Gazzolo Column: Making a killing by killing the big guys

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Maybe big things do come in small packages.

As McNeese continued to pile up the points against BCS foe South Florida Saturday, the world of college football was sent

into a state of shock.

A smaller school, one that was just supposed to be there to pick up a check and say thank you was dropping 53 points on a

team that’s conference has an automatic bid to a big bowl.

It’s not supposed to be that way.

However, McNeese’s 53-21 win over South Florida was no bull.

In fact, it capped a weekend that saw

the little guys take more than their share of flesh from their bigger,

supposedly stronger,

college football brothers.

In all, eight Football Championship Subdivision teams (the old 1-AA) won over big boys. That includes Samford beating Georgia

State, which is moving to the bigger division but not officially there yet.

So let’s leave the number at seven for now. Still a pretty good showing.

“I’m not that shocked,” McNeese State head coach Matt Viator said of the upsets. “There are a lot of good football teams playing

in the FCS. The difference between the levels are not all that great.”

He should know, his Cowboys have won two straight against the big boys.

While that won’t leave next year’s big foe Nebraska shaking in its cleats, maybe it should. The Cornhuskers beat Wyoming only

by three Saturday.

Maybe that is why some of the bigger schools don’t want to play the FCS teams in the future. They seem to have that sense

of impending doom hovering over their heads.

While McNeese’s scoring surge may have gotten the headlines, it sure didn’t steal the show.

North Dakota State beat Kansas State just seven months after the Wildcats played in the Fiesta Bowl and were a late-season

upset from a spot in the national title game.

Eastern Washington bounced No. 25 Oregon State, marking the first time a Top 25 BCS team has fallen to an FCS school.

And Northern Iowa dumped Iowa State, also a bowl team from a year ago. Northern Iowa has done this type of thing before.

Add Towson beating UConn, Southern Utah topping South Alabama and Eastern Illinois pasting San Diego State and you see the

carnage of the big schools extended to all four corners of the country.

“When you kick the ball off all that matters is the players on the field,” said Viator. “As long as they only have 11 on the

field all things are equal. Being bigger means you have more players on the sideline.”

The little guys can pump out their chests this week, they have proven to be no pushovers. And this doesn’t include what used

to be considered an upset like Northern Illinois beating Iowa. The days of smaller conference FBS schools beating the big

five and calling it an upset are long over.

In the meantime, the smaller programs are still making a killing by killing the big guys.

The seven wins talked about above earned the traveling schools almost $2.4 million according to ESPN. It is reported that

McNeese made $400,000 for its road trip.

Of course, the huge win is worth far more in national exposure for a school desperate for money and a program searching to

find its place in the future of college football.

“This is great for the program and the kids,” said Viator.

It also isn’t bad for the coach.

This game became a win-win for McNeese soon after kickoff. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s pump the brakes

for just a second.

Northern Iowa is on the Cowboys’ schedule so we will see just where this win leads. Also, the other teams with wins have now

got their own championship hopes raised.

“No question about it, there is a lot of talent on our level,” said Viator. “Our conference has gotten a lot better over the

years since I have been here.”

And there’s the buzz kill.

It is great that the Cowboys dropped over half a hundred and won easily over a BCS school. Makes for a great rise in interest,

but this season won’t be determined by what McNeese did in Tampa last Saturday.

“A big win for us on a lot of fronts,” said Viator. “A great way to start out. It is nice to get the national exposure. But

our season is still in front of us.”

That’s right, this year will be graded

on what McNeese does in the coming weeks, against teams playing on its

own level, especially

those in the Southland Conference.

If McNeese is to get back to the elite of the FCS level, or even make the playoffs again, then it must beat those teams which

it currently battles for those postseason spots.

Wins in those games are what will determine the success or failure of the current campaign.

It’s nice to beat the Bulls. It would be better to beat Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State.

Otherwise, the trip to Tampa will turn out to not only be just a nice pay day but also a tease for what might have been.

It might be nice to be the little guy winning but it would be better if these Cowboys are remembered as being big men in their

own division.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com