There are essentially two kinds of people in our cultural diaspora—those who find schadenfreude-drenched glee in Iowa needing two second half safeties to beat South Dakota State, 7-3, and those who find pure effervescence in Appalachian State scoring 40 points in the fourth quarter and still losing to North Carolina, 63-61.
(There is a third, of course, of people who find joy with their families and friends, amid the blessings of nature and away from the manifest cruelties of this life, but it is a subset too small to be considered statistically relevant. But we digress).
Yes, college football has returned, and now that we are past the ridiculous conceits of Week Zero, we can bask momentarily in the joys of the meek trying to inherit a plot of earth before the Big 10 and Southeastern Conference razing the sport into a bipolar money grab. Maybe you got a kick out of Georgia beating the face off Oregon, or Alabama ego-clocking Utah State, or Miami trying to act like badasses again by putting 10 touchdowns on Bethune-Cookman, Maybe, conversely, maybe your thing is Delaware defending the desperate hopes of the double-digit dog beating Navy, or your degeneracy has reached such depths that you thrilled to Mercer scoring a touchdown in the final 25 seconds to cover as a 31-and-a-hook dog against Auburn. Maybe you just label-shop and do Ohio State-Notre Dame, for all the psychic damage that implies.
But you’re just weirdos, and yes, we mean all of you. Iowa-South Dakota State is for the people who know the system is rigged toward the powerful but enjoy it when the powerful have to do absurd things to beat a team nicknamed the Jackrabbits. In fairness, South Dakota State has been a 1-AA power for awhile now, so Iowa wasn’t punching too far down schedule-wise, but the Hawkeyes have always imagined themselves to be Big 10 players even amid the cruel hegemony of Ohio State, and fully expected to manage more than no touchdowns, 10 first downs, and 166 total yards. But the entire game was a howling mess, with more punts (21) than first downs (16), including 10 by Iowa’s Tory Taylor that were downed inside the South Dakota State 20.
In short, it was a testimonial to the most abject futility, wrapped in paralyzing despair. As South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said, “It’s tough to go out there and mentally think we’ve got to go 98 yards against this defense.” After all, nothing taxes a fellow quite like mental thinking.
But for those who find such displays offensive, there is Appalachian State and Carolina, a pie fight of the grandest form. App State, as the Mountaineers are annoyingly called in a cheap attempt to seize attention from the tech market, took a 21-7 lead against the Heels within 16 minutes only to allow 34 points in the next two quarters. Being down 41-21 after three is considered a bad way to go about the rest of one’s day, but then the fourth quarter happened—nine touchdowns, six by the Mountaineers, and three scores in the final 50 for-Christ’s-sake seconds. The high-and-low point of the day came with 31 seconds left and Appalachian State attempting an onside kick after cutting Carolina’s lead to 56-55 when Carolina’s Bryson Nesbit screwed up by returning said kick 43 yards for a touchdown while his coaches and teammates were yelling for him to go down so they could kill the clock.
And sure enough, Appy State scored one final touchdown with nine seconds left to cut the Carolina lead back to two, only to have quarterback Chase Brice stopped a yard short of the game-tying conversion (the nine-minute recap of the last minute is here). It was a sensational day if you like points orgies, and if you didn’t have the Fightin’ Apps giving the two-and-a-half.
But now you have the existential choice that best matches your warped personality. Would you rather watch the tortures of the powerfully damned with four points in the second half or 75? Most of you would probably choose B), but there is room for both in the fun part of college football, which will soon die when the market is reduced to 40 teams and two conferences, and Nick Saban’s next contract extension to keep him from making less money than Kirby Smart takes him to his 87th birthday. Ahhh, college football. We miss it already.