The Open Man countdowns to the 2018 college football season with 129 — in honor of the 129 programs participating in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year — things we love (and some we hate) about the sport. Click the 129 Things tag to see every entry.
Ok, boys and girls – we’ve almost reached the midpoint of summer, which means it’s almost the end of summer, which means it’s almost the beginning of fall. And you know what that means? COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS ALMOST BACK!
I don’t know about you guys, but even with the awesomeness that is the World Cup going on, ya girl is increasingly parched during this sports drought. But at least I have the crisp, early morning fall air (but not here in Florida; it’ll be the fiery infernos of hell until, like, mid-October) and Saturday game slates to look forward to in just a few short weeks.
And carried through the breeze of those crisp, early mornings is a whiff of one of the things that makes college football something special – rivalries.
Nothing says, “college football season is back” like the good old-fashioned hate brewing between rival universities. What makes college football rivalries fun is the levels to them – we got nationally significant ones (think Michigan/Ohio State, Army/Navy, Florida State/Miami, etc.), regional ones (Oregon/Oregon State, Michigan/Michigan State, Texas/Texas A&M, and so on), and ones that have cropped up in recent years solely because of thrilling competitions between two schools, (like that time in 2013 when USC beat No. 4 Stanford at the Coliseum and everybody rushed the field. My personal favorite!).
Rivalries that play out in coliseums across America on Saturday in the fall are so culturally significant, in fact, that ESPN produced a whole documentary about the biggest one.
These games are fun because even if you don’t care one lick about either team involved (see: Tennessee/Florida, for example) or if you complete hate both teams involved (USC/Notre Dame, anyone?) you know that, by virtue of it being a rivalry, it won’t disappoint.
Auburn narrowly defeats Alabama in the Iron Bowl? Auburn fans and a nation of Bama haters rejoice. Oklahoma trounces Texas in the Red River Rivalry? The Boomer Sooner faithful welcome a host of anti-Longhorns folks into the family. As the cliché goes, you can “throw out the record book” when it comes to rivalries, because they have a knack for blessing us with chaos every season.
In recent years, there have been some highly enjoyable ones that will go down in the record books.
Back in 2016 on the Third Saturday in September, Florida and Tennessee were set to clash, with Tennessee being a 6.5-point favorite. Tennessee was the favorite to win the SEC East at the time, but even still, the Volunteers hadn’t beaten the Gators since 2004. In walks Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson, who delivered this gem of a quote to suggest that despite being underdogs, the Gators would extend their winning streak against the Vols:
“Nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck,” he said. I don’t even really know what that means, but that is a FANTASTIC quote.
He was wrong, though. Despite jumping out to an early shutout, the Gators would surrender 38 consecutive points in the second half and would go on to lose 38-28, allowing Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs to throw four touchdowns.
So much for that duck pulling the truck.
Then we have the spectacular mishap that came during the Michigan/Michigan State tilt at The Big House in 2015, otherwise known as “The Punt.” No. 12 Michigan was on the verge of upsetting No. 7 Michigan State, leading 23-21 with 10 seconds left in the game. All the Wolverines had to do was punt the ball away and they would have surely secured the victory. The long snapper and the punter literally had one job each – execute a good snap and put the ball downfield.
But that ain’t what happened. This is what happened:
Michigan State was so sure they had lost the game, they reportedly had already given the Paul Bunyon Trophy to Michigan! Against all odds and logic, Sparty came away with the victory and left Michigan fans completely and utterly stunned.
And that reminds me of another thing about rivalries that’s super fun – trophies!
All the best rivalries have dope spoils that go to the victors – The Golden Hat (Texas/Oklahoma), The Golden Egg (Ole Miss/Mississippi State), Jeweled Shillelagh (USC/Notre Dame), Commander in Chief’s Trophy (Armed Forces), and the Wagon Wheel (BYU/Utah), just to name a few. With most games throughout the season, a team is playing for a spot in the playoffs at best, or just for pride, at worst. But when they face off against their rivals, they get to play for real hardware and there’s just something about playing for a trophy that brings out the best – and the bananas – in two teams.
So as fall quickly approaches, we can look forward to another season that will surely bless us with great, competitive and downright absurd clashes between rivals. In a sport that delivers unpredictable outcomes year in and year out, this is one constant we can depend on.