The Hybrid is a weekly preview of every Big Ten game, plus relevant or whimsy games from the national slate.
You always need something to keep you coming back.
Something to make you forget, to whitewash. Something that glimmers in the abyss. It's like that quote from "Gladiator":
"Death smiles at us all. All that man can do is smile back."
Who smiles back at death?! Not me. I'm a puddle when it comes to matters of death... and gift giving.
So I have to find a proxy. The idea of Charles Woodson usually works. Denard Robinson had it most recently. These days? Jabrill Peppers might be my choice.
What do you do with someone like that? His before picture looks like an after picture.
Not knowing the guy, it doesn't feel like going out on a limb to say he probably fears death less than the average person. Who could blame him?
If you have read this column long enough, you know I grew up as a Michigan/Washington State fan before graduating from the University of Iowa. These teams, man. The lows have far outweighed the highs. Take Iowa.
Last season was, by virtually every measurable statistic, one of thee best in school history. A perfect 12-0 start. Victories over rivals. Redemption for Kirk Ferentz. It fit a lot of fun narratives.
But then the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl happened.
Which one was easier for you to block out? For me, it was the Rose Bowl. I watched every second of that game because that's how it has to be when the team you love is getting drubbed. You want that scar. It is a memory to keep with you until the next good moment happens. There is also something a little easier about losing to a player in the midst of a transcendent performance (hi, Christian McCaffrey!).
That Sparty loss though; a defeat for the ages. I was there. We were there. Felt the stadium swing, the momentum change. Applauding our boys as they left the field that night because sometimes a great loss can feel more important than a nothing win. Slogging out after, lost in the sea of half-happy/half-sad people, it was hard to shake the feeling.
I want to come back here next year. I want to do this again.
Why?! WHY!? I follow so many sports: the NFL, NBA, ATP, WTA, NHL. Hell, even the Olympics, but none of them bring the passion, pain, and hurt like college football.
There will always be a shitty coach involved with your team in some way. The one who punts on 4th and 1 from the 40. The one who is completely out of touch with the game's new trends. The one who blindly sticks to his guns because it's all he knows. The one who recruits well but can't coach 'em. The one who bolts for greener pastures the first chance they get. The one who claps like a moron after something awful happens.
There will always be players that get in trouble, that transfer, that don't work out at the position you wanted them to originally play. That go off on your school on social media even though three months ago, it was all good.
Fans that boo. Fans that cheer the sack even though you know your dude jumped offsides. Fans that tweet at recruits. Fans that use slurs. Fans that didn't even go here.
There will always be the NCAA. Unless, one day, there isn't.
So, why do we do this? Really, why? I don't know; the only answer I can offer is whatever your something is.
Your favorite tailgate spot. The bar you like to have an early round at before the 11 o'clock games start. The way your home stadium buzzes right before kickoff or right after the first score. The bogus victory over your overqualified rival when you're having a down year and ruining their chances at a great one. Claiming an away stadium after your boys get it done and walking out like you own the place. CJ fucking B. The countdown to the season during the dog days of summer. Bowl eligibility. A conference title. Anytime Urban Meyer loses anything. It has to mean something. It has to. Because if we don't have those things to hang on and keep us from truly falling and finding that real bottom? It's pointless. You would just have to stop.
The 2015 season was memorable for a lot of reasons I would love to hold and for a few worth casting away immediately. But it's 2016 now -- let's write a new narrative, and let's start now.
“Young liquor will take the place of young blood.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Indiana at Florida International: How much will you miss Nate Sudfeld this year? File me under the "Like the deserts miss the rain" category. Things will never be the same.
Appalachian State at Tennessee (9): I hate everybody.
South Carolina at Vanderbilt: South Carolina's monopoly on the random ass Week 1 Thursday game knows no bounds. You aren't even ranked anymore, Cocks! Your early season ugly novelty conference win means nothing now.
Oregon State at Minnesota: Giving this game a very earnest yet not-all-the-way-disrespectful shoulder shrug.
