The year was 1997.
A plucky, young, blonde protagonist was taking America by storm.
I speak, of course, of Scott Frost.
Led by this young man with arms to strong to be constrained by sleeves, as well as Head Coach Tom Osborne in his final year of coaching, the Nebraska Cornhuskers were ready to take on the world. With an undefeated season capped off by a dominating Orange Bowl win against No. 3 Tennessee, Nebraska earned a split national championship with Michigan. (Michigan was overrated by the media based on their history, but that happens every year, so I'm going to disregard them in this analogy)
Also, Final Fantasy 7 came out that year.
Now, in the nightmare year that is 2020, what's old is new again. Final Fantasy 7 has been remade for the Playstation 4, and Scott Frost has returned to the Nebraska Cornhuskers and is back to lead his team to yet more National Championships. (Clearly this must be Scott Frost's first year back, because they haven't already won the championship.)
In the spirit of bringing back the hits of 1997, I present this Final Fantasy 7 themed Power Poll and I hope all of your dumb teams get Meteor'd.
BIG SPOILER WARNING FOR FF7 AND ITS REMAKE: IF YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED THE ORIGINAL GAME BUT STILL DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT ITS STORY, THAT'S YOUR FAULT AND I'M JUST GOING TO PUT IT OUT THERE. THE REMAKE DIFFERS SOMEWHAT FROM THE ORIGINAL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE BIG STUFF BUT READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A PS4, IT SHOULD COME OUT ON STEAM IN SPRING 2021 AND IT'S REALLY GOOD.
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#1: Ohio State Buckeyes - Those Annoying Ghosts that force you to follow the same old Plot.
(High:1 Low:1 First Place Votes:14)
No, you don't get Sephiroth, OSU. I'm doing a thing here and you'll just have to deal with it. Also, you're definitely best represented by the oppressive powers of fate that get in the way of anything new and interesting trying to happen.
For anyone that doesn't care about Final Fantasy lore and is just trying to see the Power Poll, first of all sorry. Secondly, these ding-dongs keep butting in to stop the player from doing anything new in the remake that wasn't in the original game. A lot like how Ohio State always has to be the best at everything and set up to play in the national championship.
Anyway, have fun only being challenged in the final act, after you've already blown through Penn State and then those other teams you always beat easily. Make the most of it after Justin Fields and all of the lucrative media contracts begged for you to have a shot at the playoff in spite of everything else. All of the interesting characters are trying their best to beat you but probably won't.
Justin Fields continues to be entirely too good of a QB despite his number of incompletions sextupling from last week, and has amazing receivers and running offense to work with. Unless a wild Iowa or Purdue style upset happens or COVID strikes, Ohio State is going to waltz to a conference championship and a CFP spot, but we don't have to be happy about it.
Vincent Valentine fought back against the established powers of Shinra and their secret police team when he found out they were doing horrible science experiments on the love of his life. It was a noble stand, and he got his butt kicked and spent years sleeping in a coffin reliving his failures against an overpowering foe.
Indiana fans can certainly relate to the years of suffering he has faced from their many close calls of almost beating high ranked opponents that had all tragically failed. They've definitely built up enough angst to be represented by the Hot Topic Gun Vampire of the series.
In overtime against a top ten team, head coach Tom Allen pulled the trigger and called a two point conversion to shake off a long history of high profile moral victories and just get a much more satisfying actual victory as Penix managed to get the tip in and make this a successful Valentine's Day.
Holding out against a much improved Rutgers team despite a wild rugby lateral play that should have counted but wouldn't have mattered kept Indiana in contention for the East and their fans' moods higher than they've been in as long as I've followed college football.
#3: Northwestern Wildcats - Cait Sith
Cait Sith's high HP and defense stats are a good analog for Coach Fitz's preferred style of focusing on bend-but-don't-break defense, absorbing hits from opposing offenses and holding them back from doing too much damage on the score board.
Also, this is the cat one! Like the mascot!
With new OC Mike Bajakian yelling the offensive play calls through a megaphone from on top of the big chunky behemoth of the Northwestern defense, the Wildcats put up a shocking 43-3 victory over Maryland followed by an absolute classic NW-Iowa rockfight that ended 21-20 with no one scoring in a contentious turnover-filled derpfest of a 4th quarter in which neither team score and both gave their fans enough stress to take years off of their lives. After a year of being one of the absolute worst teams in all kinds of offensive rankings, Northwestern has found their groove again as a merely average offense that still relies far too much on the run, but it isn't as bad this year and averaging 2.4 ypc against Iowa was definitely a good idea because the wind was real bad and not a sign of deeper problems with the offense.
