College Football 2011: Re-Imagining the the Preseason Top 25 as Super Heroes
College football is one of the favorite pastimes of Americans. So are comic books. And in the age of bigger and bigger comic book-turned-summer blockbuster movie, it seems only natural that we begin to compare our favorite team to our favorite comic book hero.
Sometimes the comparison fits naturally. Sometimes, the comparison is based more on the character's name, or his powers and abilities. Sometimes, the comparison just seems like a fun match.
If you think about it, football players are like real-life comic book heroes. They perform super-human feats to save the day (for your favorite team, that is). A super-human throw from a quarterback acrobatically caught by a wide receiver in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown as time expires is just like Superman saving the world at the last moment or Spider-Man catching a falling innocent citizen just before they reach the pavement.
So why not compare football teams to comic book heroes?
Here is our re-imagining of the Top 25 as some of our favorite super heroes.
No. 25 Michigan as Wolverine
Other than the obvious name match, there's another reason for Wolverine to be matched up with the Wolverines.
First appearing in The Incredible Hulk #180, Wolverine is the most-appearing comic book hero other than Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, appearing in 5,128 issues to date. That goes along with Michigan leading all college football programs in wins.
Additionally, Wolverine is seemingly a normal person, other than the fact that he has metal attached to his skeleton and has a remarkable healing rate.
We might see just how fast Michigan can heal in 2011, as Brady Hoke seeks to undo some of the damage done by the man who may forever be viewed as the arch villain in Ann Arbor: Rich Rodriguez.
No. 24 Georgia as Colossus
First appearing in Giant-Size X-Men #1, Colossus has the ability to alter his shape, has super strength and has amazing stamina.
Georgia will need to have all three of those things in 2011 if they hope to survive what is sure to be a rough a tumble SEC East this season. After their first losing season in nearly two decades, the Bulldogs will need some of that strength and stamina to even get to their SEC schedule unscathed. Boise State looms very large on the Week 1 schedule.
No. 23 Florida as Aquaman
Aquaman made his first appearance in More Fun Comics #73. Not only does Aquaman possess super strength, super speed and super stamina, he also possesses a bit of magic—not unlike the Florida Gators.
In previous years, Florida was able to access some of the magic from players like Tim Tebow. The question now is whether or not the Gators will be able to summon the magic of Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis to build the program back into an SEC power and BCS title contender.
No. 22 Texas as Beast
Beast first appeared in X-Men #1, and ever since then, he has featured prominently in the X-Men series, appearing in over 3,000 issues and also making movie appearances as well.
Texas also features prominently in college football, as they are now the second-winningest program in the nation behind only Michigan.
Texas also possesses some of the strengths of Beast, most notibly super speed, stamina, intellect and (hopefully) healing.
Last season was a struggle for Mack Brown and the Longhorns, finishing with an abysmal record of 5-7.
No. 21 Missouri as Vision
Vision is one of the lesser-known super heroes appearing on our list, and that fits right in with Missouri. Mizzou has had some very good teams, but their appearances in the BCS seem to be a bit lacking.
Vision first appeared in The Avengers #57, and has had just over 1,500 appearances since. Missouri also is on the low end of BCS appearances; zero in fact.
Vision possesses powers that Missouri has had in the past and may serve them well in the future, most notably, the ability to heal quickly. After suffering through some devastating losses in big games in the Big 12, Missouri has always been able to rebound from season to season, and once again, Missouri will be in the hunt for a Big 12 title in 2011.
No. 20 Nebraska as Punisher
The Punisher is a vigilante crime fighter first introduced to the world in The Amazing Spider-Man #129.
A mortal human, the Punisher is a master of his available weaponry blessed with amazing stamina, agility and intellect. Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers are similarly blessed with some pretty impressive talents. As the 'Huskers move to the Big Ten, the test will be whether or not they can withstand the week-to-week punishment of their new conference.
No. 19 Notre Dame as Mr. Fantastic
As the name suggests, Mr. Fantastic is one of the lead characters of The Fantastic Four, and was introduced in the first issue of the comic book series with the same name.
Some of the skills he possesses include a natural leadership ability, a towering intellect and some amazing resiliency. Notre Dame has certainly shown to be resilient over the past few years. Even when their own fanbase turns against the coach, there was no quit in the Fighting Irish.
One other trait that Mr. Fantastic possesses in the fact that he is filthy stinking rich. Noter Dame certainly fits into that category as well.
No. 18 Virginia Tech as Daredevil
First appearing in the first issue of his own comic series, Daredevil is a character who was blinded as a child, but his other senses heightened to super-human levels so that he could perfectly sense his surroundings through hearing, smell and touch.
While Virginia Tech certainly isn't blind, the Hokies possess a quality that Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) exemplifies: fearlessness.
That Hokie fearlessness is personified in their own “super power,” Beamerball. No other FBS program can claim some of the remarkable accomplishments that Virginia Tech claims. For instance, Virginia Tech is the only team in the FBS that currently has a coach who has had every defensive player position score a touchdown. How many times has the nose tackle on your favorite team scored a touchdown? What about the defensive ends?
