The Dye-Gest: Avoiding That Upset Feeling

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about how underdog teams are sometimes ablt to pull off surprising victories.

How David slew Goliath is probably the oldest, most read about upset in the history of mankind. The story ties right in with what happens with athletic events and life in general.

There are a lot of reasons why upsets happen. I would imagine that old giant was egotistical, a braggart, a bully and the kind of guy who nobody really liked. I would guess he was bringing a lot of misery on a lot of innocent folks.

David had to be afraid of Goliath, but he also had the courage to overcome his fear. The faith and deep down conviction that he could kill this giant helped him do it. There are a lot of similarities with that and what happens in college football and life in general.

One of the things college football fans love about the game is upsets do happen like the one a couple of years ago when Appalachian State defeated Michigan and this year when James Madison beat Virginia Tech and one here in the SEC with Jacksonville State beating Ole Miss.

Most of the time when those things occur they happen not because of the Davids of the world, but because the Goliaths start believing they are better than they are and they don't have a challenge. With that type of mindset a team doesn't prepare as well it should and is not as ready mentally, physically and spiritually, the three areas a team needs to be ready in to put together a successful effort on the football field.

As a college football head coach you can expect your team to be ready to play at its peak, at best, four or five times during the course of a season. The rest of the time you just have to be good enough to win with less than your best. That happens all over the country in college football, but I think it is especially true in the Southeastern Conference where most of the teams are capable of beating the more talented team if the favored team isn't playing close to its best football. For instance it won't surprise me if Vanderbilt beats Georgia this week. It also won't surprise me if Kentucky beats the South Carolina team that won by two touchdowns last week vs. Alabama.

I think you can look at the South Carolina vs. Alabama football game as the perfect storm for the Gamecocks. Had it not been South Carolina, it would have been somebody else later down the line that would have beaten Alabama because you could kind of see it coming. South Carolina had them at their place with the extra time to get ready with a head coach who was not afraid. If the head coach is not afraid his team isn't going to be afraid.

As Auburn heads into the second half of its season, it is a team still trying to put together one of those peak performances their coaches are hoping to see. The Tigers just got through playing both Kentucky and South Carolina and won both, but I don't know that they were at the peak of their game in those contests. There were moments in both of those victories when Auburn played some great football, but there were also some great lapses.

Looking at the whole season, I don't know if there is a game in which you could say that Auburn played an entire 60 minutes of good, quality football, both offensively and defensively, so there is hope that it will continue to improve as it works toward that goal.

What this Auburn team has done to stay unbeaten is to play at that peak when it needs to in order to win, which was the case last Saturday night, and that wasn't the first time. Auburn won the Mississippi State and South Carolina games when the defense stepped up and made plays at the end. Last Saturday night the burden fell on the offense at the end of the game vs. Kentucky and it performed just like you would hope it would perform and kept the Tigers from being upset.

Something that has been consistent about this year's Auburn team and the reason it is undefeated is that the Tigers have played with a lot of effort every week. That is a key to success not just in football, but in all areas of life. That has been true forever and will continue to be true when you are dealing humans and their strengths and weaknesses.

There is an old saying, "You can take an 80 percent team talent-wise that plays 100 percent all of the time and beat a 100 percent team talent-wise that plays 80 percent 100 percent of the time." It has been my experience in the 40 to 50 years of playing, coaching and following football that the old saying is true.

A great example is from a state football championship game I played in with my high school team. I was the only major college prospect on our team, but we beat a team 13-7 that had 12 major college prospects on its roster. It was a tremendous upset. In 1959 when I was playing at Georgia with a team picked to finish ninth in the SEC we beat a strong Auburn team to win the SEC Championship, an Auburn team that had seven All-American type players. That was a big surprise, too.

Every year in college in football we will get to see the upsets like what happened with Michigan, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss and Alabama. People will wonder how that happened. It is just part of human nature that sometimes opponents are overlooked and a team doesn't prepare itself to be the best it can be. To avoid those type of upsets, habits established on the practice field or habits in your life where you develop some form of discipline that keeps your life in order and in perspective are essential to be consistently successful.

It is much more difficult to get that type of discipline from a football team with so many different people and personalities involved than it is to get from an individual. That is why those of us who love college football have a chance to get excited every fall as we watch teams pull off the big upsets against opponents that should not have lost--just like David found a way to defeat Goliath.

Pat Dye's Dye-Log

Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.

(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to

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