BCS Rankings: Comparing Every Top 25 Team to a Restaurant Chain
It's too early in the season to get serious about the BCS standings. Rather than digging into the statistical minutia, let's have a little fun.
Sometimes it's hard to wrap our heads around who these teams really are, so let's just boil it down to something everyone can understand. Let's equate college football to America's real national pastime.
1. LSU: Popeye's
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While I’m aware the Popeye’s isn’t a perfect representation of real Louisiana cuisine, there’s not much to complain about. Spicy fried chicken, seasoned curly fries, biscuits, dipping sauce, mmmmm…
Oh, right. Football. Sorry.
This year’s LSU squad is similar. The Tigers are irreproachably solid, yet rarely spectacular. Without a superstar quarterback, they’re not the prototypical big time football team, but there’s no glaring flaw to complain about. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are adequate enough leading the offense, and the Tyrann “Honey Mustard Badger” Mathieu leads a stout defense. Like Popeye’s, the Tigers are a well-rounded bayou classic.
Just try to say something bad about those fries, I dare you.
2. Alabama: McDonald's
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Alabama is as brand name as it gets in college football. Sure, the Ronald McDonald/Bear Bryant comparison doesn’t flow perfectly, but former Tide offensive lineman Andre Smith could absolutely nail the role of Grimace.
Even though the leader of its lineup isn’t the juggernaut it once was (it’s quite a long fall from Joe Namath to A.J. McCarron), the overall product is as good as ever.
McDonald’s is famous for the “99 Billion Served” signs that tout the worldwide reach of its restaurants. It’s an impressive figure to be sure, but it seems like twice that many people show up to the Alabama spring game every year.
3. Oklahoma State: Starbucks
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There’s no offense in college football more highly caffeinated than Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Air Raid is college football’s version of a Starbucks triple espresso.
Even outside of his infamous press conference antics, Gundy strikes me as the type of guy that takes his coffee with Red Bull, rather than cream and sugar.
The Cowboys like to keep things uptempo on both sides of the ball. The average total score in an Oklahoma State game is over 75 and has topped 90 three times already this season.
4. Boise State: Jimmy John's
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Like Jimmy John’s, Boise State has risen from farmland obscurity to national prominence in a matter of just a few years.
Over the last three years, Jimmy John’s has opened over 600 new locations. In the same time frame, Boise, led by Kellen Moore and a freaky-fast offense, has cemented its place in the BCS.
Jimmy John’s is famous for delivering anywhere and everywhere; Boise State is known as a team that will play anybody anywhere. It’s a striking similarity, yet somehow, I’m quite certain that most opposing coaches would rather order up a Turkey Tom than a matchup with the Broncos.
5. Clemson: Domino's
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Domino’s, like Clemson, had spent the past decade as a reliable punchline. I’m sure that many a Tiger fan had suffered through an underwhelming slice of Domino’s pizza while watching Clemson predictably self-destruct during the Tommy Bowden era.
Recently, both have turned things around by recommitting to quality ingredients.
Domino’s is crafting tastier pies using farm fresh veggies and cheese and Clemson is making a BCS run after hauling in delicious recruiting classes over the last few years.
6. Stanford: Chipotle
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Though Stanford has a venerable football past, this version of the Cardinal is essentially brand new.
Like Chipotle, Stanford has found success by getting back to basics and going big. Chipotle loves to tout is high-quality ingredients. I’d say there’s no higher quality ingredient in college football than Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Judging by their girth, I’m sure that the Cardinal’s imposing trio of tight ends has taken down more than their fair share of overstuffed burritos at the Palo Alto location.
7. Oregon: Taco Bell
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As Jim Gaffigan so hilariously pointed out, nearly all Mexican food is comprised of the same basic ingredients.
The Oregon offense is much the same. Whether it’s LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas, or Kenjon Barner, the Ducks always have a couple of similarly explosive athletes on the field.
Chip Kelly, like a Taco Bell product developer, arranges his ingredients in nearly innumerable permutations of the same general concept. For Taco Bell, that concept is “every possible combination of cheese, meat, and tortillas is absolutely delicious.” For Oregon, the concept is “our guys can run faster than your guys.”