Finally, Cait Sith's first Limit Break attack involves him rolling a bunch of dice and that's enough of a justification for me to say ROLL CAITS.
#4 Purdue Boilermakers - Eligor
A rare monster from the original version that got promoted to a boss in the trainyard area of the remake, this nightmare amalgamation of a chariot, horse, and rider is as close to a train as I could find and almost as horrifying as Purdue Pete's dead eyes.
Purdue has headbutted their way through a classic Iowa rockfight and avoided handing a win to the Illini to find themselves at the top of the Big Ten West standings on the strength of David Bell being arguably the best receiver in the conference and Zander Horvath being an effective running back with a very fun name. With Rondale Moore still out for undisclosed reasons, they're still not in the best shape to challenge the top teams in the conference, but with Wisconsin skipping their game against Purdue due to Geostigma, they might not have to on their way to a division title.
#5: Wisconsin Badgers - Sephiroth
Wisconsin with a good quarterback is really scary. Possibly even so good that it's uncomfortably sexy like a Big Bad Evil Guy in a leather trenchcoat and a chest harness.
QB Graham Mertz went 20/21 for 248 yards and 5 TDs against Illinois. It set a whole bunch of school records, and even if Illinois just sucks it is a really bad sign for the rest of the Big Ten West that Wisconsin actually has a good quarterback for the first time since Russell Wilson.
Can they defy the fates and beat Ohio State for their own chance to remake the world of College Football?
Or maybe Illinois's pass defense is just really bad and that 9 foot long sword is trying to overcompensate for something?
Currently, Wisconsin is sidelined with COVID and hoping that they won't be knocked out of the division conversation by missing more than 2 games due to it. Similarly, Sephiroth was the source of a pandemic known as Geostigma in the associated sequels/movies to the original FF7. Is this a great metaphor? Probably not, but I wrote most of this after week 1 and really don't want to have to watch Advent Children to inform my football/JRPG analogies.
If Graham Mertz returns to the active roster but falls back to only being pretty good in subsequent weeks, Wisconsin can still rely on their rushing offense that has constantly put up nation-leading numbers even when they have to replace one NFL star with another future NFL star. Will Wisconsin be able to keep up this streak of dominant rushing prowess?
Hopefully not, screw those guys.
... but probably :(
#6 Michigan State Spartans - Heavy Tank
This bad boy is a combination of a triceratops' upper body (but with weird humanoid hands) and the treads of a tank. It's also green.
The Heavy Tank has a lot in common with Michigan State's defense in that it's a big, strong monster that will mess your day up, and it's also green.
The Heavy Tank has a lot in common with Michigan State's offense in that it's probably a bad idea.
Michigan State was plagued by errors in their first game of the season, turning the ball over seven times and finding themselves unable to dig themselves out of that hole after the offense got into somewhat better rhythm in the second half. Then Michigan State beat Michigan, yet again, with an oppressive defense and big plays to Ricky White along with a lot of pass interference calls on Michigan corners not prepared to defend people just running straight downfield.
Sometimes Michigan State is really cool and powerful like a Triceratops merged with a tank. Sometimes Michigan State is a very bad, awkward idea of a team, like trying to graft a Triceratops onto a tank platform. The bioengineering involved must be a nightmare and I look forward to expert analysis by Zuzu on the best and worst dinosaurs to reanimate and graft half of their bodies onto a modern war machine. Perhaps a Hadro-cycle? Maybe a Predateranodon drone?
I've gotten off topic again, but Michigan State seems to be a weird team right now, much like the gross humanoid hands of this triceratops tank.
#7: Penn State Nittany Lions - Barrett Wallace
The charismatic leader of Team Avalanche, Barrett has displayed considerable acumen in recruiting some of the top talent to his cause, much like Coach James Franklin. Despite this recruiting skill and bringing quite a bit of offensive firepower to bear (lol, his arm is a gatling gun), Barrett often gets overshadowed by the more scifi/fantasy characters dominating the story and leaving him as a supporting element to the main plot. Also, Barrett came from North Corel, a depressing run-down former coal town that is basically just rural Pennsylvania.
Barrett and Penn State are solid competitors with a good defense and ranged attack, but fell to another gunslinger in Indiana/Vincent Valentine in a crazy overtime contest in Week 1. Unfortunately for Penn State, Ohio State was much less generous than the plot ghosts were to Barrett in the remake and have left them already out of the divisional race.
