Dark Horse Saturday Adds Madness to the College Football Season


Katy Perry’s latest hit single, “Dark Horse,” should have given college football fans some idea of what to anticipate in Week 6. The guest celebrity picker on College Gameday set the tone for the wildest Saturday in recent memory, if not ever.

Sure, Katy Perry never went to a college football game before Saturday, but that makes her unofficially presiding over the madness all the more fitting.

Think of it like filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket. You follow the entire basketball season, make the smart picks based on matchups…and the pool is won by someone who chose based on where their friends went to school, uniform color and mascots.

And, wouldn’t you know it? The “Dark Horse” singer similarly rode the dark horses into a bracket-crumpling weekend.

Alabama, Oklahoma, UCLA, Texas A&M and Nebraska fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Saturday, joining Oregon, who tumbled Thursday night. Of course, there’s been enough chaos already in this 2014 college football season that none of those teams is eliminated from championship contention.

BYU, on the other hand?

The College Football Playoff won’t commence for another 12 weeks and already the landscape is in complete disarray. If the four-team tournament started today, we’d have a field that could include Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arizona or TCU along with 2014 BCS Championship Game participants Florida State and Auburn.

Of course, the end result should look nothing like that. No one knows just what the end product really will look like, but that’s part of the beauty of it.

For all the projecting of fans and media pundits alike, there’s no predicting chaos.

The mayhem Week 6 threw the entire season into might already leave some clamoring for expansion to the College Football Playoff before it ever begins. Perish the thought.

Instead, think of the College Football Playoff has the Final Four–easy enough given the number of participants.

The Final Four is basketball’s culmination of the season at large, and the NCAA Tournament specifically. While the Final Four is one of American sport’s great spectacles, it fails to capture the same visceral reaction as the opening weekend of the tournament.

That’s because in March Madness, the excitement is in the journey.

College football fans have longed for a tournament of some kind for as long as I’ve followed the sport. Now that it’s here after years of anticipation, some are already primed for disappointment because of what they’ve built the College Football Playoff up as in their heads.

It cannot possibly live up to those expectations.

The journey to the College Football Playoff, on the other hand, is anything but disappointing.

A week like this past and Dark Horse Saturday is reminiscent of those wild Round of 64 days that have made the NCAA Tournament so popular.

For example, who predicts Mercer over Duke? Probably the same terrifying soothsayers who had 23-point underdog Arizona over Oregon.

Now, Arizona isn’t Mercer. The Wildcats are now ranked in the Top 10 and control their own destiny.

But the level of upset is similar. And, like Mercer bumping Duke from the NCAA Tournament, Arizona might not win the championship–but it has impacted the national championship landscape.

Indeed, every Saturday promises that kind of significance, which in turn, generates the same emotional investment and pure elation evident during March Madness.

Take the scene that unfolded in The Grove after Ole Miss’ 23-17 upset of third-ranked Alabama. Oxford transformed into one giant party, complete with Katy Perry slamming beers and trolling Nick Saban on Twitter.

Ole Miss resembled Dayton after the UD Flyers made their run to this past Elite 8.

Oh, and BYU? Wichita State feels your pain.

So please don’t think of the College Football Playoff like the NCAA Tournament; it’s apples and oranges. But the college football season? That’s the gridiron’s madness.