The 2020 college football season has seen no shortage of surprises thus far. After all, Louisiana-Lafayette upset Iowa State 31-14 in Ames on Saturday, while Arkansas State beat Kansas State 35-31 in Manhattan.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see more upsets like that this season.
“You don’t have anything to lose, right?” Big Ten Network analyst Howard Griffith said on The DA Show, explaining the underdog mindset. “You’re playing with house money. You’ve got an opportunity to go out and prove yourself. There are a lot of people on those teams that believe that they have the talent to be playing at a higher level than where they’re playing right now. So there’s always an edge that those teams are going to have when they have an opportunity to go and compete against the quote-unquote big boys, so you have to be dialed in. You have to be prepared.”
If you’re not, well, bad things can happen.
“Sometimes I know as a player when we would play schools that we didn’t believe were on our level, we found ourselves in dog fights,” said Griffith, who played at Illinois. “You never knowm and then all of a sudden you can’t correct the issues that are going on. They’re playing really well and you’re not playing well at all for whatever reason, and if you don’t take care of business and you’re not dialed in, you’re going to lose that game. I think this year, probably more than any, you’re going to see games like that happen because of all the external things that are going on around these football teams.”
While upsets are common in college football, COVID-19 will present unique challenges in 2020. No. 3 Oklahoma, for example, was without 20 players against Missouri State this past weekend. Some of those were due to NCAA suspensions, but many were due to COVID-19 contact tracing. The Sooners still won 48-0, but that won’t be as easy to do once the competition gets tougher.”
“That’s one of the things that’s going to continue,” Griffith said of the challenges associated with COVID-19. “We’re going to have to continue to keep an eye on [that] as the college season continues to move forward.”
Underdogs will also benefit from playing in empty – or near-empty – stadiums.
“I think home-field advantage for everyone may be gone,” Griffith said. “I was at the Notre Dame game this past weekend, and you literally could have pulled up to the game five minutes before it started and you wouldn’t have been in traffic. You could have [easily] found a parking space. There was nothing going on. There was really not a lot of enthusiasm that you’re used to hearing and the noise, so I think that the home-field advantage may not exist this year at any of the venues.”