Upsets becoming too commonplace

first_imgUnranked Illinoismay have beaten No. 1 Ohio State Saturday, but outside of Columbus, Champaign,Baton Rouge and Ann Arbor, it would be hard to tell from the lack of attentionthat was given to the game. The not-so-big deal made out of this weekend’s gamedoesn’t come as much of a surprise though, as upsets — once (by definition) ararity in sports — seemingly happen now more often than ever before in collegefootball.The Fighting Illini, for example, had already been involved in severalother upsets this season before Saturday’s win. Illinois was on the winning endof surprising defeats of highly ranked teams Penn State and Wisconsin earlierin the season and was the recipient of their own upset defeat when, after beingranked No. 18 following their two big wins, the school was taken down by Iowa.That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though — from Michigan’s seasonopening stunner against Appalachian State, to South Florida’s and Boston College’srun to and subsequent fall from the No. 2 spot in the country, the story of thecollege football season is the cause of all the upsets: parity.In this case, parity is the notion that sports teams at the elite levelsand inferior ones alike are becoming more and more even. In recent years parityhas been the buzz word that pundits attribute the increasing number of upsetsto.Parity is what led Appalachian State to beat Michigan in what was justthe first this college football season in a long line of upsets. With Kansasand Hawaii as the only remaining undefeated teams in the country (an upset initself) the nation has seen top 10 teams go down week after week as shockinglosses, and the out-of-nowhere wins that come with them, become more and morepredominant. This season 23 different teams have been ranked in the AP’s top10, six more teams than at this time a season ago. That number seems destinedto rise in the future as the power shifts from just a handful of programs to anincreasing number of mid-level schools.A result of the number of underdogs pulling off wins is the devaluationof the upset. The majority of the time the favorites need to win, otherwisewhen they do lose it isn’t that big of a deal.When unranked Wisconsin beat No. 12 Michigan this weekend for example,it should have been a big deal, but in a week that also saw the Nos. 1, 8, 13and 22, teams go down as part of a season where that’s a slow week for upsets,wins like the Badgers over the Wolverines just aren’t so noteworthy.There are those who applaud the parity in college football, saying thatthe era of powerhouses and unbeatable program had reigned supreme for longenough. Upsets, those parity purists will tell you, are good for collegefootball because it allows teams previously left off the radar to have theirmoment in the sun.And sure, upsets like Boise State’s win over Oklahoma last season in theFiesta Bowl and Stanford’s shocker over USC this season are great, but keep inmind they wouldn’t have meant nearly as much if Oklahoma hadn’t blown outMiddle Tennessee State earlier in the season and USC hadn’t avoided upsets likeit was their job over the previous few seasons.Likewise, the greatness of Rocky Balboa’s upset of Apollo Creed in RockyII stemmed from his defeat in Rocky I, and the 1980 U.S. hockey team’s win overthe Soviets was so remarkable because the Soviets had looked so unbeatable whenother teams tried to upset them.Now, just a week into its season, college basketball is facing a similarsituation as football. Starting with a preseason that included exhibitionlosses by No. 8 Michigan State and last year’s runner up Ohio State, theregular season has already seen home losses to No. 18 USC and No. 22 Kentuckyat the hands of Mercer and Gardner Webb — not exactly top-tier programs.If this is an indicator of what’s to come this season then get ready towatch the nation’s top 10 once again turn into a carousel as upsets will comeand go all year long.Upsets, be it in college football or basketball are not bad things,though. Rooting for underdogs is a fun thing, and watching teams nobody gave achance to win pull off a shocking win is part of the beauty of sports. But,like most good things, it needs to be done in moderation, and if this trend ofupsets continues in the college football season and makes its way into collegebasketball, the kind of victories that truly are special will lose a little bitof their luster.Mike Ackerstein is a sophomore majoring inhistory. If you’re also getting tired of upsets, or think it’ll never happen tothe Patriots, he can be reached at [email protected]last_img