Happy Halloween, dear reader. Or, if you’re a member of that one truly bizarre pagan creed, happy Girl Scout Founder’s Day (not a joke).
Halloween weekend is a very special time for college football fans. It’s a celebration of upsets, chaos, everything that makes the sport great. Last year, we offered up a handful of last-minute college football-adjacent costumes to rival even the finest Spirit Halloween couture. This year, however, instead of pretending to be someone we aren’t, we’re going to face the scary things head-on.
As a thought exercise, I mean — obviously, I would never do this in real life. You think I went to Halloween parties this weekend to confront reality? Come on, get real.
After nine thrilling weeks of college football, here are some of the scariest things the season has to offer.
Playing Penn State (lost to No. 2 Ohio State 44-31) in the second quarter
Shudder as defensive coordinator Manny Diaz ingeniously stymies your offense. Gasp in horror as quarterback Sean Clifford somehow dices up your defense. Shield your eyes as — wait, what was that fourth down call? Why can’t any of them tackle anymore? What is happening?
Kansas State quarterback Will Howard, apparently? (destroyed No. 18 Oklahoma State 48-0)
Remember last year when Oklahoma State posted the nation’s second-most efficient defense? Wild.
Anyway, how about Will Howard? In the last two weeks, he’s gone 34-57 for 521 yards and six touchdowns with just one pick.
Unfortunately for the rest of the Big 12, Howard’s ascent isn’t easily replicable. Coaches can’t immediately give their quarterbacks two full seasons in their system or pair them with a stud running back like Deuce Vaughn. But if you’re Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, or West Virginia, you probably feel optimistic about your quarterback knowing he gets to play Oklahoma State soon.
Allowing yourself to believe in Illinois (beat Nebraska 26-9)
Illinois is absolutely going to win the Big Ten West, right? The Illini still have to play No. 4 Michigan and a perpetually scrappy Purdue squad, but Michigan State and Northwestern are basically this year’s Indiana and — well, Northwestern.
Nevertheless, hope is a fool’s game when it comes to Illinois football. The Drive for Six may be complete, but total engine failure is still a possibility, however slim. Fortunately, there is never a clearer road to success for competent teams than the one that runs through the Big Ten West.
God, it would be such an Illinois thing to screw it up.
Betting against UConn (beat Boston College 13-3)
I imagine over the last few years, UConn has indirectly paid for a few country club memberships and at least one full year of private preschool tuition, all by being predictably awful at football. But this year, the Huskies have forsaken the cynical sports bettors to whom they were once so loyal. They currently boast a 7-2 record against the spread.
Vegas tends to take a while to catch up to historically awful programs on the rise. I’d estimate you have about two more weeks until oddsmakers realize UConn is at least capable of comfortably beating tiny New England schools like Central Connecticut State and Boston College.
The future of Miami’s offense (allegedly existed in 14-12 4-OT victory over Virginia)
Boy, does head coach Mario Cristobal sure have something special cooking in Coral Gables.
In Week 1, Iowa scored what we lovingly refer to as the Gentleman’s Touchdown — seven points consisting of one field goal and two safeties. Saturday, the ‘Canes got to 14 points in similarly disgusting fashion. While the box score shows four field goals and one merciful two-point conversion, true analytics nerds will recognize the first-ever scoring of two Tochdowns — a touchdown, but the U has no part in it.
Negotiating a contract for a coach that’s actually doing well
If you’re an athletic director at a school like Oregon State or Arizona, you know you’re eventually going to have to pay your coach for being competent at their job. Presumably, that’s an astronomical number considering how much money coaches like Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Stanford’s David Shaw or Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher are making per each of their three wins this season.
You flip through old yearbooks to find potential boosters. Did anyone go to your school for like, three semesters before dropping out and patenting a drug that cures bacne and may or may not violate a few antitrust laws?
What about pulling funds from other departments? How badly does your school need a music performance hall, really? I’m sure the jazz orchestra’s rehearsals will sound just as good if not better in your new state-of-the-art locker room.
The visitors’ locker room, I mean.