Welcome to Underdog Season!

“There’s no need to fear…Underdog is here”!

You may or may not remember the 1960’s cartoon hero named Underdog.

Conceived as a campy canine version of Superman, the cartoon superhero performed his day job disguised as a mild-mannered shoe-shine dog.  His canine super-hearing helped him spring into action upon hearing calls of distress.  Those calls primarily came from his TV reporter girlfriend.  She seemed to find herself in trouble every week.

As football season grinds to an end, several underdogs have emerged and are deserving of our attention.  Several football teams and a very surprising player have emerged from the pack to save the day this year!

Cowabunga!  Tulane faithful riding a big Green Wave

In college football, the Tulane Green Wave football team recently completed one of the most incredible late-game rallies in college bowl history.  The Greenies (playing in their first major bowl appearance since 1939) defeated USC 46-45 in a photo finish on Monday afternoon’s Cotton Bowl game in Arlington, Texas.

“There’s no need to fear…”

Trailing by 15 points with less than five minutes remaining in the final quarter, Tulane fans must have placed thousands of emergency calls to their Underdog football team.  The Green Wave rallied to score a touchdown, force USC into a 2-point safety, and then tallied the winning touchdown with just nine seconds left in the game to take the win.

With its improbable comeback, Tulane (which had won just two games in 2021) posted a school record 12 victories against two losses for the season.  Tulane was a true Cinderella story for college football fans and for the city of New Orleans this year.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Continues

In Fort Worth, Texas, the TCU Horned Frogs (now 13-1) will be playing in their first national championship game since 1939!

These Texas-sized horned toads are on an incredible roll.  After finishing the 2021 season with a mediocre 5-7 campaign, TCU started the year with 12 straight wins.  Although they lost an overtime thriller to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, the 12-1 Horned Frogs were still selected to play in the four-team College Football Playoffs this year.

Their match-up last Saturday afternoon against #2 seed and Big Ten champion Michigan (13-0) appeared to be a mismatch to many football fans.  The odds makers made Michigan an 8 ½ point favorite in this game.

“There’s no need to fear…”

Playing in their first national semifinal appearance in Tempe, Arizona, TCU jumped to an early lead and then subdued the favored Wolverines 51-45 on Saturday, December 31 to advance into the national championship game this Monday night.

Led by its talented and gritty quarterback Max Duggan, TCU will now face-off with the undefeated reigning national champions, Georgia Bulldogs.  The 14-0 Bulldogs escaped their semifinal game against Ohio State by a narrow 42-41 final score.   The Buckeyes missed a potential game-winning field goal to give Georgia the win.

The TCU Horned Frogs believe that they can beat any team they face every week.  They pride themselves on being the toughest team on the field and working harder than their opponents from the opening kick-off to the final whistle.   TCU head coach Sonny Dykes was named the national college football Coach of the Year.

This Monday night at 7PM on ESPN, the Georgia Bulldogs will present the ultimate challenge for college football’s favorite lizards in the national championship game.   The Las Vegas betting groups have made TCU a 13-point underdog for this game.  There’s that “Underdog” word once again!

Introducing NFL’s Detroit Lions

Though the Houston Texans (2-12-1) are still the leader for this year’s NFL futility crown (also known as getting the first draft pick next spring), how would you like to be a Detroit Lions fan?

Beginning with the first season after the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, the Detroit Lions are still the only pro football franchise from that era which has failed to participate in even one Super Bowl Game.  A threesome of future NFL expansion teams located in Cleveland (whose original team moved to Baltimore to win two Super Bowls as the Ravens), Jacksonville and Houston has yet to play in the big game.

To solidify their losing reputation, the 2008 Detroit Lions became the first NFL franchise to post a winless 0-16 record.  In the seasons when the Lions actually had a pretty good football team, the Lions have gone a woeful 1-12 in post season games during the 52-year Super Bowl era.

The Detroit Lions are deserving of the title of the NFL’s most futile franchise.

“There’s no need to fear…”

After completing a 3-13-1 record last season in 2021, this year’s version of the Detroit Lions actually has a chance to qualify for the NFL playoffs on Sunday night.  After starting the season 1-6, the Lions have now won seven of their last nine games to reach 8-8 with one game to go this weekend.

If the 8-8 Seattle Seahawks should lose their final game on Sunday afternoon at the 5-11 Los Angeles Rams, the Detroit Lions could earn the final NFC Wildcard berth by beating NFC North rival Green Bay on Sunday night.  The game (televised nationally at 7:20PM on NBC’s Sunday Night Football) will be played in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  If the Packers should win, Green Bay knocks-out both Seattle and Detroit from the NFC playoffs.

For Detroit Lions fans, simply being in a position to qualify for the playoffs in the final week of the regular season is quite exciting.  Detroit’s last appearance in the playoffs came six years ago in 2016.  For a team which started the year just 1-6, a Sunday night victory over Green Bay to reach the NFL playoffs would definitely qualify as another miraculous Underdog story!

The NFL’s “Mr. Irrelevant” is now leading the 49ers into the Playoffs!

The NFL draft consists of seven rounds.   With 32 teams selecting in each round, the final pick of the seventh round (#224) is considered the longest long-shot to make an NFL squad as a rookie.

Historically, the final selection in the draft is affectionately known as “Mr. Irrelevant”.

Meet San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy!

The former Big 12 quarterback at Iowa State fell way down the NFL’s draft board.   In the final selection taken for the entire 2022 draft, Brock Purdy’s name was the last one to be called by San Francisco.

After injuries to San Francisco’s top quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, the NFL’s current Mr. Irrelevant was pressed into service.

“There’s no need to fear…”

To the surprise of nearly everyone except himself and Iowa State Hawkeyes fans, Brock Purdy is now 5-0 as the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.  The rookie quarterback has passed for 10 touchdowns and thrown just four interceptions in winning his first five pro football games.

San Francisco (now 12-4) already had the NFL’s top defense and a punishing running game.  Brock Purdy’s efficient and confident performance at quarterback only makes the 49ers a more dangerous team in the upcoming NFL playoffs.

In summary, this football season’s group of Underdogs has made my football viewing much more entertaining.  Perhaps we will see a few more positive surprises in the coming weeks as football season comes to a close.