College Football 2011: Breaking Down the Preseason Top 25's TV Doppelgangers
With the season less than two months away, every team has been analyzed by their offense, defense, schedule and a litany of other—often increasingly irrelevant—criteria.
Sadly, the one question that is being most overlooked is—what television character best embodies each team's 2011 season outlook?
Finally, the preseason top 25 now gets their long sought after doppelgangers from the small screen, whether it's from comedy or drama, live-action or animated.
Both the outlook for each team's season as well as their current characteristics falls into a synergy with their fictional match.
Some are flattering, others...not so much. Yet both the team and the characters tell shared stories that unfold once a week, be it on your television or the gridiron.
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25. Auburn Tigers as Michael Bluth (Arrested Develoment)
To paraphrase Arrested Development's opening: Now the story of a championship team that nearly lost everything, and the one will try to keep them all together.
After winning the national title in January, Auburn was hit heavily by losses. Gone are their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton, most of their offensive line, their top two receivers and seven defensive starters.
The Bluth family was also toppled off their luxurious perch when patriarch George was imprisoned on many charges, including "light treason."
Despite the losses and hardships, each has the strength to persevere.
Auburn has a great head coach in Gene Chizik who has the ability and talent around him to help the Tigers navigate through this rebuilding phase.
Following George's incarceration and subsequent court case, the family's crumbling real estate company was slowly rebuilt by the capable Michael, despite the zany antics of his family.
24. Georgia Bulldogs as the Duke Boys (The Dukes of Hazzard)
What's more Southern than moonshine and college football?
Bo and Luke Duke, along with Uncle Jesse and their cousin Daisy, had made a living running moonshine in Hazzard County in rural Georgia. While largely a successful enterprise, they are constantly harassed by Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.
The Bulldogs have enjoyed a large degree of success under head coach Mark Richt, with last season's 6-7 record their first losing season since 1996. That relative consistency is even more impressive as they are constantly battling the immense talent of their SEC rivals.
Both the Dukes and Bulldogs have a breakout star among their ranks that has attracted the lion's share of attention.
The General Lee, the iconic orange Dodge Charger, made racing along back country roads and leaping over conveniently placed ramps all the rage in the early 1980s.
For Georgia, quarterback Aaron Murray was the standout of the disappointing 2010 season. As a true freshman, he threw for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns.
He figures to be among the elite quarterbacks in the SEC, if not the nation, over the next two or three seasons.
23. Arizona State Sun Devils as Barney Fife (The Andy Griffith Show)
Here we have two entities that for years believed their skills and abilities far exceeded their actual performance while on the job.
In his mind, Barney Fife, the devoted deputy sheriff of Mayberry, N.C., stands as a true pillar of justice and the greatest enemy of criminals everywhere. In reality, he is a clumsy and overeager policeman whose delusions of grandeur often threaten to derail his good intentions.
The same can be said of Arizona State football. For years, the program and their fanbase have felt that the Sun Devils were on the precipice of becoming the next major power in the west, yet each time those expectations rose, so did the level of disappointment.
Both the intrepid Deputy Fife and the Sun Devils have repeatedly shown a knack for bumbling away opportunities, although ASU doesn't have the luxury of having a Sheriff Andy Taylor to save the day.
Whether it's letting would-be bank robbers in the bank or being one of the most penalized teams in the nation two years running, these two can't help but being their own worst enemy.
With a talented and experienced team playing a manageable schedule, the hype surrounding ASU is once again running high. Whether they can break on through to their long awaited place of dominance or if they will continue to struggle remains to be seen.
22. Missouri Tigers as Every Scooby Doo Villain (Scooby Doo, Where Are You?)
"If it hadn't been for you meddling kids!"
Just about every masked villain that Scooby-Doo and his pals took down over their years of supernatural crime fighting uttered those words. The evil-doers had every aspect of their criminal endeavors perfectly planned, but did not factor in the possible intervention of the crew of The Mystery Machine. They were just one component away...
So are the 2011 Missouri Tigers.
After winning 39 games over the last four seasons, the Tigers were returning a formidable lineup that including nine starters on offense and a defensive line that could be as good as any in the country. However...
Their star quarterback from last season, Blaine Gabbert, decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. His absence leaves a major hole in an otherwise very talented team.
Can James Franklin can overcome a shaky spring and a very difficult early schedule?
