College football is now in full swing, and while most fans are soaking in the season’s top headlines—the incomparable skill of Caleb Williams, the swagger of Deion Sanders’s Colorado Buffaloes, or the possible return of Texas to football powerhouse status—there’s a group of fans out there that prefer a different type of spectacle.
These fans—known as Sickos—seek out the weird and unusual corners of college football. United under an X (formerly known as Twitter) account with over 100,000 followers, Sickos cheer games rife with turnovers, punts, and missed field goals when most fans would just change the channel, and stay up past 2 a.m. to watch games they have no rooting interest in. They even celebrated Georgetown’s homecoming victory over No. 15-ranked (FCS) Fordham this past weekend. In times when mainstream fans are absent, the Sickos are there to celebrate. These are some of their favorite things.
Move aside, Georgia. The undisputed champion of Sicko football is crowned in Iowa. In the modern offensive-minded world of high-scoring football, the Hawkeyes combine a lackluster offense with a consistently strong defense to create some of the lowest-scoring games in recent memory, and as a result are a staple of Sicko football.
In fact, the Hawkeyes’ offense has been so dismal recently that offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz now has a clause in his employment contract stating that Iowa must score an average of 25 points per game this season. If he doesn’t, he’s fired. How’s that going for him? Not well. Five games in, Iowa is averaging 22.2 points per game, with its highest scoring game being a 41-10 victory against Western Michigan, in which Ferentz was accused of running up the score in the final minutes of the game in order to raise his average.
Despite being a famously low-scoring team, Iowa hasn’t posted a losing record since 2012, meaning that opposing teams are likely bound for an equally low-scoring affair. Some famous examples include a 6-4 win over Penn State in 2004, in which both teams combined for seven turnovers, and a 7-3 victory over South Dakota State last season, where instead of a touchdown the Hawkeyes scored two safeties and a field goal.
Unimportant Bowl Games:
Only about a dozen postseason bowl games existed 50 years ago, and they invited only the most successful teams to give fans one more exciting matchup before the end of the season. Nowadays, there are over 40 bowl games, and while regular fans look forward to the high-profile postseason matchups played around New Year’s Day, Sickos get to watch dozens of nationally televised games between mediocre teams in the last couple weeks of December.
These early bowl games often have quirky names reflecting a strange corporate sponsorship like the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl or the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, a match which, despite being played in the Bahamas, was sponsored by the town of Elk Grove Village, Ill. Sometimes a gem appears, such as in the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl when TCU defeated Cal 10-7 in a late-night overtime thriller which featured nine interceptions.
Amid the expansion of the College Football Playoff to 12 teams, analysts are questioning whether there is any value to playing these “meaningless” matchups, but a situation where two teams with nothing to lose are playing in a game with a funny name is rife with the thing that Sickos desire most: chaos.
Pac-12 After Dark:
It pains me to write about the Pac-12 After Dark with the recent implosion of the conference, but omitting one of college football’s best traditions would be a disservice to this guide.
There are few things better in life than getting to kick back after a tiring day of yelling at referees on TV to watch UCLA and Washington State in a 67-63 barn burner. It’s the only type of game where as a fan you could say, “I could probably score a touchdown against that defense” and actually be right. Remember as a kid when you would stay up late just so you could watch Nickelodeon’s Nick at Nite programming because that’s when all the cool shows that adults would watch would come on? This is like that, except instead of cool shows it’s a fever dream of pastel colors, and instead of adults watching it, well … it’s still adults watching it, I guess, but in this case, they’re all wasted.
Conference realignment may come and go, but MACtion is forever. While other schools may be sending their student athletes cross-country on a regular basis to increase revenue, the Mid-American Conference has found a much more sicko way to secure that sweet, sweet television rights bag.
Since the turn of the century, this small conference has played football games on weeknights to pay the bills. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Who wants to watch a 17-13 grudge match between Northern Illinois’s Rocky Lombardi (who’s been in college for almost a decade at this point) and Western Michigan on a Wednesday night? Sickos, that’s who.
There’s magic to MACtion. While most of the country and I will frustratingly have to watch Southern Cal travel to play Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. (in what is somehow a conference matchup), I know I can always count on some weekday MACtion escapism on Lau 2 to keep my soul balanced.
There you have it, the highlight mixtape of Sicko specialties. While not all of the best bits of the Sicko lifestyle were explored, here are some other things we’d love to give a shout-out to which are worth a quick Google search: flightwatch, one-point safeties, scorigami, two-point shootout overtime games, the antics of the Stanford Band, and, of course, the triple-option offense.