No. 17 Mississippi State as Nightcrawler
Another mutant from the X-Men series, Nightcrawler first appeared in Giant-Size X-Men #1, and has a pretty demonic appearance. Despite outward looks, Nightcrawler is a defender of the innocent and a devout Catholic.
He's paired with Mississippi State because of the fact that the Bulldogs are one of the lesser-known but really good teams in the SEC these days. Nightcrawler only appeared in 2,134 issues, but uses his mastery of weapons, superior intellect and cat-like agility to defeat his foes. The Bulldogs have similarly used the talents at their disposal to do the same.
No. 16 South Carolina as Archangel
Archangel first appeared in X-Men #1, and is paired with the South Carolina Gamecocks on our list.
The reason for the match has less to do with on the field abilities of the Gamecocks, and more to do with their off-the-field issues. Archangel is not just a mutant with feathery wings. He can also change his wings into razor-sharp metallic wings that can cut down any enemy.
Similarly, South Carolina can transform from a seemingly benign power on the field to an entity that can shock (and even disappoint) off the field.
Recent troubles with Stephen Garcia and the coaching staff's apparent inability or unwillingness to deal directly with the problem means that the program could probably use an angel right about now, if only to distract the media with some good news.
No. 15 Ohio State as Iceman
Originally, Ohio State was to be much higher on our list. But recent problems have plagued the program, and there's more than fleeting doubt about Ohio State's chances in 2011.
Their compared to Iceman (first appearing in X-Men #1) on our list because for the Buckeyes to survive the next few seasons, they're going to need to have ice in their veins, and share Iceman's powers of seeming invulnerability to emerge unscathed.
No. 14 Arkansas as Gambit
First appearing in Uncanny X-Men #266, Gambit isn't one of the more prolific super heroes when it comes to appearances with just 1,328 issues under his belt. Similarly, Arkansas has been absent from the national conversation for a while.
But like Gambit's super healing abilities, the Razorbacks have found a way to resurrect their once-struggling program and now find themselves relevant once again in the SEC West.
No. 13 Texas Christian as Green Lantern
Okay, so the Green Lantern isn't one specific person. A particular member of the Green Lantern Corps is a Green Lantern, and in this case, we're referring to Hal Jordan, Earth's first Green Lantern.
The Green Lantern Corps protect peace and justice throughout the universe, and they use their powers in that pursuit. The recently released movie, starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, follows the origins of Earth's first Green Lantern and his struggles to harness his newly bestowed powers.
Likewise, TCU is learning to harness their new found power in the FBS, as they recently participated in their second BCS bowl, the 2011 Rose Bowl—and also obtained their first BCS victory.
It will be interesting to see if TCU can continue their winning ways now that a seismic shift is occurring on their depth charts.
No. 12 Auburn as Thor
Pretty much everyone knows who Thor is, if only the actual mythical god of thunder and lightening. In the comic book hero arena, Thor first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 before appearing in over 3,100 Marvel Comics issues.
Another thing everyone seems to be casually aware of is Mjolnir—Thor's hammer. Without the hammer, Thor is nearly powerless.
Was Cam Newton the Mjolnir of Auburn?
No. 11 Wisconsin as Thing
An original member of the Fantastic Four, Thing first appeared in that series' first issue. Big, strong and made of stone, Thing would be a very accurate representation of Wisconsin's style of play.
The Badgers favor the traditional Big Ten style of low-to-the-ground, grinding football. It's worked for them in the past, and last year Wisconsin claimed a share of the Big Ten title (although they lost head-to-head against Michigan State, the other co-champion from the Big Ten). A loss in the Rose Bowl to TCU showed a potential crack in the Madison bedrock.
Can Wisconsin continue their rough-and-tumble style of play without getting left behind in the new-look Big Ten?
No. 10 Michigan State as Hulk
The Hulk, the title character in The Incredible Hulk series, is big, mean and green.
Aside from his coloring, the Hulk has quite a bit in common with Sparty. A strong team with a ton of stamina, Michigan State showed that they can play with the best in the Big Ten last season. But like the Hulk, MSU has their share of issues.
“Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.” That famous saying is true in both the worlds of Dr. Banner and Mark Dantonio. Michigan State has the uncanny ability to mount amazing comebacks or completely self-destruct and implode. Coach Dantonio is working hard to limit the latter, but MSU's self-image is still a bit of an unknown.
Will Sparty be able to replicate last season's impressive performance, or will they wither under the pressure of increased attention this year?
No. 9 Texas A&M as Silver Surfer
The Silver Surfer first appeared in Fantastic Four #48 with a very complicated back story and origin. The Silver Surfer struggled to find his way in a confusing alien world (Earth), but soon accepted his role and worked to protect the planet.
A team that, at times, struggles to find its own role is Texas A&M. The Aggies have long been an afterthought when it comes to college football in the state of Texas, but over the past few seasons, those in College Station, Texas have been working hard to change that perception.
With a preseason top 10 ranking, the Aggies are in prime position to not only challenge the Longhorns for long-term supremacy in the state, they also have a realistic chance at the Big 12 in 2011, and the BCS berth that goes along with a conference title.
