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Forde-Yard Dash: Who Are the Upset Masters of College Football?

Jeff Brohm pulled off a trick play and upset against Michigan State in Week 10. But where does he rank among Power 5 coaches as underdogs?
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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where now that Arizona and UNLV are off the schneid, every FBS team has now won a game. Joy to the world:

MORE DASH: Doubt Looms | Bad Week | Frost Returns

FOURTH QUARTER: THE MASTER OF SURPRISE

The name of the play is “Money One (31),” a short moniker that is easy to call at the line of scrimmage when the down, distance, field position and defensive look are right. Purdue saw what it wanted to see from Michigan State Saturday, and the best trick play of the season was on.

It went like this: quarterback Aidan O’Connell took the snap in shotgun formation and handed it to receiver Jackson Anthrop on a jet sweep motion to the left. Anthrop then flipped the ball on a reverse back to the right to fellow receiver Milton Wright, who subsequently lateraled it back to O’Connell. Then O’Connell threw a screen pass back to Anthrop on the left sideline, whereupon he had a blocking convoy. Anthrop traversed the field, got a block from star wideout David Bell and a hustling block from Wright, and he was into the end zone. For those scoring at home, it was O’Connell to Anthrop to Wright to O’Connell to Anthrop, 39 yards, touchdown, Purdue up 21–7 on its way to another seismic upset.

This is Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm (32) in his happy place—springing trick plays, springing upsets. He is college football’s master of surprise.

“We kind of hit a dry spell with trick plays,” Brohm told The Dash this week. “But I still like the call them. The team gets juiced, the fans get juiced.”

Brohm discovered this particular play on YouTube back when he was a rookie head coach at Western Kentucky in 2014. A high school team had run it. Brohm showed it to his staff the next day. It went into the playbook, it worked on the practice field, and the Hilltoppers executed it for a touchdown the Who  first time they tried it in a game.

It’s been in the back pocket since then, with some variations on the theme making their way onto the field on occasion—like a touchdown against Ohio in 2017, Brohm’s first win as coach at Purdue. There were a ton of trick plays in Brohm’s bag that year.

And there have been plenty of upsets—a dozen total in his five seasons in West Lafayette, according to betting lines from Phil Steele and covers.com, fitting right in with the program’s historical penchant for pulling shockers. And now three of those upsets have come against top-five opponents. Purdue memorably routed No. 2 Ohio State in 2018, clipped No. 2 Iowa last month and now has taken down No. 3 Michigan State.

“Sometimes when you play those games (against highly ranked teams), you just call things a little looser,” Brohm said. “They have to win to stay in the playoff hunt, so the pressure is on them. When you clam up and are too safe, you can end up screwing things up.”

Where does Brohm rank among the upset masters of the sport? The Dash looked at results from 2016 through this past weekend for Power 5 coaches as underdogs at their current schools. The data:

ACC (33). Best by percentage: Dabo Swinney of Clemson is 4–3, a .571 winning percentage. Manny Diaz of Miami is next at 6–5 (.546).

Worst by percentage: Geoff Collins of Georgia Tech is 4–19 (.174). Mike Norvell of Florida State is next at 2–8 (.250).

Most wins as an underdog: 13 for David Cutcliffe of Duke, Bronco Mendenhall of Virginia and Dino Babers of Syracuse.

Big 12 (34). Best by percentage: Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State is 9–8 (.529). Next best is Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma at 3–3 (.500).

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Worst by percentage: Lance Leipold of Kansas and Steve Sarkisian of Texas are both batting .000, Leipold 0-8 and Sark 0-3.

Most wins as an underdog: Gundy with nine, one more than Kansas State’s Chris Klieman and former TCU coach Gary Patterson.

1-1-1-jeff-brohm-dash

Big Ten (35). Best by percentage: Brohm is 12–15 (.444). P.J. Fleck of Minnesota is 12-16 (.429).

Worst by percentage: Jim Harbaugh of Michigan is 1–9 (.100). Next is Scott Frost of Nebraska at 2–17 (.105).

Most wins as an underdog: Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern has 14.

Pac-12 (36). Best by percentage: Mario Cristobal of Oregon is 6–5 (.546). Next best is Justin Wilcox of California at 13–16 (.448).

Worst by percentage: Jedd Fisch of Arizona is 1–6 (.143). Next is Kyle Whittingham of Utah at 3–11 (.214).

Most wins as an underdog: Wilcox with 13, followed by Chip Kelly of UCLA and David Shaw of Stanford with nine.

SEC (37). Best by percentage: Ed Orgeron of LSU is 9–8 (.529). Next is Dan Mullen of Florida at 4–6 (.400).

Worst by percentage: Clark Lea of Vanderbilt is 1–6 (.143). Next is Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M at 2–9 (.181).

Most wins as an underdog: Mark Stoops of Kentucky with 12, followed by Orgeron with nine.

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COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Shane Beamer (38), South Carolina. The first-year head coach took on a Florida team that had beaten the Gamecocks all three seasons under Dan Mullen. He started an FCS transfer at quarterback. He emerged not just with an upset victory but an utter beatdown of the Gators, the 23-point margin ranking as the largest for South Carolina in the history of the series. Beamer has his first signature victory and now has South Carolina one win away from bowl eligibility.

COACH WHO SHOULD RIDE THE BUS TO WORK

Sonny Dykes (39), SMU. After a 7–0 start the Mustangs are on a two-game losing streak. Is that a product of improved competition (Houston and Memphis), or has the buzz about Dykes being a hot candidate at TCU taking away from the focus? One thing is certain: the in-season coaching maneuvers aren’t doing any favors to the affected teams.

POINT AFTER

The Dash stayed home for the weekend but did not go without liquid refreshment. When thirsty for some quality fall beer, check out the current offerings from Stone Brewing (40). From the Hazy IPA to the Buenaveza Salt and Lime Lager to a goodnight beer, the 25th Anniversary Triple IPA, Stone’s beer lineup rocks. Check them out and thank The Dash later.

MORE DASH: Doubt Looms | Bad Week | Frost Returns

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