t get enough of college football? It continues to confirm with all kinds of twists, turns and “Hail Mary’s” that preparation, persistence and a dose of daily prayer can provide “mission possible” endings. As the youth say in today’s vernacular, “Yeah, that’s wassup!”