8. Kansas State: Long John Silver's
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Back in the 90’s, Long John Silver’s actually had a pretty nice run. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.
You can fool people for a while with a few fish sticks and a packet of room temperature tartar sauce, but once it’s compared to real food, nobody wants it.
So far, Kansas State has cobbled together an undefeated record with the football equivalent of excess fish scraps. With a four-game stretch coming up against the best of the Big 12 South, the Wildcats’ season is about to crumble away.
9. Oklahoma: Subway
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Subway has been around for a while, but only recently has it become quite so ubiquitous. With nearly 33,000 locations around the world, Subway is a juggernaut.
It’s everywhere, but once you compare it to some of its tastier competitors, Subway doesn’t seem so great.
Lately, Oklahoma’s football program has been about the same. The Sooners have steamrolled most of their competition, but have fallen short against some of their toughest opponents.
The connection doesn’t end there. Rumor has it, recent Oklahoma Heisman winner Jason White is actually working at a Subway!
Okay, I made that up, but don’t act like it’s not believable.
10. Arkansas: Outback Steakhouse
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Outback’s success comes from providing steak to the steak-less. Most of the more successful Outback restaurants are located miles away from any high-quality steakhouse.
Arkansas football provides SEC to the SEC-less. The good people of Arkansas have nowhere else to turn for quality college football, so they throw their support wholeheartedly behind their Razorbacks.
Sure, Arkansas is pretty good, but so is the Outback Special.
Yet, given the choice between Morton’s and Outback, any true steak lover would ditch the Aussies in a (slightly clogged) heartbeat. In the same way, no knowledgeable college football fan would ever put Arkansas on the level of its SEC cohorts, Alabama and LSU.
11. Michigan State: Burger King
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Burger King has always been the little brother, a role that the Michigan State Spartans know quite well.
Recently, both the King and the Spartans have recommitted to a back-to-basics approach, delivering a quality product and vaulting them closer to their former overlords.
Plus, both entities are represented by slightly creepy, yet strangely endearing mascots.
12. Virginia Tech: Olive Garden
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Sure, Olive Garden isn’t great, but it’s never terrible. One could say the exact same thing about Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech football program. The Hokies have never raised the crystal football, but have won at least 10 games in every season since 2003.
The revolving door in the Hokies’ backfield conjures images of Olive Garden’s signature “Never-Ending Pasta Bowl”. Whether it’s Darren Evans, Ryan Williams or David Wilson, any combination seems to yield delicious results.
13. South Carolina: Papa John's
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Both Papa John’s and the Gamecocks are piloted by mercurial and ageless frontmen. I swear, neither “Papa John” Schnatter nor Steve Spurrier have aged in the last 10 years.
Both are at the front of excellent programs, but neither seems willing to share the spotlight. Schnatter is front and center in every one of his commercials, and the Ole Ball Coach’s personal game of quarterback roulette is constantly keeping us guessing.
It seems to me that these two programs could combine to produce something great. Maybe a slightly gamy spin on barbecued chicken pizza?
14. Nebraska: Denny's
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Ever since the days of Tom Osborne, Nebraska has been the college football squad of choice for middle America.
What’s more middle American than Denny’s?
The only thing better than watching the Huskers run that old-school option is digging into a grand slam after the game.
15. Wisconsin: Culver’s
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Wisconsin boasts the most massive group of offensive lineman in all of college football. One look at Culver’s menu shows why.
No low-fat options here. All of the burger buns are toasted in butter, and you’re more than welcome to substitute your french fries some fat-licious fried cheese curds.
16. Texas A&M: Arby’s
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Texas A&M and Arby’s are both often overlooked because of the competition in their specific area. The Aggies are in constant competition with the Texas Longhorns for attention in their home state, while Arby’s has spent decades trying to carve out a niche in the crowded fast-food marketplace.
While neither is a leader in its market, both are soaked in tradition (and au jus, in Arby’s case) and carry an extremely loyal fan base.