Friday Night Lights
Furman at Michigan State (12): Sparty has a weird/wack ass start to the season. For real: it's this game (on a Friday, no less), bye week, then at Notre Dame. Um... have fun with that.
Northwestern State at Baylor (23): I spent all of 2015 telling y'all not to hate the Baylor Bears, and it turns out... maybe you should've.
So have fun rooting for a baggage-free Northwestern State!
Kansas State at Stanford (8): Longtime readers know I've clowned Stanford in this column for a long, long time. It mostly starts from the top (hate u, David Shaw) but had trickled down to the extremely upsetting QB Kevin Hogan these last few seasons.
Well, 2015 was the year of reckoning. With suicide RB Christian McCaffrey in tow, weirdo David Shaw turned the Cardinal (ugh) into Flashy Ass Stanford. Improved QB play from the always Tebow-ish Hogan was icing on the cake. They wrecked shit in the Pac-12, beat teams I didn't even like (cue ND Nation sobbing [more on that later]), and demolished Iowa in a "no one can ever complain about anything ever again" loss in the Rose Bowl.
Man, all of that sucked. My blind hope is they are worse this year, and let's cross our fingers until we have proof of this.
Oklahoma (3) vs. Houston (15): Game of the Week. Damn, where the hell'd this one come from? I think Houston has to do the whole "We win this and can coast all year but maybe get upset by some random conference opponent on the road" thing. It sounds terrifying and promising. Also, is Baker Mayfield one of the coolest quarterbacks this side of CJB?
/remembers DeShaun Watson exists
As for Houston... man, Tom Herman is inspiring. I really wanted Michigan to hire him before they went with the psycho weirdo. It's completely possible his goatee is the only thing preventing him from being college football's dopest figure.
He even name checked Nobu!
Eastern Kentucky at Purdue: /looks up line to see if it's single digits
Well, there isn't one listed. In better news, there was a Lucky Charms ad that simply said "They're Pretty Lucky". Nice and straightforward.
Bowling Green at Ohio State (6): After winning the national title and bringing back all that talent, Ohio State was as loaded and detestable as they've been in a decade. I predicted they'd repeat as national champs, and after drubbing Virginia Tech in Week 1, the Buckeyes looked all but invincible.
Then they lost at home to MSU's third string QB and the season fell apart.
One more time with feeling:
Western Michigan at Northwestern:
Oh shut up.
Sidebar: drafted Northwestern RB Justin Jackson in round one of my Big Ten-only college fantasy football league last night, so if you care about me at all, root for him to score at least more than 0 TDs this season.
Hawaii at Michigan (7): Hawaii is coming from Australia and are 40 point underdogs. Michigan thrives against overlooked Week 1 opponents. What could go wrong?!
Howard at Maryland: Missed this one on my first run through of the slate. So I either forgot Maryland was in the conference or this game is that boring. But, you know, it's probably both. Worry not, there could be a way to spice this up...
They love tormenting us.
Rutgers at Washington (14): lol have fun
UCLA (16) at Texas A&M: I have liked UCLA QB Josh Rosen ever since he was named an Elite 11 QB in high school because I kind of consider anyone on that list a lifelong best friend. This "based off virtually nothing" affection strengthened after he went to said camp and eye rolled all of Trent Dilfer's advice in the documentary they aired. After finally arriving on campus, he had the whole "hot tub in his room" thing that got him in -- /channeling Jacobi -- hot water. Plus, he trolled Donald Trump on Trump's own golf course back in April. I really don't care what your politics are -- it's just cool to see someone not give a shit like this.
But Josh, you're in a leadership position!
My one question: is he as good as all the preseason hype he seems to be getting?
/looks up 2015 stats
3,670 yards, 23 TDs, 11 INTs, 60% completions
Yeah, pretty good.
LSU (5) vs. Wisconsin: Ooh, in Green Bay. Leonard, do you care to diminish the Lambeau Leap with a short, cool quote?
"Nah, I ain’t trying to leap," Fournette said.
Thank you for returning to our lives.