21. West Virginia Mountaineers as Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air)
The biggest off-season news for the Mountaineers was the saga of Dana Holgorsen surrounding his move and eventual ascension to royalty.
The mastermind behind Oklahoma State's explosive offense was hired to become West Virginia's offensive coordinator and eventual head coach.
Those plans were accelerated when former head coach Bill Stewart resigned under pressure, allowing Holgorsen to take the throne in Morgantown.
He brings a brash and charismatic persona along with his attacking offense to a talented team that should be the Big East favorite.
His move mirrors that of another young and cocky individual, Will Smith. After "one little fight" in West Philadelphia, Smith moved out to live with his "auntie and uncle in Bel Air."
His transition, like Holgorsen's, wasn't without difficulty, but eventually he claimed his "throne as the Prince of Bel Air."
20. Florida Gators as Sam Malone (Cheers)
It's easy when you are atop your field. However, the true test of character happens when you are knocked from your perch and you have to begin the rebuilding process.
For Sam Malone, his pitching days with the Boston Red Sox were ended by his alcoholism. Having lost everything, Malone made a decision to take back his life. He became sober and he purchased a little bar on Beacon Street in Boston named Cheers.
In recent years, the everybody knew the name of the Florida Gators, who were the best program in the best conference in the nation. Under Urban Meyer, they captured two national championships and were perennial contenders.
That all ended in 2010 when the Gators not only stumbled to only eight wins, but lost Meyer to retirement.
They look to begin their climb back to national title contention under new coach Will Muschamp. The talent is there, the coaching pedigree is there. Will it be happy hour in Gainesville in 2011?
19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish as Vincent Chase (Entourage)
Being among the rich and famous carries with it both significant advantages as well as frightening burdens.
Vincent Chase's acting career began slowly before he landed the starring role in Aquaman, which became the biggest blockbuster in movie history. This made him Hollywood's golden boy and the riches that come with it.
However, bad decisions, studio politicking and a drug problem soon threatened to destroy his career. This sets the stage for a comeback for the young actor.
Arguably the most popular college football team of all time, Notre Dame has a long history of their own blockbusters, notably 11 national titles and 7 Heisman Trophy winners. However, they haven't won a title since 1988 and over the last two decades, their hype has far exceeded their on-field production.
The 2011 season brings with it more expectations, however these seem to be more grounded in reality.
With a talented head coach in Brian Kelly and 19 returning starters, the Fighting Irish are in prime position to reclaim their position as a featured attraction.
18. Mississippi State Bulldogs as George Jefferson (The Jeffersons)
After suffering for long periods of time in the brutal SEC, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State are seemingly "movin' on up," much like self-made dry-cleaning mogul George Jefferson.
After struggling to get by as a lowly janitor in Harlem, Jefferson took money he received from the city after being rear-ended by a bus to open up a dry cleaning business.
Through hard work, he soon had opened seven dry-cleaning locations. That newfound wealth allowed him to relocate to a "deluxe apartment in the sky" in Manhattan.
The Bulldogs hadn't had a head coach with a winning record since the 1950s and had only one division or conference title since 1941.
Thankfully, they hired Dan Mullen, who brought a new attitude to the program and has the team in excellent shape heading into 2011. Last season, Mississippi State went 9-4, including a Gator Bowl win over Michigan.
The core of an exciting offense returns as the Bulldogs search for the first consecutive pair of nine-win seasons in school history.
17. Ohio State Buckeyes as Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead)
What do you do when all of a sudden your entire world has been reduced to ruin?
Police officer Rick Grimes awoke in a hospital after being wounded in a firefight to find that the world had fallen to a zombie apocalypse. He soon reunites with a band of survivors including his wife, son and former partner. The group then struggles to survive the undead hordes and rebuild their shattered world.
The college football equivalent is now playing out in Columbus.
After the Tat-5 scandal resulted in suspensions of several key players and head coach Jim Tressel, the world of Buckeye football continued to devolve into near ruin.
The ongoing investigation resulted in Tressel's resignation and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor leaving school after previously announcing his intention to stay for his senior season.
The NCAA probe is still in progress, leaving Ohio State to begin rebuilding with their talented core amid a very uncertain future.
16. Michigan State Spartans as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: TNG)
With the element of surprise, it can sometimes be easy to accomplish an impressive feat. The real test is whether it can be done again when the target is on your back and the pressure in heavy.
