Schadenfreude. /ˈSHädənˌfroidə/. noun
- enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.
You want to know what makes college football the greatest sport in the world? Yep, it’s schadenfreude. Everyone roots for their own team. That particular fact doesn’t set the sport apart from any other.
What does, however, is the absolute feeling of revulsion fans have for rivals or specific schools. In some ways, it overrides the enjoyment of their own team’s success. How many times has anyone reading this rooted against the Texas Longhorns even though, in whatever particular situation was unfolding, a Texas win would have actually benefitted the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State?
As I watched USC flail about — and actually put up a surprisingly spirited effort — during Saturday night’s 36-27 loss at Oregon, I was overwhelmed by schadenfreude. Other than watching a possible college football playoff contender take care of an unranked visiting team, the game really shouldn’t have been a “can’t-miss” contest. Yet, as soon as I finished watching OU take care of West Virginia, my television never veered from the Oregon/USC tilt.
USC head coach Lincoln Riley famously bolted from his perch as the OU head man in 2021. He also took with him all-world quarterback Caleb Williams and some other players. It was a shot right through the heart of Sooner fans.
So, when Riley and his Trojans struggle, well, schadenfreude erupts among Sooners. Again, it’s what makes college football so great. In 2021, when OU lost its first game of the season against Baylor, many Sooner fans were comforted later the same night by watching Texas get absolutely embarrassed during a home loss to the woebegone Kansas Jayhawks.
Misery loves company, particularly when that misery is inflicted on teams we hate.
Sick of Clemson making the College Football Playoff all the time? You’ve enjoyed this season. Did you find Deion Sanders and his son annoying when they started the year hot? You’ve enjoyed their plummet back to earth. Do you find Jim Harbaugh’s sideline reactions as annoying as his khakis? I’m sure you popped some popcorn this past week. And of course, as OU and Texas pack their bags for the SEC, Sooner fans have been on the receiving end for plenty of schadenfreude after road losses to Kansas and OSU.
All of this is to say that, as an unabashed college football fan, I have realized I spend a whole lot of time “hate-watching” games and cheering more for certain schools or coaches to lose than for their opponents to win.
Sure, there are rivalries and hated teams in all sports, but it doesn’t really reach the point we see these days in college football.
Is it a positive thing? Is it good for our mental health? Is it a something for humanity to hang its hat upon?
I dunno, except to say: USC, Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams, and the University of Texas could all take a long walk off a short pier, and I’d want to watch it all unfold. Inject that schadenfreude into my veins.
On to the hangover highlights!
- Speaking of hangovers … I see you there, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys laid an egg of absolutely epic proportions in a 45-3 loss to a mediocre UCF team. Riding high after a Bedlam win last weekend, OSU never pulled its plow out of the ground to get going against the Knights.
- UCF’s defense had been particularly poor against the running game this season, yet they still held all-universe OSU running back Ollie Gordon to a pitiful 25 yards on 12 carries. There’s simply no reasoning and no explaining what happened to Oklahoma State in Orlando, as the squad appeared more comparable to the team stomped by South Alabama earlier this year than the one that pulled off the win over OU last week.
- The Sooners, meanwhile, took care of business against a West Virginia team that had proved resilient all season. I’ve not been particularly impressed by the Mountaineers this year, yet they still rolled into Norman with a solid 6-3 record. Regardless, a 59-20 blowout ensued, which OU fans can use to salve open wounds from the past two weeks.
- Still, I can’t help but think about how West Virginia missed a chip-shot field goal and was also stuffed on the goal line in the first half. If the outcomes of those two situations flipped, the Mountaineers would have trailed just 31-24 going into halftime. It’s funny how two or three plays can literally make the difference between a cakewalk and a true tussle.
- Michigan, with head coach Jim Harbaugh suspended for cheating allegations, waltzed into Beaver Stadium and beat Penn State 24-15. The game proved a fascinating watch as Michigan didn’t officially attempt a pass in the entire second half. (The one “attempt” was flagged for defensive pass interference, which “officially” made it a non-play.)
- Legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler — whose legacy has been debated after the university released a 240-page investigatory report on horrific sexual abuse allegations against a former program doctor — would have been proud to watch his Michigan Men simply run the ball up the middle a few plays, punt and let the defense do the rest.
- With the pathetic state of the Penn State offense — a two-decade situation the Nittany Lions haven’t truly escaped outside of when Saquon Barkley was in the backfield — the game plan worked wonderfully, and astute OU fans recognized former Sooner offensive lineman Sherrone Moore (2006-2007) as Saturday’s interim Michigan head coach.
- With all of that said, a special shoutout has to go to the Michigan athletic department, Michigan supporters and some in college football media for one of the most impressive gaslighting jobs I’ve ever witnessed. Despite the allegations of widespread and institutional cheating with illegal scouting and sign-stealing by the Wolverine football program, Michigan has still managed to portray itself as the aggrieved entity.
- Meanwhile in the Midwest, Nebraska continued to evade bowl eligibility after Maryland kicked a last-second field goal to win a 13-10 game. The Cornhuskers had THREE different quarterbacks throw interceptions in the game. I didn’t even know it was possible to do such a thing, but Nebraska continues to find new and improved ways to fail.
- Alabama clinched a spot on the Southeastern Conference championship game with a 49-21 zapping of Kentucky. The Crimson Tide will be a tough out from here on, as they have simplified the offense for oft-criticized quarterback Jalen Milroe. Milroe had six total throwing and rushing touchdowns against the Wildcats.
- New Mexico State also clinched a spot in its conference championship game, downing Western Kentucky 38-29 in Conference USA action. The Aggies, who are usually best known for being at the hind end of the college football universe, are now 14-4 in their last 18 games, all with Diego Pavia at quarterback. Before Pavia took over, NMSU was 15-36 in the previous five years.
- Northwestern pulled off the rare double-digit reverse cover in a 24-10 win at Wisconsin. The Wildcats came into the game as 11.5-point underdogs, but they left with a 5-5 record and the real possibility of a bowl berth after a tumultuous season that saw their coach fired in August for allegations of program hazing.
- Washington withstood Utah in a surprisingly high-scoring 35-28 game in Seattle. The Huskies offense is absolutely all-world, yet their defense is hard to take seriously, especially after giving up four touchdowns to a pedestrian Utah offense. It’ll be something to keep a close eye upon next weekend when Washington heads to Corvallis, Oregon, for a game against a really good Oregon State team.
- Georgia absolutely annihilated Ole Miss, 52-17. The Bulldogs have shown to be less-than-sparkling in games against mediocre opponents, but they have proved to be dominant in showcase showdowns. Ole Miss sustained its second loss of the season, with former OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders replacing the injured Jaxson Dart and head coach Lane Kiffin presumably berating some kid for his mental health challenges.
- Texas escaped TCU 29-26 in the type of game that has become déjà vu for Longhorn fans. Texas appeared to be the better team from the outset and cruised to a 26-6 lead. Yet, the Longhorns stood by as TCU closed the gap to a field goal in the fourth quarter. After similar games against Houston and Kansas State, it would probably behoove the Longhorns to stay on target all game in Ames, Iowa, next weekend against a tough Iowa State squad. If they don’t, OU fans will have plenty of schadenfreude upon which to feast.