McMurphy's Law: When It Comes to Upsets, Florida Is the King
When seven ranked teams were upset last weekend, the predictable catchphrase splashed across the country: Upset Saturday.
With scholarship limitations and better overall coaching (except in selected outposts such as Minnesota and New Mexico), upsets have become the norm instead of the exception throughout college football. Last weekend was a prime example with seven ranked teams getting upset compared with only 15 ranked teams in the first six weeks combined.
Twenty-one games involved ranked teams. Of those, six ranked teams – No. 5 Nebraska, No. 10 South Carolina, No. 19 Nevada, No. 22 Florida, No. 23 Air Force and No. 24 Oregon State – lost to unranked teams while No. 1 Ohio State lost to a lower-ranked team, No. 18 Wisconsin.
Since 2005 in games played with a ranked automatic qualifying BCS team, the lower-ranked or unranked team has pulled off the upset in 28.3 percent of the games. So basically every weekend, on average, nearly three out of 10 higher-ranked BCS teams are upset.
College football's best team, at least percentage-wise, at pulling off an upset? How about Florida?
The BCS national champions in 2006 and 2008 also are college football's upset kings, at least in the past five seasons with the nation's best winning percentage (63.6) when playing higher-ranked opponents.
The Gators have played a higher ranked team 11 times since 2005, winning seven. Entering this season, Florida had won a remarkable seven of nine games against higher-ranked opponents until losing this year to No. 1 Alabama and No. 12 LSU.
Florida is one of only three teams nationally winning at least 60 percent of their games against higher-ranked teams. The other two are West Virginia (62.5 percent) and Oregon (60 percent).
Overall, of the 66 automatic qualifying BCS teams, only seven have a winning record when playing a higher-ranked opponent since 2005. Following Florida, West Virginia and Oregon are three ACC teams – Virginia Tech (58.3 percent), N.C. State (57.1 percent) and Boston College (54.5 percent) – and then Georgia at 53.8 percent.
Not every school, though, has been that successful in an underdog role. In fact, 28 schools have a winning percentage at 25 percent or below when playing higher-ranked opponents.
Of those 28 schools, three are winless since 2005 when facing higher-ranked teams: Baylor (0-20), Duke (0-14) and Arizona State (0-12). Not surprisingly, Baylor and Duke each have not been to a bowl game since 1994.
Arizona State's futility against higher-ranked teams is somewhat surprising since the Sun Devils have been to four bowl games in the past six years.
As a conference, the ACC's teams are the most likely to upset a higher-ranked team. Since 2005, ACC teams have won 36.3 percent of its games against higher-ranked opponents, while Big 12 teams are the least likely to pull off the upset, winning only 19.5 percent of its games against higher-ranked foes.
One reason might be because there isn't such a large gap between the ACC's top teams and cellar dwellers, while the Big 12, at least in the past five seasons, has largely been Oklahoma and Texas and the 10 dwarfs.
The Upset Bug
Here's a breakdown of the six automatic qualifying BCS conferences with each team's record since 2005, through last weekend's games, as an unranked team facing a ranked team; or as a ranked team playing a higher-ranked team.
Pct. School (Record)
63.6 Florida (7-4)
53.8 Georgia (7-6)
50.0 LSU (7-7)
50.0 Alabama (6-6)
46.6 Auburn (7-8)
39.1 South Carolina (9-14)
27.2 Ole Miss (6-16)
25.0 Arkansas (7-21)
25.0 Tennessee (6-18)
19.0 Vanderbilt (4-17)
16.0 Miss. State (4-21)
10.5 Kentucky (2-17)
SEC teams vs. higher-ranked teams (72-155, 31.7 percent): How big was Kentucky's upset of No. 10 South Carolina Saturday? It was only the Wildcats' second victory in 19 games against higher-ranked opponents. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has lost its last eight games against ranked opponents since upsetting No. 13 Auburn in 2008. Arkansas has been involved in a league-high 24 games against higher-ranked teams, meaning since 2005 the Razorbacks have faced a higher-ranked team, on average, about every third game.
Pct. School (Record)
40.0 Michigan (8-12)
40.0 Wisconsin (6-9)
38.4 Iowa (5-8)
33.3 Northwestern (5-10)
33.3 Penn State (4-8)
28.5 Ohio State (2-5)
20.0 Michigan State (3-12)
10.0 Illinois (2-18)
8.3 Purdue (1-11)
8.3 Minnesota (2-22)
7.1 Indiana (1-13)
Big Ten teams vs. higher-ranked teams (39-129, 24.6 percent): With Michigan and Wisconsin the most successful at only 40 percent, the Big Ten is the only BCS conference without any league members winning at least 50 percent of their games against higher-ranked opponents. The Big Ten also is the only league with four teams (Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana) having won 10 percent or less against higher-ranked teams. In somewhat of an upset, however, the Big Ten's bowl record since 2005 when playing higher-ranked teams actually is a respectable 6-10 (37.5 percent).
