Football played well is a joy to behold. Football played poorly, though, can be just as entertaining.
A case in point is the game that took place five years ago last night, when Auburn marched into Starkville to play Mississippi State. After three hours, sixteen minutes, eighteen punts, twenty-seven failed third-down conversions and one safety, Auburn emerged victorious by the hilarious final score of 3-2. The cherry on the top of this turd sundae was the fact that State's defense didn't even earn the safety — Auburn got called for holding in the end zone. No team has ever been as committed to anything as those two teams were committed to pure triple-distilled fuckuppery that night.
Y'all have already read thousands of words on this weekend's Alabama-Texas A&M matchup. I'm sure it'll be a spectacular game — maybe the only halfway decent one all weekend, if you've seen the schedule — but if you want more of that stuff, you'll have to go somewhere else.
I'm more interested the shitshows, the games likely to produce bizarre brainfarts and even more bizarre final scores. And I've picked out the five teams most likely to bend over backwards in service of putting the weirdest number possible on the scoreboard. See, it's not actually that hard to drop a 60- or even a 70-bomb on someone — 12 teams have managed that this season already. Nobody's stood on five or eight, though, and that's what I want to see.
Confused? Here's a primer on the weirdest possible scores listed by degree of difficulty, along with the teams and/or terrible games most likely to produce them.
MODERATE DIFFICULTY: THE DEUCE (a/k/a the doble, the twofer)
Most likely to be achieved by: Iowa State (vs. Iowa, 6 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Hawkeye State's most plentiful natural resource: corn, obviously. Second most plentiful resource: inept offense. In recent years, the Cy-Hawk Trophy, awarded annually to the victor in the Iowa-Iowa State game, hasn't been "won" so much as "backed into." Last year State won 9-6, falling short of double digits because they couldn't even hit a PAT after a first-quarter touchdown. In '08, the Cyclones pulled the elusive fünfer (don't worry, I'll explain in a minute) in a 12-point loss.
So it wouldn't surprise me at all to see either team manage only a safety this weekend. As weirdscores go, the deuce isn't even that hard: All you need is an offense that could trip over its own shadow (check and check!) and a defense of average competence. Actually, you don't even need that, as you could always block a punt or wait for the other team to commit a spot foul in the end zone. I'll take the Cyclones, who lost to FCS Northern Iowa in Week 1, to sack Iowa's Jake Rudock in the end zone and do absolutely nothing else of note on their way to a 17-2 loss.
MODERATE-TO-HIGH DIFFICULTY: THE OCHO (a/k/a the snowman, the octopus)
Most likely to be achieved by: Army (vs. Stanford, noon, CBS Sports)
In theory, at least, the ocho's not that hard to achieve either. All you need is an overmatched team that finally gets on the board late in the game, decides they've still got enough of a chance that it'd be worth it to go for two, and then successfully pulls off the conversion.
Conditions will be ripe for that in West Point tomorrow morning. Army is objectively terrible; Stanford, by contrast, is probably fantastic, but they're playing a who-cares game at 9 a.m. Pacific time, so it's highly unlikely we'll be seeing them at peak efficiency. If they're up 23-0 or 24-0 late in the game and Army gets a garbage-time TD, the Black Knights have nothing to lose by going for two, and it's entirely possible their triple-option offense can sneak one by the sleepy, disinterested Cardinal. And a noon game ending 23-8 is both teams' way of saying "I cared enough to show up, but not enough to try."
HIGH DIFFICULTY: THE ELEVENER (a/k/a the once, the doubledown)
Most likely to be achieved by: Vanderbilt (at South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN)
You want ugly early-season football, well friend, the Commodores and Gamecocks want to put a smile on that face. Over the past six games in the series, they've averaged 28 combined points. If you enjoy seeing smoke pour out of Steve Spurrier's ears as he realizes he has no more visors left to throw, this is the game you want to tune in for.
Based on what we saw from the Commodores in their Week 1 thriller against Ole Miss, we know Vandy's probably good enough to pull off three field goals and a safety (or a field goal, a TD and a two-point conversion) against Carolina. Based on them being Vanderbilt, though, we know they're probably not good for much more than that — not in a night game at Williams-Brice, and not against an angry Gamecock defense that's tired of hearing everyone talk shit about them. Best guess at a final score: South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 11, and I would say more but Spurrier just ordered me to stop writing about his team.
EXTREME DIFFICULTY: THE FÜNFER (a/k/a the cinque, the nickel)
Most likely to be achieved by: Boston College (at USC, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
Two weeks ago, Lane Kiffin's team actually found themselves trailing Hawaii 5-3 midway through the second quarter, a score that, had it held, might have been the single funniest thing to have ever happened in college football. The Trojans came back to earn a 30-13 victory, though the win was still ugly enough that Lane Kiffin petitioned the NCAA to have it credited to Alan Smithee in the record books. It was an offensive tour de force, though, compared to the 10-7 loss the Trojans sharted out onto the L.A. Memorial Coliseum turf against Wazzu the following week.
Heading into Week 3, there is no reason whatsoever to think either one of these offenses will be able to get out of their own way — Boston College is ranked 83rd in the nation in total offense, with SC 30 spots below that, despite not exactly having faced a murderer's row of opponents thus far. Forget one team ending up with five points: Both these teams could end up in a 5-5 tie at the end of regulation. (If you can find a bookie who'll offer you that bet, give him five bucks and see what happens.) But for right now I'll predict a 21-5 Trojan win, which Kiffykins will mumble unconvincingly that he's "very impressed" with in the postgame press conference.
ASTRONOMICAL DIFFICULTY: THE QUATRO
Most likely to be achieved by: Florida Atlantic (at South Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN3/pirate Ukrainian Internet feed)
If you've been following along with Run Home Jack's "Spike Factor" feature this year, you're already well acquainted with just how horrendous these teams have been in 2013. FAU, at least, we knew was going to be terrible. South Florida, though, seems determined to win Willie Taggart the Dan Hawkins Award for Most Shocking Faceplant. In four total games so far this season, these teams have combined for 1,029 total yards; Baylor's season total passed that before halftime last week.
The quatro is football's vacuum: It shouldn't exist in nature, but by god, sometimes it just does. BYU trailed Boise State 28-4 in the third quarter in 2003; Iowa won 6-4 at Penn State the following year. (If I could make tender love to this box score, I would. Yeah, I said it. Don't make it weird.) Anyone who's ever witnessed a quatro knows it is a thing of terrible beauty, like a solar eclipse you can actually stare at without hurting your eyesight. We can only hope both Taggart and Carl Pelini recognize their 2013 seasons as having already died in their cribs and, with nothing left to lose, devote their attentions solely to making this matchup as surreal as possible.