Varsity Tailgate: Which team is the Chicago Cubs of college football?
College football is at midseason, but the sports world is very much focused on the Chicago Cubs right now. As you have likely heard upwards of 1,908 times in the past few days, the perennial losers are just eight wins away from their first World Series championship since 1908.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some programs that could be the Cubs of college football—longtime losers that would shock the sports world if they won a title.
Located just seven miles from Wrigley Field, Northwestern is even closer to the Cubs when it comes to failure. Despite fielding a team as early as 1876, the Wildcats have never won a national championship. They won their first bowl game in 1948 and then didn’t win another until 2012. Northwestern has a losing record against every team in the Big Ten except Indiana (come on, Indiana!) and Maryland, which they have yet to play. For extra Cubs-ness, they even played in Wrigley Field in 2010—and got blown out by Illinois, which is pretty hard to do.
But, like the Cubs under young genius Theo Epstein, the Wildcats are building something under 40-year-old head coach Pat Fitzgerald. They also have five games at Wrigley Field planned for the coming years. Who knows, maybe soon the Wildcats can have a fat kicker go Kyle Schwarber and launch a game-winning field goal onto the video board that beats Ohio State and clinches a spot in the playoff. Anything feels possible in Chicago right now.
Rutgers beat Princeton, 6-4, in 1869 in what is considered the first college football game in history. Things have gone downhill since then. While the Cubs have long failed to win with large payrolls, Rutgers can’t build a winner despite being in a fertile recruiting area and supposedly being New York City’s de facto Division I football program. (Note: Someone tell New York City.) The Scarlet Knights’ best shot at becoming real contenders likely ended when Greg Schiano left. Yes, Schiano was a high point for Rutgers football. As I said, things haven’t been great since the autumn of ‘69.
The football program has long been an excuse for Kansas to see if any tight end recruits can possibly be transformed into power forwards. The program has zero national titles in its 125-year existence and hasn’t even won a conference title since 1968. This is a team that played in the Big Eight and is now in a conference called the “Big 12” that only has 10 teams (and one of those is Iowa State). They don’t have a ton of competition, yet they continue to not win. It’s like if the Cubs only had to beat the White Sox every year but still couldn’t do it.
Army and Navy
Army won national championships in 1944, 1945 and 1946. They also helped defeat Germany then. Yeah, it was a pretty successful era for Army. Since then? Not as great. The Black Knights haven’t even been able to beat Navy in 13 years.
The Midshipmen claim a national title in 1926, have had a Heisman winner as recently (recently?) as 1963 in Roger Staubach, and—unlike Army—consistently put up eight-, nine- and 10-win seasons. But they’re far from being national title contenders.
You know what? Why are we splitting up the Army, Navy and Air Force for college football? America’s enemies don’t schedule them all separately, they face the full force of the U.S. military all at once. Let’s combine the three programs into one super-team that might have a real chance at winning something. Imagine the ratings for a national championship game between Bama and America. And think of the expression on Nick Saban’s face when he looks up and realizes he’s about to get taken out by a drone strike.
Go Cubs. Go Team America.
Game of the week
No. 7 Michigan State at No. 12 Michigan — 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Michigan fans defaced the Magic Johnson statue on Michigan State’s campus this week.
The maize-colored paint is the most obvious bit of vandalism. But there’s so much more. The Michigan fans also managed to re-cast Magic’s face to make him look like a Who and then placed him on top of some old driftwood for unknown, but no less amusing, reasons. Well done. That's next-level defacement.
Another game of the week
No. 8 Florida at No. 6 LSU — 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Treon Harris will start for Florida at quarterback in the place of the suspended Will Grier, and Florida fans are feeling confident.
Five Florida fans wearing shorts and not a single pair of the jort variety. Not all stereotypes are true, friends.
Cupcake of the week
Mississippi State plays Louisiana Tech at home on Saturday. The Bulldogs are 4-2 and won a bowl game last year. That’s not much of a cupcake, but what are the other options? Memphis? They’re playing Ole Miss, but the Tigers are undefeated and won 10 games last year. These are awful cupcakes. Someone took our usually delicious treats and made them with flax seed and apple sauce. Gross.
Rivalry game of the week
USC at No. 14 Notre Dame — 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Michigan State-Michigan and Florida-LSU are big rivalries, but those games were already broken down above in detail you will find nowhere else. So USC-Notre Dame will instead receive the prestigious Rivalry Game of the Week honors.
Mascot fact of the week
USC’s mascot is a white horse named Traveler. But the program’s original mascot in the 1940s was a dog named George Tirebiter. If you guessed that the dog was named Tirebiter because it nipped at the tires of passing cars, you are correct! And if you guessed that the original George died in 1950 because he was run over by a car, also correct! Congratulations!
