0The art of the college football upset
What do Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill and Epeius have in common?
That answer is simple: both engineered the vehicles for massive upsets. Epeius, the craftsman behind the wooden horse that would store hundreds of Greek soldiers that surprised Troy and won the Trojan War. Hill is the head coach of the Southern Illinois Salukis, who went into Evanston and defeated Northwestern 31-24, their first win over a Big Ten school since 2006, when Hill was the quarterback.
You could say that Southern Illinois wheeled in a wooden Saluki, stunning the Wildcats in their own version of the Aeneid.
Upsets are expected to happen at least once around college football, but this year it just seems like more and more teams are getting upended by small programs walking into their home stadium, literally taking their money and leaving. The Salukis were paid $550,000 to come to Ryan Field, and they weren’t alone. Five other FBS teams have lost to FCS opponents this season, compared to only three for the entire 2021 season.
Eastern Michigan (BRING THE MAC-TION) went into Arizona State and beat the Sun Devils 30-21, leading by two scores at a point. To put the icing on the cake, they did this on their social media:
Bobby Petrino and Missouri State almost went into Fayetteville and beat Arkansas, on Friends and Family Day nonetheless! Cal was four chances at a Hail Mary catch away from taking out Notre Dame at home! Marshall, who beat the Irish last week, were upended by Bowling Green!
So, what goes into an upset? Well, it has two certainties. First, there’s bound to be extremely heroic QB play. The QB is the shining star in this movie, and for the upset to happen, they have to be on point. For Southern Illinois, QB Nik Baker threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns, picking apart the Wildcats defense.
Last week, Holy Cross beat Buffalo behind 238 passing yards from Matthew Sluka. Georgia Southern’s Kyle vantrease threw for 409 yards in their victory over Nebraska that would get Scott Frost fired. Jake Haener etched his name in college football Twitter lore forever by throwing two touchdown in three minutes to beat UCLA. Your QB must be touched by God if you want to pull off an upset.
Second, and this is the most important thing: weird shit happens in these games. Northwestern turned the ball over four times, including a muffed punt and two lost fumbles by Evan Hull and Ryan Hilinski. These games are ripe for blocked kicks and punt returns for touchdowns, tip drill interceptions and insanely lucky or unlucky doinks off the goalpost. Holy Cross used a Hail Mary to beat Buffalo last week!
In Week Zero, Old Dominion beat Virginia Tech and the elevators didn’t work for at least an hour! Weird things happen in an upset, but it all comes back together and makes sense in the end, which is what makes the sport fun. The wild moments in an upset come together like a chef cooking a meal on Worlds Worst Cooks, throwing random things into a pot but somehow it turns out great!