On a lighter note, Barrett is also a really good dad, having a whole arc about his relationship with his adopted daughter Marlene. It's really nice, and so is the fact that James Franklin has moved his family to a separate house because one of his children is high-risk for catching it. In an era of basically every coach flagrantly misusing their masks, this is one nice little nugget to hold onto.
#8: Michigan Wolverines - Cid Highwind
A brash, hot-headed pilot that always has a cigarette in his mouth because it looks cool and tough. Cid Highwind is basically just Jim Harbaugh if Jim Harbaugh wasn't legally banned from handling polearms anymore.
Cid's pretty strong statistically, but not quite good enough and too much of an asshole for most players to keep him in the party. Jim Harbaugh has had a lot of success coaching at Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers, but didn't stick anywhere for too long before settling down at Michigan. Is it because he's ambitious and always looking for newer and greater challenges? Is it because he annoys the staff around him and they subtly encourage him to go away and stop yelling at them about steak and whole milk? Am I just reaching for ways to slander Jim Harbaugh? Probably a bit of all three.
Cid spends most of his time grumpily sitting around his house and reminiscing about how cool he was years ago when he was selected as the first astronaut to go into outer space, but the mission was called off at the last minute. He hasn't accomplished anything major in the last few years other than sitting around the house, bullying his assistant, and complaining about how great he used to be. I trust you, dear OTE reader, to fill in your own relevant joke about Michigan here. Have fun in the comments.
#9: Rutgers Scarlet Knights - Yuffie
Yuffie is an optional character that isn't that good in combat and has a ton of little sibling energy, frequently boasting about how awesome they are before getting embarassed.
Rutgers is no longer optional after being added to the Big Ten in 2014.
Yuffie is also most known for stealing all of the group's Materia (magic spell casting orbs) and running away to sell them, while Rutgers stole 7 balls away from Michigan State to set up a 38-27 victory.
Rutgers' loss to Indiana last week showed that they still have a long way to go as a program, even if an awesome, fun touchdown was stolen from them by boring refs. For all of Yuffie's underwhelming stats and general annoying behavior, she does have one upside that makes her both useful AND a fitting metaphor for Rutgers football. With her Ultimate Weapon, she is able to deal full damage with the Morph Materia command. This makes her extremely useful in Morphing certain enemies into direct stat-boosting items that allow you to make your team super overpowered as long as you waste enough time grinding out random monsters. Is Greg Schiano Rutgers' Ultimate Weapon? The results probably won't show up until they've put in more grinding an development, but it's possible. Or maybe they end up getting kidnapped and tied to a cliff face by a weird pervert in a generally annoying side quest.
#10 Maryland Terrapins - Master Tonberry
This little dude is a turtle/frog demon that appears in many of the Final Fantasy games. Maryland is turtles and appears in many Big Ten games.
Master Tonberry generally toddles along slowly towards the player, not doing much and looking fairly harmless. Then when it reaches the player, it stabs you for an instant kill before jumping back a bit and needing to slowly chase you down again.
Maryland came out stabbing against Minnesota on Friday, scoring TDs on all three of their first drives. After this initial onslaught, they slowly plodded along as Minnesota racked up a big lead until they finally caught up in the fourth quarter to deliver another burst of scoring for the win.
Master Tonberry also has a special ability called "Everyone's Grudge" which deals increasing damage based on the number of kills the targeted character has made throughout the game. This explains why Maryland was so useless against a Northwestern team that only managed 3 wins against inconsequential cupcakes last year, and Big Ten West Co-Champion 1B Minnesota was lit up for so much scoring.
Maryland's slow and steady approach won them the race against a
hare head coach that likes to show off how fast he can sprint but failed to execute the important details needed to win. Maybe someone should do an Aesop's Fables Power Poll?
#11 Iowa Hawkeyes - Hell House
So... bear with me here.
There's this enemy in FF7 that is just a big mean house.
It sounds really dumb and impractical, but what represents the Iowa football team better than a mean barn?
In the original version, this thing was a random enemy in a small area of the map that wasn't very hard.
But then they remade the game and had to deal with the idea of this residential wrecking ball.
A reasonable person would have said "Nah, let's just discard that weird thing". But instead, the design team leaned into the ridiculousness of it. An absurdity on par with a coach who chews his gum angrily at the slightest notion of offensive risk-taking appointing his son as the offensive coordinator to bring a fresh new look to the team.