Pct. School (Record)
50.0 Texas (4-4)
44.4 Oklahoma (4-5)
33.3 Kansas (4-8)
25.0 Oklahoma State (4-12)
23.5 Texas Tech (4-13)
22.2 Nebraska (4-14)
21.0 Texas A&M (4-15)
15.3 Kansas State (2-11)
14.2 Colorado (3-18)
10.0 Iowa State (2-18)
9.0 Missouri (1-10)
0.0 Baylor (0-20)
Big 12 teams vs. higher-ranked teams (36-148, 19.5 percent): Not only does the Big 12 have the worst winning percentage against higher-ranked teams, but also nine of its 12 league teams are at 25 percent of lower. Then there's poor Baylor. Since Oct. 30, 2004, the Bears have lost 24 consecutive games against ranked teams. The good – or bad – news for the Bears is they will have ample opportunities to end that streak facing No. 22 Texas, No. 17 Oklahoma State and No. 3 Oklahoma in the season's final four weeks.
Pct. School (Record)
58.3 Virginia Tech (7-5)
57.1 N.C. State (8-6)
54.5 Boston College (6-5)
50.0 Georgia Tech (9-9)
40.0 Florida State (8-12)
38.0 Maryland (8-13)
35.2 Miami (6-11)
33.3 Clemson (5-10)
31.5 North Carolina (6-13)
29.4 Virginia (5-12)
8.3 Wake Forest (1-11)
0.0 Duke (0-14)
ACC teams vs. higher-ranked teams (69-121, 36.3 percent): Even with Duke's 41 consecutive losses against ranked teams dating to 1994, ACC teams still are most likely to upset a higher-ranked team. Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Boston College each have winning records against higher-ranked teams while Georgia Tech is at 50 percent. The Hokies have won five of their last seven games against higher-ranked teams, while the Eagles have won five of their eight.
Pct. School (Record)
60.0 Oregon (9-6)
50.0 USC (2-2)
39.1 Oregon State (9-14)
38.0 Arizona (8-13)
33.3 Cal (4-8)
23.5 Stanford (4-13)
19.2 Washington (5-21)
4.7 Washington State (1-20)
0.0 Arizona State (0-12)
Pac-10 teams vs. higher-ranked teams (50-122, 29.0 percent): The Pac-10 features the nation's two teams with the highest percentage of games facing higher-ranked opponents (Washington) and the fewest percentage (USC) since 2005. The Huskies have played 26 of their 66 games (39 percent) against higher-ranked opponents, going 5-21. Maybe then it shouldn't be a surprise U-Dub hasn't had a winning season since 2002. Because the Trojans have been a Top 10 fixture the last five years, USC has only played four of 72 games (five percent) against higher-ranked opponents. In all, however, USC has played 26 ranked teams in that same time frame.
Pct. School (Record)
62.5 West Virginia (5-3)
44.5 Rutgers (4-5)
43.7 South Florida (7-9)
42.8 Cincinnati (6-8)
33.3 Louisville (3-6)
27.2 Pittsburgh (3-8)
10.5 Syracuse (2-17)
8.3 UConn (1-11)
Big East teams vs. higher-ranked teams (31-67, 31.6 percent): Two of the Mountaineers' upsets also happen to be the league's signature victories – Georgia in the 2005 Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Of the league's 21 non-conference games against ranked opponents, USF (six), Syracuse (five), Cincinnati (four) have played 15 of them. The remaining five league teams have loaded up on cupcakes, facing only a total of six non-conference ranked teams since 2005.
Pct. School (Record)
50.0 TCU (3-3)
44.5 Utah (4-5)
37.5 Boise State (3-5)
14.2 Notre Dame (2-12)
Wake up the echoes indeed. Notre Dame has lost 10 consecutive games against ranked opponents since defeating Penn State in 2006. Of the Irish's 10-game losing streak to ranked teams, only three have been by less than 13 points. Included in Utah's 4-5 record against higher-ranked opponents since 2005 is a 3-0 mark against automatic qualifying BCS conference teams.
With the college football season at the midway point, there are 13 teams flirting with perfection – 10 teams still haven't lost and three still haven't won.
The non-losers: Auburn (7-0), Boise State (6-0), LSU (7-0), Michigan State (7-0), Missouri (6-0), Oklahoma (6-0), Oklahoma State (6-0), Oregon (6-0), TCU (7-0) and Utah (6-0).
The non-winners: Akron (0-7), New Mexico (0-6) and Western Kentucky (0-6).
At least two undefeated teams will fall Saturday when Oklahoma visits Missouri and LSU visits Auburn. Later in the year, Oklahoma meets Oklahoma State and TCU meets Utah, so the maximum number of undefeated teams after the regular season would be six: Boise State, Michigan State, Oregon, TCU/Utah, LSU/Auburn and Oklahoma/Missouri/Oklahoma State.
