Here is the countdown of the Top 5 upsets of Week 9 where for the third straight week a crazy special teams play decides an upset. Upset rankings are based on the point spread (per Covers.com) and I use the Sagarin Predictor spread to break ties.
Connecticut 31, East Carolina 13
Spread: East Carolina -5
Outside of a road dud against Navy, ECU had been competitive in all their games including a seven point loss at Florida. Coming into this game UConn had only scored more than 22 points in a game once (against winless UCF) in their first eight games in part to having converted an abysmal 12 of 26 red zone trips into touchdowns. On Friday they only made it into the red zone twice but converted both possessions into touchdowns and they had help from a 90 yard touchdown run by Akeel Newsome early in the 4th quarter to bust the game open. Newsome for the game had 244 all-purpose yards and currently ranks 16th in the nation in that category. ECU had horrific quarterback play in this one as James Summers and Blake Kemp combined to complete 19 of 33 for 137 yards and 4 interceptions. Including three sacks for 13 yards, ECU averaged only 3.4 yards per pass play in the game.
New Mexico State 55, Idaho 48 (OT)
Spread: Idaho -7
Everyone would be talking about the finish to this game if it weren’t for A) the Miami/Duke finish and B) if these weren’t two of the worst programs in college football. These two have become of the nomads of FBS after the great conference reshuffling of a few years back that resulted in the demise of the WAC as a football conference. They’ve now found themselves as the red headed step children of the weakest conference in FBS and may not have a long term future in the Sun Belt. Idaho though had shown signs of life this season and found themselves in position to win their third straight game, something they hadn’t done since 2009, and maybe entertain a shot at bowl eligibility but instead proceeded to blow a 40-21 4th quarter lead. In overtime after NMSU cashed in with a touchdown on their possession the game ended on a crazy interception by Terrill Hanks and when secured the ball with his feet. The win a snapped a 17 game losing streak for NMSU.
North Texas 30, UTSA 23
Spread: UTSA -7
This was a game that featured two teams that had combined for a 1-13 record so far this year, UTSA holding the lone victory. You had to be a special kind of bad though to be a touchdown underdog at home to a one win team and that’s what North Texas had been this year. They hadn’t lost a game by fewer than 14 points and fired their head coach Dan McCarney three weeks ago after a 66-7 loss to Portland State in what was the most lopsided loss by an FBS/I-A team against a lower division opponent ever. There were six lead changes in the game, the briefest one coming in the 4th quarter when UTSA took a 23-21 after a touchdown but the extra point was blocked and returned for a two points by North Texas to tie it up. They’d march down for a touchdown take the lead for good on the ensuing possession. UNT quarterback DaMarcus Smith ran for 155 yards on 11 carries.
Purdue 55, Nebraska 45
Spread: Nebraska -7.5
As covered last week Nebraska has suffered through unimaginably bad luck in close games this season. If they had managed to win three out of their five close games their season wouldn’t be looking so bad. But any sort of “they are better than their record” talk kind of goes out the window when you get humiliated by Big Ten doormat Purdue who’s only win previously was over FCS Indiana State. A 4th quarter scoring splurge by the Huskers made the final score look better than it was as they entered the quarter trailing 42-16. They were without starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong and his replacement Ryker Fyfe threw four interceptions. They’ll now have to run the table to become bowl eligible which will be a daunting task with Michigan State and Iowa still left on the schedule.
Miami 30, Duke 27
Spread: Duke -10
As someone who has been following college football since the early 90’s the idea of Miami beating Duke being a significant upset feels very strange. Since 1980 Miami has more national championships (five) than losing seasons (three) and while Duke during that same period of time has almost as many winless seasons (four) than bowl appearances (five). But Duke has finished with a better record than Miami each of the last two seasons and came into this one undefeated in conference play against a Miami team coming off it’s worst loss in school history, a 58-0 pummeling at the hands of Clemson, to unceremoniously end the Al Golden era and was also without starting quarterback Brad Kaaya. But in this one Miami was seemingly in control most of the way with a 14-3 halftime lead and a 24-12 lead with under six minutes to go, outpacing the Blue Devils 5.8 to 4.8 in yards per play. Duke though strung together two touchdown drives in the final minutes, culminating on a one yard touchdown keeper by quarterback Thomas Sirk with six seconds to go. And we all know what happened next and we also know it shouldn’t have happened.