No. 8 Florida State as Green Arrow
The Green Arrow is a lesser-known character from DC Comics. First appearing in More Fun Comics #73, the distinctive characteristic of the Green Arrow is his use of his trusty bow to protect the “little guy.”
Florida State was one one of the biggest guys on the block, but after years of waning power on the field and off-the-field scandal, the Seminoles are now fighting to reclaim a sense of respectability in college football.
With Jimbo Fisher at the helm and a preseason top 10 ranking, it seems likely that sooner or later, the Seminoles will be firing arrows (or is it flaming spears?) into the end zone from the arm of EJ Manuel.
No. 7 Oklahoma State as Captain America
A once-frail young man volunteered to serve in country in its darkest hour. Steve Rogers volunteered to fight in World War II, and after receiving the experimental “Super Soldier Serum,” he became Captain America.
First appearing in the first issue of his own series, Captain America fought for his country and later fought to avenge injustice.
Like Steve Rogers, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have been through their fair share of frail years. Now, with an influx of their own serum of strength, speed and talent, the Cowboys are taking the nation by storm with their potent offense.
No. 6 Boise State as Batman
Batman is one of the most prolific comic book heroes of all time, appearing in nearly 7,200 different comic book issues since first showing up in Detective Comics #27. Since then, there have been countless Batman comic series, a plethora of movies and hordes of merchandise.
Boise State is also becoming one of most prolific programs in history when it comes to winning. The Broncos were unbeaten on their home turf by conference opponents in the last decade, and they have definitely made a name for themselves as the underdog that could.
There is actually nothing supernatural about Batman. No super powers. No super-human strength or speed. Nothing out of the ordinary. Bruce Wayne simply uses every tool at his disposal to win.
And Boise State uses everything in their utility belt of talented players and trick plays to get the job done.
No. 5 Stanford as Cyclops
Cyclops is one of the original X-Men, and is an exceedingly brilliant tactician and leader. In fact, in the comic world, he eventually succeeds Professor Xavier to become the leader of the X-Men.
Stanford is also an institution known for producing exceedingly brilliant graduates, but their football team had usually been a bit lacking.
Until recently, that is. Under the now-absent tutelage of Jim Harbaugh, the Cardinal began to build the program to a point where top 10 rankings were no longer a surprise, but an expectation. Now that Harbaugh has left, the role of leader falls on the broad shoulders of Andrew Luck, a quarterback with Heisman-level talent, natural leadership abilities, and enough tactical skill to make him one of the biggest threats to defenses on the field today.
No. 4 Oregon as Spider-Man
First showing up in Amazing Fantasy #15 from Marvel Comics, Spider-Man quickly became on of the most beloved comic book heroes. Now gracing the silver screen, Spider-Man's origin was a learning experience that great responsibility must accompany great power.
Chip Kelly and the Ducks are learning that same fact now.
With great success comes great responsibility. Oregon has had more than its fair share of player control issues, and now the Ducks may be involved in a sticky pay-for-play scandal involving street agent William Lyles. But like Spider-Man, the Ducks have been able to rise above the doubts and criticisms, and amaze with their other-worldly talents on the field.
Will the Ducks' abilities be enough to distract us all long enough to stave off NCAA sanctions?
No. 3 Louisiana State as Human Torch
The Human Torch is a member of the Fantastic Four, just as LSU seems to be a member of the SEC's fantastic four (Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas).
Sometimes viewed as reckless and finicky, the LSU fanbase can definably identify with the Human Torch. The LSU fanbase is all of those things, as evidenced in years past by an exodus of fans from Tiger Stadium when LSU falls behind late (how many people were actually left to see LSU pull a rabbit out of their hat against Troy?). The football team likewise seems to live fast and dangerously, as the 2010 season will show.
Can LSU keep tempting fate or will the Tigers, like the Human Torch, learn to control their amazing abilities and harness them for greater good?
No. 2 Alabama as Iron Man
First gracing the pages of a comic book in Tales of Suspense #39, Iron Man is another comic book hero that isn't super human at all. Tony Stark created a powerful suit of armor to protect him self and others as Iron Man.
There is nothing super human about the Crimson Tide, either. Nick Saban has simply created a powerful suit of amazing recruiting classes that have rebuilt the Alabama program into a true perennial national power. Opposing Alabama is at one's own peril, and the opponents rarely come out on top.
No. 1 Oklahoma as Superman
Always fighting for “truth, justice and the American way,” Superman is the most prolific of comic books heroes in history. Since first appearing in Action Comics #1, Superman has appeared in no fewer than 7,282 comic book issues.
He has seemingly always been around, and has always been a powerful presence in the comic book world. So, too, have the Sooners seemingly always been around. Always a powerful force, Oklahoma is beginning the 2011 season in familiar territory—at or near the top of the nation in every poll.
Is there any team in the nation that can provide the Kryptonite? Even Lex Luthor was no match for the Son of Jor-El. So who can possibly stand up to Oklahoma this year?