I can speak from personal experience; my stomach has performed plenty of midnight yells in anticipation of an Arby’s “5 for $5” promotion.
17. Houston: Hooters
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Houston gets the honor of this comparison not for its coeds, but for its sexy offensive numbers.
From a statistical standpoint, the Cougars look like a juggernaut. Houston leads the nation in scoring offense, averaging nearly 50 points per game. Case Keenum is the NCAA’s all-time passing leader.
Yet, much like a Hooters waitress, the Cougars look considerably less impressive up close.
(Still, I’ll probably leave my phone number on the credit card receipt. I think she really liked me!)
18. Michigan: KFC
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Michigan had a good thing going. Bo Schembechler and his disciples built teams that pounded opponents into submission with a bruising running game, a cannon-armed quarterback and a massive defense. Then, Rich Rodriguez came to town and scrapped the tried-and-true formula in favor of a trendier style.
We all know how that turned out.
Around that same time, tradition were cast aside at KFC as well. The company that made its bones on fried chicken suddenly wanted to offer a healthier alternative. Kentucky Grilled Chicken? No thanks.
Luckily, both entities have recently gotten back to their roots. There’s something strangely comforting about the image of Brady Hoke enjoying a Famous Bowl on the sideline...
19. Penn State: Perkin's
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No matter how old he gets, Joe Paterno is Penn State football. What better comparison for Joe Pa's team than a place that’ll serve you a full turkey dinner at four in the afternoon!
20. Texas Tech: IHOP
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When you tune in to a Texas Tech football game, you know what you’re getting. Passing, and a lot of it. Just like nobody strolls into IHOP looking for a cheeseburger, you don’t go to a game in Lubbock in search of a power running game.
Both the Red Raiders and IHOP do essentially one thing, and both do it pretty well.
21. Arizona State: Carl's Jr.
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Arizona State, like Carl’s Jr., is beloved on the West Coast, but largely ignored everywhere else. Neither is all that great, but both seem to be constantly surrounded by hot women.
In either case, there’s not much substance here. Both Carl’s Jr. and Arizona State seem to exist solely as an excuse to stare at the hot women.
22. Georgia: Buffalo Wild Wings
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Judging Buffalo Wild Wings only on its advertising, it seems like the greatest place on earth.
Wings? Beer? Sports? Yes please!
It sounds great, until you realize that the wings are average, the beer is overpriced, and it’s really not that fun to try to take in 17 sporting events at once.
Going into every season, Georgia seems great, but never lives up to expectations. As a result, Mark Richt’s chair is permanently varnished in Blazin’ wing sauce.
23. Auburn: Jack in the Box
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Jack in the Box is the perfect eatery for a diner who loves to choose. You can get anything from a breakfast burrito to a chicken teriyaki bowl at any time of day.
Gus Malzahn’s offensive grab bag is the closest thing that college football has to a Jack in the Box menu. You want a double reverse option pass? Yeah, we got that. Fake option into a tight end screen? Yep, I can make that for you.
With Jack and Malzahn, the possibilities are endless.
23. Texas: Old Country Buffett
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It’s not a stretch to say that being the recruiting coordinator at the University of Texas is one of the easiest jobs in college football. The Longhorns are the marquee team in a state overflowing with high school football talent.
It seems inconceivable that Texas would ever finish a season outside of the Top 10, but even with an endless menu to choose from, the final product never seems to look that great.
In theory, a restaurant that offers any food that you can fit on a plate seems like a great concept, but as anyone who’s ever dined at an Old Country Buffett can attest, that is not the case.
25. West Virginia: Panda Express
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West Virginia, the (former?) crown jewel of Big East football is not a great team, yet the Mountaineers seem to be in the BCS hunt every December.
Panda Express is far from a great restaurant, yet the click of chopsticks continues to echo through shopping mall food courts nationwide.
Lack of competition.
When the only other options for a full meal are Mrs. Field’s and Auntie Anne’s, Panda Express looks delicious. However, put it up against real food, and it, like the Mountaineers, looks considerably less impressive.