Bandwagon fan (noun) — an individual who betrays their favorite team to support a more proven, successful commodity.
In the world of sports, bandwagon fans receive slightly less admiration than your average war criminal and slightly more respect than your average Oklahoma defensive back. Needless to say, you don’t want to be accused of hopping aboard a hype train long after it’s left the station.
However, as we enter the second half of the 2022 college football season, there are still a few open spots left on bandwagons across the country. Here are seven teams, players and coaches who might bring the faintest spark of hope to your otherwise loveless existence as a college football fan.
Georgia Tech and Nebraska (seriously)
OK, kind of seriously. Both squads reached the elusive .500 mark last week, with Tech taking down Duke 23-20 in overtime and Nebraska barely surviving the vaunted Rutgers Scarlet Knights 14-13.
Neither of these teams are particularly good. One might even call them flaming garbage at times (I would never). They are also both, at most, a game behind first place in their divisions.
Not every bandwagon team has to be white-hot. Sometimes the subtle warmth of a dumpster fire is all you need.
Frisky Group of 5 teams in the general vicinity of Auburn
There are two kinds of fans who avidly watch Group of 5 football: those with ties to a G5 school, and those with ties to a floundering Power 5 program about to fire its coach.
If you’re an Auburn fan, I have to imagine you’re hungrily eyeing Kane Wommack’s stout defense at South Alabama or Jamey Chadwell’s explosive offense at Coastal Carolina.
By the way, speaking of up-and-coming coaches, have you seen the guy at UCF? I feel like he could really pull off a garish orange Under Armour vest with a white visor.
Historically inconsistent Pac-12 quarterbacks (ride at your own risk)
Allow me to present the highly scientific thought experiment known as Schrödinger’s Penix.
Per Schrödinger’s Penix, an inconsistent quarterback will play at an entirely unknown level of quality until he is closely observed, at which point he will become a borderline liability. I watched every underwhelming, occasionally catastrophic snap Michael Penix Jr. took in 2021 at Indiana. He leaves for Washington, starts playing after dark when I’m not watching, and suddenly he’s amazing. Then, as soon as I redirect my attention, Penix resumes averaging five yards per throw.
If you want to put all your emotional chips on UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson or Oregon’s Bo Nix, only do so as a casual observer. Do not tempt fate, and certainly do not tempt Schrödinger’s Penix.
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Betting against Texas
I happen to believe Texas is a pretty good team. I also think oddsmakers are going to give them way too much credit for annihilating what is basically a mid-major in Oklahoma.
Texas still has to play Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU and both Kansas schools. The Longhorns might be much improved with the return of stud quarterback Quinn Ewers, but for now, the safest Texas ticket might still be to the First Responder Bowl.
Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne
You can tell yourself Tyler Buchner will be healthy next year or that class of ‘24 five-star signee CJ Carr is the quarterback of the future in South Bend. It doesn’t matter.
If he’s unheralded, undersized, almost exclusively targets his tight end, and gets called “sneaky athletic” by announcers because he occasionally scrambles for three yards, then he is a modern Notre Dame quarterback. Saturday’s 28-20 win over BYU was just game three of at least 30.
Let the Pynasty begin.
Second-tier SEC contenders (for a couple weeks maybe)
Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all look really solid. That said, you simply cannot go all-in on these teams.
Nobody will give you credit for hyping up a team that recently netted a top-30 recruiting class, but they will absolutely tear you apart when that team loses to Alabama or Georgia by 27. Go ahead and celebrate these squads’ electric offenses. Commend their slightly feisty defenses if you must.
But for the love of God, do not under any circumstances talk about how you want Bama.
Non-traditional Heisman candidates
You could definitely argue Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud deserves the hype, but until he does something uniquely spectacular, we are going to hear ad nauseum about all the non-quarterbacks who actually deserve the award.
What about Alabama linebacker Will Anderson? Who will stand up for USC receiver Jordan Addison? Frankly, I will lose all faith in this God-forsaken sport if Dec. 10 rolls around and Virginia Tech’s equipment manager isn’t on a plane to New York.