Helping you decide which teams to root for this Saturday if you don't have a horse in the race. This week: Don't hope for Wisconsin to win, because really, they don't need another reason to drink.
Ohio State at Wisconsin, 7 p.m.
Hahahhaha, yeah, people in my town like to drink. Unless you're saying this from somewhere in the state of Wisconsin, you're lying, deluded, or deeply unfamiliar with Wisconsinite drinking. Wisconsinite drinking is another thing entirely, a professional vocation, a statistical marvel, and experience not unlike being dosed with mescaline and thrown in an Navajo sweat lodge. You perspire. You arm-wrestle a woman from Waukesha who's on her ninth shot of absinthe. You see things. Horrible, horrible things.
I got drunk one night in Milwaukee--a kind of epic, pants-burning bender and had to catch a 5 a.m. flight to Florida the next day. THIS WAS THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE AND WILL BE FOREVER. I don't care what happens from this point forward: dead loved ones, nukes, plague, hordes of locusts, nothing will feel worse than the aftereffects of Milwaukee's Best (Drinkers) looking at you and saying, "You know what would go well with that beer and whiskey? A Long Island iced Tea. That'd work great, fella...unless you're weak or somethin'."
I was like a football team that loses by 50 to a rival: poisoned, queasy unaware of my surroundings, and disoriented for the better part of a month. That is not an exaggeration: Wisconsin took a month off my life in a night.
Lewis Black is not lying: Wisconsin has a federal grant for drinking, and the Hogwarts of the state's young booze wizards is Madison. I'm not even sure if this makes Wisconsin more likable, but it certainly makes them more fearsome. You still owe me a month of my life, Badgers, but mind your drunken hopping on the stands, because the last thing the state needs is another excuse to, you know, drink.
LEAN: Ohio State.
South Carolina at Kentucky, 6 p.m.
Randall Cobb's passion for cheesey biscuits may not be enough here to top South Carolina, but let's be optimists here. Kentucky remains an immensely likable team: a coach named Joker, proximity to racetracks, an underrated pregame tailgating environment, and the knowledge that even if the Wildcats don't manage to take advantage of the clearest letdown game in the recent history of letdown games, they'll still have basketball season waiting right around the corner. The inevitable probation and sanctions accompanying the employment of John Calipari will follow, but somehow the football team will end up taking them for the basketball program. How? If I knew then I'd be John Calipari, and therefore making way more cash than I make now doing this.
Pittsburgh at Syracuse, 12 p.m.
The Doug Marrone Death Machine cannot be stopped: one can only put a mustache in front of it and hope it respects it enough to slow down for a moment, salute, and then go back on its long job of killing the opposition in the Big East. The Orange are 4-1, and can frankly hang it up now and call this as much consistent success as they've had in the 21st century if they like. Given that this is the Big East, they would, but everyone else save West Virginia is doing the same thing. Therefore expect four quarters of "play not to lose" from both teams, but most especially from Pitt, the team that craves nothing more than a game decided by field goals and playcalling Jim Tressel refers to as "stodgy." If Dave Wannstedt were a swimmer, he'd have on a life preserver, water wings, nose clips, and scuba gear. Doug Marrone, being slightly bolder, wades boldly in the shallow end with only the protection of Delone Carter. (This is enough.)
Missouri at Texas A&M, 12 p.m.
Bill Byrne, the longtime AD for Texas A&M, quietly sends out one of the more inadvertently entertaining pieces of college football correspondence around every three months or so. I never fail to learn something when reading it. For instance, were you aware that the already surreal atmosphere in three-tiered Kyle Field really is bat country?
Some of you who attended the Kansas State game discovered a few bat carcasses on the ramps and more residue along the concourses than usual.
Bat carcasses? Check. Strange mass genital squeezing? Check. Aggie QB Jerrod Johnson doing his best Brett Favre imitation by alternately throwing the Aggies into and out of the game? Positively charming, and without the melodrama of a retirement saga and mobile phone penis puppetry. The arcane cheers and yell leaders all worshipping an indifferent though adorable collie? It's a cult, but it's a very well-arranged cult, and certainly more rootable than the Mizzou Tigers, who are from, you know...Missouri, and have uniforms, their usual pass-wacky offense, and Gary Pinkel, a head coach who makes the stonefaced Jeff Tedford seem like a Latin American soccer announcer in comparison.
LEAN: Appealingly Crazy Texan Cultists
Iowa At Michigan, 3:30 p.m.
The video game will be on an entirely different level of difficulty for Denard Robinson, as Iowa's ghosts are fast, agile, and will probably have figured out the trick that "HEY THE BALL IS GOING TO THE FAST GUY WHO DOESN'T TIE HIS SHOELACES." As likable as Denard Robinson's season-long caper involving the theft of thousands of yards from opposing defenses is, he'd be stealing from America this time, and as much as I like brazen scoundrel antics, these colors don't run, y'all. (Neither does the Michigan defense, a cast of walk-ons who stand like sad buoys in a sea of empty grass as wide receivers sail by them.)
Texas at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m.
Hating Nebraska is difficult, even when you and your favorite team perhaps ever were on the beatin' end of the biggest beating stick ever wielded in college football. I refer to the 1995 Florida Gators, a festive bunch whose youth ended when their leaders foolishly took them to war against the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl. They died like gentle English schoolboys on the fields of Flanders at the hands of Christian Peter and company, and as Tommy Frazier ran for his 38th touchdown on the night, you could hear the sound of Metallica's "One" warbling around in the background--
I'm sorry, the word Nebraska still evokes a kind of PTSD for me, especially when you see Taylor Martinez and Roy Helu running the zone read like some kind of horizontal I-form option. Still, sanity's got to have a word with phobias every now and then: Nebraska's played a weak slate of competition, Texas is extremely dangerous in coming off two straight losses, and Will Muschamp's scheming and the talent running it is far better than anything they've faced yet.
Unfortunately, the upset pick is made hard by Texas's iron-deficient offense. Eat a steak, Texas! Make it Bevo if you have to, which we really hope you don't have to, because he is a majestic animal. Hard times require hard measures, though, and if devouring the school mascot is what it takes to score some points, Mack Brown will do it (and appear five times on ESPN during BCS stumping time to tell everyone about it with a gubernatorial grin).
LEAN: Nebraska, the nicest place where you'll ever go to get your head kicked in repeatedly.
California at USC, 3:30 p.m.
Did you know Jeff Tedford was the coach who recruited Lane Kiffin to Fresno State? And that he, more than anyone else, started the path that got Lane Kiffin three head coaching jobs as an adult?
LEAN: USC. Blame the maker, not the spawn.
Arkansas at Auburn, 3:30 p.m.
Cam Newton is redefining quarterbacks for Auburn fans, who after 30 years of nearly continuous slow dropback passers are now beholding the power of a human icebreaker let loose on the field. It can be irritating to watch the Gus Malzahn offense surround him with frippery, since a typical play runs like this:
- End-around fake
- Fullback fake
- Halfback fake
- Pump fake
- Draw fake
- Option fake
- Cam Newton says "F&$# this" and starts beating the crap out of people five yards at a time.
Mississippi at Alabama, 9:00 p.m.
Nevada at Hawaii, 10:30 p.m.