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Beyond the Fort: The Great Pretenders

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We take a deep dive into a classic song to look at what went wrong around college football in week four.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Wisconsin
Only one of these guys was still laughing after Saturday’s game. It wasn’t the dude on the left.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

We are going to have a little fun with Beyond the Fort this week as we look at some of the great pretenders around college football. And what better way to do that than with the song “The Great Pretender”, written by Buck Ram and originally performed by The Platters in the 50’s. Yes, I am channeling my inner Grant McGalliard, basing this week’s around college football column on song.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

The song was originally performed by The Platters, but came back to life in the 80’s thanks to a brilliant version sung by Freddie Mercury. Today, we use it as the backdrop to separate some of college footballs contenders and pretenders.

Oh yes I’m the great pretender (ooh ooh)

Pretending I’m doing well (ooh ooh)

Ah, Michigan. Every year, they come into the season highly-ranked and with much being written about this being their year, Harbaugh finally found his quarterback, they’re talented enough to beat Ohio State...

... and then they go and drop an early-season game in embarrassing fashion. This year’s version was a thumping at the hands of Wisconsin, who ran, threw, and did whatever they wanted on their way to a 28-0 halftime lead and a 35-14 win.

Big Blue fans can pretend that all is well under Jim Harbaugh, but it might be time to start thinking about some new khakis in Ann Arbor.

My need is such I pretend too much

Oh UCF. You’ve been so cute and so fun as you win tons of football games and go about bucking the system and claiming national titles and being that spunky little underdog that everyone loves to hate.

For a while, you were out-Boise-ing Boise State!

Well, all of that has changed, or so it seems.

The Knights lost to Pitt last weekend, ending their 25 game winning streak and likely their hopes of a NY6 Bowl. And immediately fans came out of the woodwork to talk about their drop in the rankings, what they were entitled to... and all the things that the rest of college football complains about week to week. Stop pretending to be a plucky underdog, Knights, you’re finally a big boy!

I’m lonely but no one can tell

Is anyone more lonely than Dana Holgorsen? The Houston head coach, who fled a bad situation at WVU only to see the Mountaineers look far more competitive than expected early, only to land with a Cougars team that has been really bad amid high expectations in 2019.

Houston hung around Oklahoma in the opener before losing a heartbreaker at home against Wazzu and getting stomach punched by a play of the year candidate against Tulane. Amid that 1-3 start, the Cougs are now dealing with their star quarterback taking a senior redshirt year, though he promises to return to UH in 2020.

Holgo needed to leave Morgantown, sure... but man, it has to feel pretty lonely as the losses mount and you’re begging your best players to NOT play in 2019.

Oh yes I’m the great pretender (ooh ooh)

Adrift in a world of my own (ooh ooh)

What happened to Mike Leach? The Pirate of the Plains watched his team blow a big halftime lead, a 49-17 third quarter advantage, and eventually fall to a really bad UCLA team by the ridiculous score of 67-63. But the worst part about it?

Leach coached scared.

Never one to shy away from... well, anything, really... Leach took his foot off the accelerator for one of the rare times in his career, and his team responded by playing scared and panicking at the worst time. Wazzu was a fun story last year and Gardner Minshew Mania is currently sweeping the NFL, but the Cougs have a lot of work to do (especially on the defensive side of the ball) if they want to be a contender in the Pac12.

Mike Leach isn’t afraid to captain his ship, and he’s not afraid to die on a hill alone. But last Saturday, he sure looked like all the bluster was far from real.

I play the game but to my real shame

You’ve left me to dream all alone

It wasn’t all that long ago that Stanford was one of the worst programs in college football. The Cardinal spent the 20 years between 1990-2009 winning five games or fewer in each.

And that was okay! It’s Stanford! It’s really hard to recruit top talent to a school that hard to get into, so no one really seemed to care. Plus, it’s STANFORD!

And then Jim Harbaugh came to town, and after failing to win ten games in his first two years combined, he won 20 in the next two, kick-starting a run of six ten or more win seasons across the next seven years.

Last season, the Card struggled amid injuries and inconsistency, but still found their way to nine wins including the Sun Bowl over Pitt. Four games into 2019, it’s looking like it’s going to be very hard to repeat that feat.

Stanford is just 1-3 on the year, losers of three straight by a combined score of 111-53. They got smoked at USC, with both teams playing their backup QBs, got blown out at UCF, and looked overmatched against Oregon (despite a closer score). Now, the Cardinal look to not be dreaming all alone from the bottom of the Pac 12 North, as they are the conference’s only 0-2 team and have to beat Oregon State this weekend to avoid being the bottom rung of the ladder.

Good luck, Trees.