Jean-Luc Picard overcame a turbulent tenure in Starfleet Academy before serving as first officer and later captain of the U.S.S. Stargazer.
There, he performed admirably and flashed his legendary command ability, which earned him an assignment to command the U.S.S. Enterprise, the flagship of Starfleet. In this prestigious role, the pressure was on him to serve as the most prominent captain in the fleet.
The Michigan State Spartans from a similarly shaky background of a 6-7 record in 2009 to shock many around the country by winning 11 games and a share of the Big Ten conference championship.
Led by a talented offensive backfield of quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Edwin Baker, the pieces are in place for the Spartans to maintain their place as one of the flagship programs of the Big Ten.
Given that they won't be surprising anyone this season as they did in 2010, can they make good on that promise?
15. TCU Horned Frogs as B.A. Baracus (The A-Team)
There is something to be said for the "pummel first, pound second, perhaps ask questions later" approach.
Sergeant B.A. Baracus was a member of the wrongly accused special forces unit that escaped from a "maximum security stockade into the Los Angeles underground" were they put their skills to use for those in need.
Baracus was the team's muscle, an intimidating force that struck fear into the fools that he pitied.
Like Baracus, the TCU Horned Frogs thrive on having a bad attitude (the B.A., if you will).
TCU's hard-hitting defense has led the national in total defense for three straight seasons, which has allowed the Horned Frogs to become the only team to be ranked in the top 10 over every season over that stretch.
With punishing linebackers Tank Carder and Tanner Brock returning for the Rose Bowl champions, the prediction for TCU's opponents is simple—pain.
14. Arkansas Razorbacks as Hawkeye Pierce (M*A*S*H)
Sometimes, there are circumstances beyond control that lead talented people into unenviable situations and outright hardship.
Surgical wizard Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce found himself pulled from his quiet practice in New England by the Korean War. Drafted into the U.S. Army, Pierce served admirably as a combat surgeon at the 4077th MASH unit.
His unparalleled surgical talents saved countless lives as he endured the horrors of war, thanks to ample doses of women and alcohol.
For many of talented teams in the SEC, that feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is prevalent.
Add the 2011 Arkansas Razorbacks to that list. They are loaded with offensive skill position players and a ferocious front seven on defense.
The only problem is that they place in an SEC West division that features top five teams in Alabama and LSU.
In addition, they have a schedule that includes four other ranked teams. The 2011 season certainly will not be painless for the Hogs.
13. Wisconsin Badgers as Mr. Burns (The Simpsons)
In a world that is increasingly reliant on becoming smaller, faster and flashier, there are few that prove that old-fashioned strength and power can still dominate the day.
For Mr. Burns, the owner of Springfield's nuclear power plant, his empire was built on crushing those in his way by any means necessary.
He is the personification of man's ageless thirst for wealth and power, and his advanced age is evidenced by his reliance on dated technology and turn-of-the-century cultural references.
The Wisconsin Badgers apply a same dependence on a seemingly outdated approach, yet remain one of the most "excellent" teams year in and year out.
While more teams around the country adopt quick-strike and spread attacks, the Badgers rely on beating opponents into submission—a massive offensive line and a never-ending supply of power running plays.
In 2010, the Badgers ran 584 times and scored 48 touchdowns, while only throwing the ball 276 times for 17 touchdowns.
With 11 wins as the result, the past is both the present and future in Madison.
12. Virginia Tech Hokies as Kramer (Seinfeld)
Here are two prime examples of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
Cosmo Kramer has no visible signs of support or talent, yet he thrives in life. As George Costanza so eloquently put it, Kramer manages to "do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, mooch food off your neighbors, and have sex without dating."
Whether it's dumb luck, random chance or some cosmic force, Kramer always emerges ahead of the game.
As the only team to win 10 or more games every season over the last seven years, so do the Virginia Tech Hokies. Despite never having a superstar-loaded roster or overly gaudy statistics, all the Hokies do is win. A lot.
Head coach Frank Beamer has built one of the most consistently successful programs in Blacksburg that focuses on the unglamorous aspects of special teams and defense. While not a ratings grabber, they certainly put on a great show.
