The bizarre state of college football (Wade Askew column)

Wade Askew

In January, as Ian Johnson scampered into the end zone to complete Boise State’s now-legendary upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, experts everywhere said the game signaled a new era of college football, one of unprecedented parity and countless upsets.

For once, they were right.

Johnson’s statue-of-liberty two-point conversion has opened the flood gates, unleashing what may go down as the wildest and best season in college football history.

It would take too long to list all the upsets we have witnessed just halfway through the season, but anybody paying any attention to sports in general must be aware of the rocky road traditional powerhouses has faced thus far.

The upsets have gotten to the point that Appalachian State’s epic week-one defeat of Michigan in the Big House may not even be the biggest upset of the year, with Stanford’s 24-23 victory over USC in the L.A. Coliseum – as a 41-point underdog with a freshman starting his first game at quarterback, no less – making a case as the year’s biggest stunner.

Once upon a time, people would argue the NFL and college basketball were superior to college football because of its lack of parity. Traditional powers tended to stay on top, upstarts were kept down.

No more.

Just take a look at the Big 12, which for years has been dismissed as a two-team conference dominated by Texas and Oklahoma.

Texas is tied with Baylor at the bottom of the Big 12 South standings with an 0-2 conference record. Texas A&M is the only school in the South with an unblemished conference record.

Meanwhile, Kansas and Missouri are the favorites in the North and are the only undefeated teams remaining in the entire conference.

So where does NU fit into all of this?

Well, the Wildcats aren’t exactly one of those traditional superpowers like Michigan and USC, but on the other hand NU has been hurt by the now-equal playing field the past two years with losses to New Hampshire and Duke.

But with teams like South Florida breaking into the top five, there is no reason not to expect victory, as Gary Barnett famously demanded when he came to NU in 1992.

It starts this weekend with Minnesota, which, by the way, was once college football’s premier program, winning five national titles between 1934 and 1941.

Who knows? At the rate things are going, USC could be the next Minnesota and South Florida the next USC.

Deputy sports editor Wade Askew can be reached at [email protected]