Kent State at Penn State:
"Sneak in," like, as spectators? https://t.co/PCzVqUsH8o— Ty Hildenbrandt (@tyhildenbrandt) July 24, 2016
Miami (OH) at Iowa (17): Lock up the tequila and release the Busch Light, because I'm coming back to Iowa City for this one.
"Roethlisberger's Easter Island head" https://t.co/sRWAxRwbk7— Drew Magary (@drewmagary) August 27, 2016
In all seriousness, I want to see how healthy a healthy CJB looks. Can he run? Does his body work? Is he alive? These things will probably matter in the future.
Murray State at Illinois:
UC Davis at Oregon (24): Oregon being the fun, elite, perpetual national contender is probably over for good now, right? Man. Well, it was a hell of a run.
Georgia (18) at North Carolina (22): Eh, meh.
USC (20) vs. Alabama (1): ROLL DAMN TIDE.
I was talking to my Alabama coworker and legit could not remember who the Tide's starting QB was last year. He told me, and I did remember, but it barely registered. Do you? I'm not telling.
Fresno State at Nebraska: After losing the aforementioned Sudfeld, Rutgers' Gary Nova, Sconnie's Joel Stave, and several other legendary Funny And Kinda Great-ish Big Ten QB's these last few years, it makes me happy to see Touchdown Tommy still in the mix. Until someone new emerges, he is the OG.
Eastern Washington at Washington State: At this time last year, I lamented Wazzu QB Luke Falk not having a Wikipedia page, even though his musician sisters did. Well?
/looks for something funny
Falk adheres to a strict diet to enhance performance  and wears a signature wristband in every game to salute his favorite youth basketball coach who died unexpectedly.
Well... that took a real sad turn.
Lastly, I know, as Iowa fans, you probably do not give a lot of thought to Washington State, but Spencer Hall wrote a great piece tying the Hawks and Cougs together this past December called "The case for not changing"; really solid read. An excerpt:
Iowa football never changed, and needed to badly, at least from the perspective of someone looking at the long decline of the program into a 7-6 stasis interrupted by bumps into 11-2 and drops into 4-8 territory. The Hawkeyes had become an EKG of a drunk man falling into a deep and dreamless sleep. This drunk man was also hypothermic and sleeping under a bridge.
Then in 2015, that drunk man woke up, found a flawlessly tailored suit under a concrete overhang beneath that bridge, downed a bottle of Steel Reserve, and walked into the nearest investment bank and become a confident, beaming tycoon overnight.
Iowa should have changed everything, and didn't. They're undefeated despite doing few things they haven't done for years. You didn't think they could do it, but they did. Iowa, the laziest hard-working team in America, wore the same shirt until it came back into style.
Clemson (2) at Auburn: Couldn't get ranked for this one, could you, Auburn?
BYU at Arizona: Starting the 2016 season like
Notre Dame (10) at Texas: The most college football moment I have ever seen is when I watched Stanford rip out Notre Dame's heart when Kevin Hogan -- KEVIN HOGAN -- drove down the field in 24 seconds to set up a game winning FG to vanquish the Irish. I was at an ND bar, and as we left the pub-turned-funeral atmosphere, this 40-something dude and 60-something dude were hugging each other, on the verge of tears. In a pure moment of released desolation, one exclaimed "We still have the best graduation rates in the country!"
Play like a graduation rate champion today.
As they broke the embrace, knowing it was the last true Saturday of the regular season, one looked at the other, let the emotion fall away, and casually blurted it out "Do this again next year?"
And they went their separate ways into the Chicago night.
Ole Miss (11) at Florida State (4): I know, I know -- this has a little more rankings sizzle than Oklahoma-Houston, and though it's great too, I can't call it the Game of the Week when both teams aren't even the best in their conference on paper. It's still early though, and this will be a fantastic end to the weekend.
Wrapping It Up...
Happy to be here. Happy to be brought on. Happy to get after it again. See y'all next week and for several weeks after.
Bobby Loesch is a weekly contributor to Go Iowa Awesome during the college football season. Follow him on Twitter @bobbystompy or e-mail at bobbyloesch [at] gmail.com.