This mean barn is very dumb, but it is much bigger than you and will punch you with a big robot barn fist all day long.
Robot barn punches didn't prove to be enough against either their Most Hated Rival Purdue, or against Definitely Not A Rival, We're Too Cool for Those Nerds Northwestern. Both games were awkward rock fights in keeping with the highest standards and traditions of Iowa football, but left the Hawkeyes looking at an 0-2 record for the first time in longer than I care to research. It was probably a long time and they should feel bad.
#12: Minnesota Golden Gophers - Johnny
(H:10 L:14 LPV: 2)
Johnny was a minor character in the original version, but with the remake focusing on Midgar, this cool dude took a much greater role in the story. A really cool dude who energetically sprints after the party and feels like he's helping, he still didn't manage to accomplish anything major (playing in the conference championship game/hitting on Tifa).
The Gophers wildly exceeded their past performances last year with a breakout performance by QB Tanner Morganand an amazing WR corps that has Rashod Bateman opting back in for another shot at the divisional and conference championships. However, some key losses on offense and special teams due to COVID, as well as the defense just being generally terrible so far has led the Gophers to a beating by Michigan that is looking a lot worse after their loss to Sparty and an overtime letdown against a Maryland team that got hamblasted by a Northwestern team recovering from the scourge of Mick McCall's offense.
Unless Minnesota can find a way to keep an opponent under 40 points, all of their offensive talent and motivational slogans aren't going to row them out of shit's creek.
#13 Nebraska Cornhuskers - Cloud
(H:11 L:14 LPV: 4)
Our 1997 protagonist is a hardened, badass mercenary that used to be a SOLDIER: First Class in the Shinra military. All of that is completely true and not a weird shared memory delusion covering up the fact that he's just some farm boy that has picked up an awkwardly oversized weapon (Nebraska football) from his predecessor after they were horribly gunned down by a mob of Shinra soldiers. I guess that makes Mike Riley Zack Fair in this analogy and the mob of angry soldiers is obviously the hordes of dissatisfied Nebraska fans.
With an initial 4-8 season followed by going 5-7 and then Week 1's 52-17 blowout by Ohio State, it seems like Coach Frost is still struggling to pick up his Buster Sword, but fans are holding out hope that he'll be Omnislashing his way through the competition soon enough. Otherwise, they're running out of straws to grasp at from the Tom Osborne glory days unless they want to rehire Frank Solich.
Many Nebraska fans were very grumpy about Wisconsin dropping out of their scheduled game last week, but maybe it was for the best. On the most important level, Wisconsin had a whole bunch of COVID up in their respiratory tracts, and reducing the spread of this disease through our beloved sport is a noble intent. What the angry-sports-radio-est of Nebraska fans actually care about is that they probably would've gotten the crap beaten out of them even if Wisconsin was starting its fullback at QB.
#14 Illinois Fighting Illini - Aerith Gainsborough
(H:11 L:14 LPV:7)
Illinois fans knew it was always going to end this way.
The personification of hope in Final Fantasy 7, Aerith is a nice flower girl with healing magic from being the last descendant of an ancient race known as the Cetra, or the Ancients if you're feeling lazy.
Similarly, Lovie Smith and his wonderful beard give hope to Illini fans and healed their emotional wounds after every season and give them hope for a better tomorrow.
Eventually, Aerith makes her way to the Temple of the Ancients to pray for Holy, the ultimate protective spell to protect the planet from Sephiroth's evil plans. It doesn't go super well for her, as Sephiroth swoops down to stab her in the back and no matter what you try, this outcome is inevitable.
Similarly, Aersmith Gainslovie walked into Camp Randall Stadium praying for a good season with a roster packed with returning veterans and a win against Wisconsin last year to build off of. Then the Badgers swooped down with an efficient passing offense out of nowhere and only let the Illini sniff the end zone on a crazy fumble recovery that the Badgers offense didn't bother to pursue.
There's no hack or glitch to be found to save her. She's going to die. Illinois football.
Illinois also gave away a game Purdue tried to lose at them, but this image came to me after Illinois' Week 1 loss to inspire this post concept, so I'm just going to talk about that.
In conclusion, none of your dumb teams were good enough to deserve being compared to Tifa Lockhart, the best character. Also, as a brawler she only makes sense to connect with famously punchy coach Woody Hayes, and even I am not so crude as to slap Woody Hayes' face onto a busty anime girl's body in MS Paint.