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers as Raylan Givens (Justified)
With the passage of time, most elements in life tend to evolve into something more civilized, elegant or refined. However, there are always a few holdouts whose resolute character resists such change even when their surroundings don't follow suit.
U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens is a throwback to the era of hard-boiled, shoot-first lawmen. In an era of increased restrictions and red tape, more often than not, Givens' procedure consists of aiming and firing.
After an incident in Miami, he is transferred back to his home state of Kentucky, where his old-fashioned methods come into conflict with his former acquaintances.
If you discount the Bill Callahan era—and most 'Husker fans do—then the blueprint for Nebraska's success over the last five decades hasn't changed. Riding a dominating defense and a dedication to the run, Nebraska has won 43 conference championships.
Now in 2011, they will take their old school approach to a new conference—the Big Ten. With their track record and talented roster, predicting more titles is most definitely justified.
10. Texas A&M Aggies as Cookie Monster (Sesame Street)
Old habits are hard to break.
Since 1969, Cookie Monster has been a blue-furred symbol of chocolate chip loving gluttony. While he's largely avoided the potential detriments of his all cookie diet—cavities, weight gain and diabetes—Cookie Monster has evolved.
Since 2006, he's moved on to a healthier, more vegetable-heavy diet, with his beloved cookies now a "sometimes snack". As a result, his monster health exams have now been superlative.
The Texas A&M Aggies are also reveling in the success of a recent change they made.
After starting off 2010 a pedestrian 3-3, they inserted former wide receiver Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.
They immediately reeled off six straight wins, which propelled them from Big 12 also-ran to Cotton Bowl participant.
With 18 returning starters, the Aggies are in excellent shape to contend for their first Big 12 title since 1998.
9. Oklahoma State Cowboys as Blanche Devereaux (The Golden Girls)
That's right. A Golden Girl.
Blanche Devereaux is a sassy Southerner who disguises her many emotional weaknesses by accumulating an ever-growing list of sexual conquests over the men of Miami.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are also huge fans of scoring.
The Cowboys finished third in the nation in scoring in 2010 (44.2 points per game) behind a potent passing game that features two Heisman contenders in quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
They'll need that firepower to mask their tremendous weakness on defense. In the pass-happy Big 12, the Cowboys ranked 115th in the nation against the pass, which could very well be a fatal flaw for their lofty hopes in 2011.
8. Stanford Cardinal as Doogie Howser (Doogie Howser M.D.)
Being a prodigy carries with it many advantages. It also has can be very isolating.
Doogie Howser was a child genius who at age 14 became the youngest doctor in the country. While his extraordinary gifts gained him fame, money and acclaim, it also alienated him.
Being in his position, he struggled to be accepted by his fellow teenagers as well as his peers in the medical profession.
The 2011 Stanford Cardinal have their own amazing gift in quarterback Andrew Luck.
His talent and intangibles have positioned him as the top quarterback prospect in nearly a generation and led the team to an Orange Bowl title.
However, with 10 starters gone from that team, along with Jim Harbaugh's departure for the NFL, the Cardinal are left with an uncertain future as they try to fit back in with the nation's elite.
7. South Carolina Gamecocks as Det. Jimmy McNulty (The Wire)
No matter how talented or experienced one can be, the greatest enemy often lies within.
Detective Jimmy McNulty is a talented, determined crime fighter who often is his own worst enemy. His ability led to the creation of Baltimore's major crimes division and he led the fight against the Barksdale crew, a syndicate of thugs and drug dealers.
However, his battle with alcoholism cost him nearly every relationship he held dear in his personal life, leaving him a battered shell.
South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia, for all of his talent, could be the Gamecocks' greatest enemy.
With an absolutely loaded roster of playmakers on both sides of the ball returning to a nine-win team, South Carolina has a manageable schedule by SEC standards. All they need is for Garcia to overcome his demons, in the forms of both interceptions and suspensions.
Garcia recently served his fifth suspension in his collegiate career, many alcohol-related. With such a powder keg at the core, the Gamecocks season can be either boom or bust.
6. Florida State Seminoles as Steve Austin (The Six Million Dollar Man)
After some devastating setbacks, both Florida State and Steve Austin returned.
Better. Stronger. Faster.
While piloting an experimental test aircraft, Austin suffered severe injuries during a crash, leaving his body a mangled mess.
However, a secret government organization, the OSI, rebuilds Austin using bionic technology, thereby creating a secret agent whose capabilities far exceed anything a normal man can achieve.