Heisman candidate in the cross hairs
Leonard Fournette, QB, LSU
If Fournette can have another big game in a win over Florida in primetime, the Heisman raise will be over. You know, barring (horrific) injury (that seems to befall every top SEC back).
Please stop reading this column, go to the nearest lumber yard and knock on all the wood. Thank you.
Tailgate tip of the week
Don’t think tailgating is only about football, fun and friends. It’s also an opportunity to interact with your favorite #brands!
From MGoBlue, here’s a rundown of what Michigan fans can expect on Saturday when ESPN’s College GameDay is in town:
“Fans are encouraged to make creative signs for a competition sponsored by Pizza Hut and there will be a sign painting station provided by Home Depot. There will also be fan activities, a Coke Zero tent and a Cheez-It Real Fan of the Week presentation. The College GameDay Home Depot Bus will also be on site.”
Sounds like a fun day of Foot(Locker)bAll(State Insurance)!
Quote of the week
“The times I had that were trials, they weren't really trials like crucifixion, like Jesus trials or something like that or Tupac or something like that, not like those kinds of trials.” — Devon Blackmon, BYU WR, on what it was like for him getting acclimated to life on campus.
Some BYU fans were upset by Blackmon’s quote. Even though they live west of the Mississippi, they apparently don’t put West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur on the same pedestal as Jesus Christ. Well, the joke's on them. Check out the following quotes/lyrics. Can you guess who said them? 2Pac or JC?
“Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice. I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots.”
“Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
“Until I die; live the life of a boss, playa. ‘Cause even when I’m high, f--- with me and get crossed later.”
Answer: All of those came from Jesus, because God created everything and knows all.
Stat of the week
Since Bennie Oosterbaan beat Michigan State in 1948, first-year Michigan head coaches are 0-6 against the Spartans. Of course, this one of those factoids that sounds possibly important, but means absolutely nothing. The players on the field Saturday won’t be impacted in any way by 1948 or 1984 or 2008 or any sort of historical minutiae, and neither will Jim Harbaugh.
It is interesting to note, however, that Oosterbaan—a Michigan legend—had his best season in 1948, going 9-0, and then dropped way off. In his 10 seasons at the helm that followed his breakout debut, he never coached the Wolverines to more than seven wins. It’s time someone says it: Oosterbaan was overrated. Your seven decades of coasting by without having to face any hot takes are over, Oosterbaan.
Reader Twitter question of the week
Spurrier’s reasons for stepping down seemed sincere and well-reasoned: His team isn’t playing well, and he hopes that maybe they can turn things around with a new voice in the locker room. Makes sense to me, at least.
But it is interesting that he hasn’t gotten near the criticism some coaches would receive for “quitting” mid-season on the impressionable young men they are molding into the future leaders of America. It’s more evidence that the media will hesitate to dump on you if you’re nice to them. Barry Bonds? WORLD’S WORST PERSON. Andy Pettitte and David Ortiz? Hahaha. Everyone makes mistakes. What are you even talking about?
Spurrier is fun and folksy and friendly, so he’s free to do what he wants. But if Nick Saban quit mid-season? He’d be torn to shreds. Very tiny shreds, as he’s miniature-sized man. (That cheap shot about his height is justified, you see, because he’s mean to the media.)
Greatest conference ever of the week
American Athletic Conference
The AAC still has three undefeated teams, tied for best in the country. Okay, quick ... name just two of the teams! Not two of the undefeated teams. That’s too hard. Just two of the AAC’s 12 teams. Come on. Think! Here’s a hint: Two of them start with “Tul.” Sorry, did you say Tulowitzki State? That is not a school. O.K., never mind.
Worst conference ever of the week
The Pac-12 only has one team in the AP Top 14: No. 4 Utah. No wonder Chip Kelly says he isn’t interested in any jobs there. Why do all the work required to beat a good team like the Utes when you can just go .500 and win an NFC East title?
Coach on the hot seat
After last week’s loss to Florida State, Al Golden is 0-5 all-time versus Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles, a supposed rival. It now seems to be a foregone conclusion that Golden will be fired, but maybe he’ll still be around next year. Who knows. Crazier things have happened. (Mark D’Onofrio being employed in Division I football as a defensive coordinator, for one example.) But even if he gets canned by Miami after the season, Golden will find other employment. He’s already dressed for his next interview.
Player name of the week
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Everyone knows about Butt already, of course. But this Butt will get even more attention on Saturday with the focus of the college football world on Michigan State-Michigan. What makes this particularly Butt so great, however, is its self-awareness.
Yes I'm a tight end. Yes my last name is butt. Hhahaha— jbooty (@JakeButtTE) September 22, 2013
Hhahaha is right. We can all be free to enjoy the Butt without feeling like we’re doing something wrong.
Stone cold lock of the week
The outcome of Michigan-Michigan State will only make Ohio State’s strength of schedule worse.