I have always loved a good upset. It’s part of the unpredictable excitement of college football. It’s a little harder when it’s your team on the losing end of that upset. But, if there is one thing that I have learned on my travels around the country, it is a growing appreciation for the successes of other teams. BYU earned the right to celebrate today.
One of college football’s hidden gems lies in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The setting alone is special. The high peaked mountains that rise above outside of Aggie Memorial Stadium are stunning. A lot of losing seasons have kept the fan base from being energized, but when they are on, it is considerably fierce.
57 years passed since New Mexico State made a bowl game. Last year, that streak was broken as the Aggies won the Arizona Bowl over Utah State. That successful season has reignited fan fever in Las Cruces, and with Wyoming coming to town in the season opener, the atmosphere was buzzing.
Describing college football is a challenging task without uttering Notre Dame in the same breath. No sports tour of any kind is complete without a stop in South Bend, Indiana. The gameday experience here is rich with eye-opening appeal. With the first step on these hallowed grounds, fans truly feel the history of former players, Heisman winners, and legendary coaches who made this game famous. Strolling around the campus prior to kickoff is where these traditions get pieced together – it’s college football’s theme park.
Northwestern did it before. 1995. The Irish opened the season ranked 9th and the Wildcats were supposed to be the welcome mat that Notre Dame trampled over to initiate a fresh new season. But, Northwestern knew that scripts can change. The Wildcats stunned the Golden Domers with a 17-15 victory that the Chicago Tribune dubbed “The Upset of the Century.” This win would propel the purple towards one of the must unexpected Cinderella stories culminating in their first Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl appearance since 1949.
What do you call a BYU fan in a bar?
Okay, overused joke, I know. But, since BYU became independent, they have visited many foreign campuses where a joke like this is fresh. Welcome to Madison, Cougars. Wisconsin fans are primarily quick-witted and knee-slappingly funny, but this bit of humor was only worthy of a smirk and an eye-roll. Nevertheless, it is fun introducing fans who appreciate a top notch college atmosphere to one of the Big Ten’s best.
If I spent all summer writing the perfect script, I still couldn’t have come up with what transpired on Saturday. Yes, much of it was scripted, and planned for nearly ten months. But, perfection reached new heights at Camp Randall…all prior to kickoff. August 31,2013 marked the 50th anniversary of my parents. My loving father, however, passed away 7 years ago. My brother, who shared my father’s name, passed away nine months earlier. That trying year for our family has brought us closer together, and despite my father’s absence, this fiftieth anniversary could not be overlooked.
The hallowed grounds of Notre Dame have become hollowed out by the weak and the mighty. Teams that are not traditional powers (Navy, Tulsa, etc.) have been undaunted by the mystique of Notre Dame Stadium. Coach Kelly is all about retrieving that mystique and making a win over the Irish in South Bend a rarity. In comes hobbling Utah (8-1) and reeling after a pounding from Texas Christian. Ranked fourteenth and seemingly overrated, this could be the Irish’s chance at toppling a ranked team for the first time in a long while.
The t-shirts worn by the Notre Dame student section this year read, “Notre Dame will rise again.” That’s a bold statement considering the tumultuous season the Irish experienced last year. However, a couple of early season wins this year, including one over rival Michigan, has allowed hope to trickle back into South Bend. Will the Boilermakers hammer a dent in the railroad that leads to Notre Dame’s anticipated ascension to greatness? The classic college football setting in South Bend coupled with a perfect autumn Saturday afternoon served as the backdrop for this exciting battle…