Just like Michael Schumacher, sometimes I have to think long and hard about just who I'm going to root for in any given college football game (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
We've all be there. The college football season is plugging away, week after week. You look out at the 5+ days of college football, each one providing an opportunity for you to immerse yourself in the glory that is the regular season for that week. You have your Saturday ritual that preps you for a long and fun-filled day watching games, eating, hanging out with buddies. ESPN College Gameday is winding down with the hosts and special guest picking winners and losers from the major games of the day. You, and your buddies, are itching with anticipation as Lee Corso preps to put on the headgear of his predicted winner for that game of the week. You huddle, waiting for a "shot the wad" or "F' it" moment that may or may not come.
Finally, the headgear is chosen. You feel satisfied. The morning ritual is complete. Time to watch.
You flip to the first game and within moments, you have exhausted your rules for whom to root for in a matter of seconds. What you may not realize is just how complex your fan reactions are in this moment. I give you a case study on my top 10 rules for cheering on other teams when mine isn't playing.
1. Is your team playing? Root for your team!
Even though I know this article is supposed to be about when your team isn't playing, you could apply this list to even smaller increments of time. Early games vs. late games, Thursday games vs. Saturday games. In short, I would assume anyone would root for your favorite team first. If not, maybe you're a fan of another team and you have some sort of complicated methodology here. You should always want your team to win and don't give me this crap about tanking for lottery or draft picks. The only "tanking" you should do must involve adult beverages at some sort of tailgate.
2. If someone else winning helps my team in some measurable way (standings, BCS rankings, etc.). Root for them.
Teams ahead of you in the polls, no question. Root for whoever is playing them. If both teams are ahead, root for the highest to lose. If a conference team pulls a win out over another team and that helps Oregon, I root for that team. Here's where I take some heat on this. I root for rivals in this case as well. If I need Washington to beat USC for Oregon to pull ahead in the standings? You'd better believe I'd give a super loud purple nurple or whatever it is those guys do up there to cheer on their team.
3. Oregon State and Other In-state Schools
A lot of people would have Oregon State a lot lower. I root for them over anyone from the Pac-12 South and definitely over UW in the North. The main reason has to do with the type of rivalry that I experience here. These are my neighbors and while there are incidents both sides regret, I've always experienced a "good game", a handshake and a "see you at work on Monday". We're brothers and that's just the way it is. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind seeing them get embarrassed every now and then but I generally don't want to see them where they have been the last few years. Oh, and if Portland State beats anyone in D1 (besides Oregon)? That's a big plus in my book.
4. Pac-12 North (non-rivals)
Washington State, Stanford, and California all fall into this category. These teams doing well, ultimately, makes Oregon's division look better. When they are playing out of the division, I'm definitely on their bandwagon and want to see them do well. When they play each other? I go Pacific Northwest over Bay Area. Stanford and Cal rivalry all depends on the outcome of the Oregon game and how I'm feeling at that moment. Currently, Stanford then Cal, mostly because of the contentious nature of the Cal games the last few years. I had a tremendous experience at the Stanford away game in 07 that helps their cause.
5. Pac-12 South (non-LA Schools)
Utah, Colorado, Arizona State, Arizona are all a mixed bag for me. I want to see Utah and Colorado win as newcomers to the conference. ASU and UA have a definite higher ranking than LA schools when they play. If they play each other, I would say the ranking is as above. Arizona loses out in this group primarily because of their history of bottle throwing, not just in football, but other sports as well.
6. Remaining Pac-12
UCLA, USC and UW in that order. Obviously, we are getting to the bottom of the barrel here. I don't have any ill-will towards UCLA. They have the Rose Bowl stadium. Oregon and UCLA have had some great battles, even a game involving a certain quarterback throwing up on the field. USC is ranked where they are based purely on history. They are the royalty of the Pac-12. As great as they have been historically, I can't help but want to see them lose and continue to lose. Jealousy of the past? Yeah, definitely. I'm just not ready for them to recapture the mountain quite yet. After all, USC is a directional school and directional schools just shouldn't be that successful. As for UW, well, there are plenty of reasons (piece is from a UW perspective but fairly balanced) why they are last in my Pac-12 rooting list.
7. Military Academies
Army, Navy, Air Force in that order because Monty Python said it best. The Black Knights will always triumph! Have at you!
8. West Coast Teams
Any team on the West Coast in the footprint of the Pac-12. Boise State against the east coast Big East teams? No question that I'm rooting for Boise State. San Diego State vs. Michigan? Go Aztecs. I know that having Washington over a team like Boise State seems completely strange but Boise State winning over a Pac-12 team does nothing but hurt Oregon and the Pac-12 in general.
9. Anyone playing Traditional Powers
From here on out, it's all about rooting for certain teams to lose rather than win. USC gets a bit of a pass here because they are higher in the list at option 6. When you are looking at schools like Ohio State, Texas, Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, I'm just rooting for whomever they're playing against. For the SEC, you most likely have the Sheldon Cooper Isotopes or another SEC team to root for. Go Isotopes and it just depends on the other SEC team. It may fall into category 10.
10. Root for cool plays, a referee screw up or some other kooky thing to happen
If I'm down to this point, the game fits squarely into 2 distinct categories. Game of the week with no teams from the above (think SEC matchups) or other east coast games that don't mean anything to me (like Syracuse vs. North Texas). If this is the only game available, you are either drinking and eating with friends waiting for cool plays to happen, doing chores or cleaning up after everyone went home, or you are trying to start your next Twilight marathon (that wasn't cool Matt, NOT COOL).
So that's my list. I'm sure there are all kinds of scenarios that I've forgotten but that always falls under rule 11... make adjustments as needed. How does this rank with your own personal rooting list?