After dominating college football for much of the 1990s, the Seminoles fell from their perch among the nation's elite programs.
They settled into a stretch of above-average play with a division title here and there, but nothing resembling their previous national championship form.
After Jimbo Fisher's successful debut season in Tallahassee, the Seminoles seem to be headed back to the top, led by a ferocious defense and stout running game.
5. Boise State Broncos as Flight of the Conchords (Flight of the Conchords)
For outsiders, life can be difficult. They can be shunned and never given a chance to show their true talent.
Bret and Jemaine are a band that can be described as "New Zealand's fourth most popular folk-parody duo." They come to New York with dreams of success in America, but time after time are denied their chance by indifferent audiences, leaving them stuck in obscurity.
Boise State has lived atop the perch of non-BCS conference teams, yet despite their success, they have yet to fully break through. Even with a Fiesta Bowl win and annual 12- and 13-win seasons, the respect as a true national power has yet to come.
With Heisman contender Kellen Moore and a move to the Mountain West Conference, the Broncos hope 2011 is finally the season that their big break comes.
4. Oregon Ducks as Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)
Smooth, efficient, stylish and always on the attack.
Those adjectives perfectly sum up the Oregon Ducks, as well as notorious ladies' man Barney Stinson.
Unrelenting in their quest for quick-strike points or women, each leaves their competition in their dust with blinding speed and a unparalleled gameplan. For the Ducks, it is the cryptic play cards seen on the sideline, whereas Barney operates from his self-authored and aptly named text, The Playbook.
Their synergy doesn't end there.
A large part of their respective success is found in their distinctive looks.
Thanks to Nike, the Ducks are able to roll out a new and progressive uniform combination for each game.
Barney's suave persona flows from his attire, a never-ending collection of designer suits, which inspire him to command others to "Suit up!"
3. LSU Tigers as Malcom Reynolds (Firefly)
Who needs style points?
Not the LSU Tigers or the captain of the Serenity, Malcolm Reynolds.
No matter how stacked the odds or shoddy their performance, both of them have an amazing ability to triumph in the end.
After fighting for the losing side in an inter-stellar civil war, Reynolds finds himself as captain of a rickety smuggling ship, leading a motley crew in surviving on the fringes of civilized space.
Whether it's sadistic criminals, the tyrannical Alliance government or the savage Reavers, Reynolds takes his lumps, but always finds a way to win.
LSU's 2010 season was full of tremendous obstacles. Head coach Les Miles' ability and game management once again came under constant criticism, starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson regressed badly and the Tigers faced the gauntlet of SEC play. A recipe for disaster, right?
Hardly. All they did was win 11 games, including the Cotton Bowl and are a clear preseason top five team.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide as Brock Samson (The Venture Bros.)
If you are looking to be the subject of a vicious beatdown, then the Alabama Crimson Tide and Brock Samson can most certainly oblige.
Dubbed the "Swedish Murder Machine", Samson is the body guard for the Venture family.
Possessing nearly superhuman strength, stamina and cunning as well as the ability to turn any object into a lethal weapon, he's left scores of corpses in his wake during his time as both bodyguard and secret agent.
The Tide defense is without question the strength of Nick Saban's team. They ravaged their opponents with frightening brutality in 2010, ranking in the top five in the nation in both fewest points and yards allowed, all the while competing in the unrelenting SEC.
They return 10 starters from that unit. Among those 10 are four All-SEC selections, including ferocious linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
Scoring a touchdown against that unit this season figures to be as common as a team from outside the SEC winning the national championship over the last half-decade.
1. Oklahoma Sooners as The Fonz (Happy Days)
When you have the magic touch, it's hard not to flaunt it.
What can't Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli do? With the mere snap of his fingers, he summons a girl to each arm. With a pound of his fist, he can start a jukebox or car engine. With a thumb's up and a "Aaay," he can become a cultural icon.
With nine seasons of 11 or more wins over the last 12 years, the Oklahoma Sooners are the Fonzies of college football.
Even when it appeared that they may have "jumped the shark" during their injury-riddled 2009 season, they rebounded last season with 12 more wins, including the Fiesta Bowl.
With Heisman candidate Landry Jones leading a team that returns 17 starters, the Sooners are in prime position to take home their eighth national championship.