Under coach Bob Stoops, the Sooners are 7-0 against Missouri, including winning by 21 and 41 points in the 2007 and 2008 Big 12 title games, but they might have trouble in Columbia. Missouri is the host team for ESPN's College GameDay and the host team has won every game this season, including the last two weeks at South Carolina and Wisconsin, where the Gamecocks and Badgers upset the nation's No. 1 teams.
Read My Lips: You Are Blind!
McDonald Eye Associates is offering free laser vision surgery to any on-field or replay booth official who worked last week's Arkansas-Auburn game, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Arkansas lost 65-43 at Auburn in large part because of its inability to stop Cam Newton, but there were officials' calls or non-calls on two fumbles that resulted in Auburn touchdowns. Hogs fans thought the calls were questionable at best.
So a day after the Razorbacks petitioned the SEC about the two calls, the Fayetteville, Ark., business released the following statement.
"The officiating of the game has come under much scrutiny among Arkansas fans because of two controversial calls that went against the Razorbacks," the McDonald release said. "Both plays directly led to Auburn touchdowns. Errors and incorrect calls from the game could have possibly been avoided with better vision. McDonald Eye Associates believes that a laser vision correction procedure will result in fewer mistakes in the future."
Tweet of the Year
Each week, I compile some of the best tweets of the past week relating to college football. This one, though, from Kentucky junior wide receiver Randall Cobb deserved its own mention.
In a series of tweets following the Wildcats' upset of No. 10 South Carolina, in which Cobb caught the winning touchdown pass, Cobb wrote:
"To all the fans: loved seein Yall come late, love hearing Yall tell us we suck during the game love we have to play against our own fans too! Love that we can't pack the house when we play #10 team in the nation. It means that much more to me. I love my team! Brotherhood they got my back n I got they back. The rest of Yall can get ready for bball season!"
On Tuesday, Cobb apologized. "I made a mistake," he said. "I'm a man, I admit my mistake and I want to come out and let everybody know that I'm sorry. I hope (the fans) can forgive me."
The fans will forgive and forget all right – just as long as the Wildcats beat Georgia on Saturday.
What Caught My Eye
As far as bar bets go, this easily ranks among one of the worst. After Texas beat Nebraska, a Cornhuskers fan had the option of paying a Texas fan $200 or eating a bar of soap, the WizofOdds.com reports. Here's the video. When he's done eating, the NU fan even uses a toothpick to dislodge the soap stuck in his teeth. Bon Appe-Tide! ... Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are a combined 12-0. New Mexico and New Mexico State are 1-11. ... It is doubtful any team has had as much bad luck this year as North Texas? The Mean Green (1-6) have lost 13 starters this year to season-ending injuries. The latest was in last week's loss to Florida International when punter Will Atterberry broke his arm while trying to get a punt away.
Is it any wonder every automatic qualifying BCS conference team doesn't just fill their non-conference schedule with two or three Sun Belt teams and an FCS school? Based on Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings, of the 12 teams that have played the nation's toughest schedules so far, none has a winning record. ... Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel tweeted an interesting thought about the Florida Gators: "Just think, if Cam Newton had texted (a) death threat to (his) girlfriend instead of stealing (a) laptop, he'd be (the) Gators quarterback." Following the laptop incident, Newton left UF and went to junior college before attending Auburn. Florida wide receiver Chris Rainey, who threatened to kill his girlfriend in a text message last month, has been reinstated to the team.
Except for a couple of intentional kneel downs, Wisconsin has scored touchdowns on its last 23 trips inside the 20. ... Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald notes that, "In Provo, Utah, struggling BYU fired its defensive coordinator. He said he's looking forward to spending more time with his wives." ... On ESPN's College GameDay picks segment last week, the fellows had one of their tougher days. Lee Corso went 4-6, Kirk Herbstreit 3-6 and guest picker Nathan Followill, of the band "Kings of Leon," was 4-6. Season totals: Corso 43-23 (65.1 percent), Herbstreit 35-24 (59.3 percent) and ESPN's guest pickers 42-24 (63.6 percent). ... The GMAC Bowl was renamed earlier this week to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Which, of course, begs the obvious question: will the bowl bill itself as the GoDaddy of them all?
Observations from the Road
The atmosphere inside Nebraska's Memorial Stadium was sensational. The stands were a solid blanket of red, expect for a couple of burnt orange pockets. The fans – before, during and after the game – were hands down the nicest I've ever encountered. Another sports writer, who is from the Northeast, joked with me that on his drive from Omaha to Lincoln, if he had cut off cars up north the way he did Saturday he would have received the one-finger salute. Instead, Nebraskans made room and politely waved his car over. After the game, Texas coach Mack Brown summed it up perfectly. "Nebraska fans are the best," he said. "We've given them some tough times here but they've never been anything but great. This place is the best place to play college football."
And Now, Steve Hill's View of the College Football World
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow at Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY