College Football Figures as Characters from Game of Thrones
Summer is coming.
Like the long-teased Winter in HBO's Game of Thrones—an adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire—a dead season is approaching for fans of college football.
In roughly a month, when not even spring games exist to distract us from earnest football's absence, the time will be barren for everyone who cares about the sport.
Perhaps the only thing that can ease us through these doldrums is the return of premium cable. Thrones itself premiered its fourth season Sunday evening, saving us from another weekend without football and great television to watch.
So now, in the show's honor, here are some college football figures re-imagined as Game of Thrones characters. For the sake of being germane (and spoiler-free), these comparisons refer only to the TV series and not the books. But if you sincerely want to nerd out and talk ASOIAF, feel free to shoot me a message or an email.
Daenerys Targaryen: Barry Sanders Jr.
Here, the family name has always been one of greatness.
Like Rhaegar Targaryen, Barry Sanders Sr. was the last of a now-dying breed: not a dragon but a dominant work-horse running back—not to mention one of the finest warriors in the world.
As Daenerys wanders through Pentos looking to restore her family name, Barry Sanders Jr. toils in the committee backfield at Stanford trying to do the same. In neither case has it paid off the way fans are hoping—at least not yet—but both have provided a few moments worthy of encouragement for the future.
Tywin Lannister: Nick Saban, Alabama
The scariest, most feared-but-respected man in Westeros? Meet the scariest, most hated-but-admired man in college football.
Like Tywin Lannister, Nick Saban has worked his way to the top of his craft. Like Tywin, he has also spent this offseason playing politics, as he reportedly worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure passage of the 10-second runoff rule that would slow uptempo offenses.
Saban sprung into action when he sensed a new threat to his dominance. The uptempo offense is to him what the King in the North was to Tywin. Was it anything like the Red Wedding? Nope.
But that just means Tywin is better at his job.
Tyrion Lannister: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
It was tempting—but ultimately too easy—to make a short joke.
Height is Tyrion Lannister's foremost physical quality, but it is not what defines his character. Instead, the Imp of House Lannister is defined by his wit and his puckish disregard of social custom.
Which brings us to Steve Spurrier, the Old Ball Coach, the undisputed King of the Trolls. Always eager to jest at another's expense, Spurrier is the only character in college football who delivers memorable one-liners at the same frequency as Tyrion. Frankly, it's not even close.
Who else in the sport might have ever slapped Joffrey in the face?
Hodor: Jeremy Liggins, Ole Miss
It's not necessarily how big he is but how comparatively big he is that makes Jeremy Liggins the college football version of Hodor.
Standing next to petite running backs like Jaylen Walton (5'8'', 166 lbs), Liggins (6'3'', 296 lbs) looks hilariously huge—although it's assumed he'll need more than one play call to successfully run Ole Miss' offense at quarterback.
Shouting "LIGGINS!" at the line would be a pretty awful check.
Stannis Baratheon: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Boring. Stale. Curt. These are all words one might use to describe the temperament of Stannis Baratheon and Mark Dantonio, though each has quietly accomplished much in their respective tenures at Dragonstone and Michgan State.
As Stannis fell just short at the Battle of Blackwater—his most vital outing to date—Dantonio fell just short in the 2013 season, needing just a win against Notre Dame to have likely played for a national title.
In the wake of those failures, many in power now hope the threat Stannis and Dantonio provide to the status quo of Westeros and college football, respectively, has dissipated. But if they really think that is the case, they haven't been watching closely enough.
Jamie Lannister: Bo Pelini, Nebraska
At first, it was hard to like either of these characters. Jamie Lannister starts the series by pushing a child to (what he assumed was) death from the window of a tower, while Bo Pelini started last season with the leaking of an audio file in which he cussed out his own fans.
Since their lowest moments, however, each character has slowly worked to redeem himself. And it's actually been pretty successful.
Jamie's Midnight Run story with Brienne of Tarth has apparently revealed a gentle soul beneath the Kingslayer persona, while Pelini has gotten silly with his parody account on Twitter and wrestled against his top-rated incoming freshman on the recruiting trail.
In both cases, men who not long ago seemed deplorable to the masses are now bona fide fan favorites. That is not an easy thing to do.
Beric Dondarrion: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
By now, his time should really have come. He should have passed on into the higher plane, left the world he had once known behind. And yet, here he is, continuing to fight for a hitherto unachieved purpose.
For Beric Dondarrion, this applies to his actual physical form. The Lord of Light has revived him from the dead numerous times, keeping him on Earth so he can fight in R'hllor's name.
For Marcus Mariota, this applies to his college football career. He likely could have been a top-five pick in the NFL draft this May, but he is staying around to compete for a title in Oregon's name.
Will either's quest pay off this current season?
Petyr Baelish: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish and Urban Meyer began with humble means—the former as a ward of the Tullys at Riverrun, the latter as a position coach at St. Xavier High School in Ohio.
Since then, however, their lives have been one long exercise in climbing the ladder—Littlefinger up through the small council and now to the seat of Lord of Harrenhal, Meyer up through the SEC and now to the seat of Lord Buckeye.
Their means in getting to and staying at these high places have sometimes been shady. Littlefinger is the most notorious liar in the Seven Kingdoms; Meyer is more renowned as a tattletale with petty spite for his former employer.
But such is life when you are playing the game of thrones.
The Hound: Antonio Morrison, Florida
Because even 10 months later, this—i.e., Antonio Morrison's arrest for barking at a police dog—will never cease being funny.