Michigan's Spygate + Week 8 Stakes & Your Action Plan for Second Act Saturday

Hoo boy, do we have some breaking news or what? As if October wasn’t already interesting, now we’ve got a meaty Michigan scandal to sink our teeth into. Batten the hatches, college football is again reminding us that it is big and dumb and stunningly beautiful.

In today’s college football newsletter:

  • What to make of the Michigan sign-stealing investigation

  • The teams that desperately need a Week 8 win

  • Your formula for a successful Second Act Saturday

-Ty Hildenbrandt & Bradley Hohulin


What to make of the Michigan sign stealing investigation

(This is what AI thinks a Michigan football spy would look like. Shout out to Cole on Verballer Discord for talking to the bots and creating this.)

By now, you’ve surely heard of Thursday’s bombshell reporting that the Michigan football program is under investigation by the NCAA “over possible rule-breaking around in-person scouting of opponents,” per The Athletic. Pete Thamel and Mark Schlabach of ESPN expanded further with a late night news drop, which claims the focal point of the inquiry is a low-level Michigan staffer, who may have run an “elaborate scouting system to steal signals from future opponents since at least 2021.” For his part, Jim Harbaugh released a statement denying knowledge of any wrongdoing.

What exactly are we — the wildly passionate and irrational fans of college football — supposed to do with this salacious information?

I’ll admit that my first reaction was to wave this off with a hearty laugh. It may be frowned upon, but it should surprise exactly no one that a top tier program was looking for an edge. The whole “ya-ain’t-cheating-if-ya-ain’t-trying” take is as unoriginal as it is accurate. Sign-stealing is hardly new in the sports world and my sense is that most college football fans will react more to the team at the center of the investigation than the actual allegations. Today is going to be fun on the Ohio State message boards.

Buuuuttttt… I’ve watched a lot of spy thrillers in my day and I’m damn curious to know what made this version of sign-stealing more problematic than the garden variety espionage that has been around college football for decades. I’m intrigued by the urgency around these allegations and the fact that the Big Ten notified Michigan State — Michigan’s Week 8 opponent — on Wednesday night about potential funny business. Per The Athletic’s reporting, Michigan used a “vast network” to figure out which plays a team was going to run before they happened; however, we don’t yet know what that means. The details around this “network” and, presumably, how Michigan used it in real-time are going to take this story to a whole other stratosphere once they emerge. I cannot wait to read about the (alleged) form of spycraft in question. If there was an actual operation here, it will — like all great sports schemes — look utterly ridiculous in print.

I think this also means that Jim Harbaugh will be coaching somewhere in the NFL next season. Harbaugh is still dealing with a separate issue stemming from false statements he reportedly gave to NCAA investigators about potential recruiting violations. Why stick around and fight a second battle with the NCAA when you can get paid handsomely to go back to the pros? With the influx of young quarterbacks in today’s NFL in need of a trusted sherpa, someone will absolutely take a chance on Harbaugh if he’s all-in on going back to the pros.

And finally, despite all this, I still think Michigan will beat up on Michigan State this weekend. Whether they’re getting tipped off or not, the Wolverines are still really good! And good teams love using perceived disrespect to their advantage.

-Ty Hildenbrandt


JUST DOOOOO IT! The competition in our weekly pick’em game is fierce, but the prizes are great and the people are pretty cool, too. We’re giving away a $100 Nike gift card to this week’s winner. 

It could not be easier to play. Simply sign up for any Patreon tier and follow the directions to submit your picks. And, while you’re at it, reap the benefits of our other Patreon perks, including ad-free episodes, bonus content, unfettered access to our great Discord community, scheme breakdown videos and much more! All Patreon tiers instantly get access to our great games and prizes!


Which teams have the most at stake in Week 8?

Photo by Lauren Sopourn/Getty Images

There may not be a less useful phrase in sports than “this team really needs a win.” Come on. When does a team not need a win? Unless you want to justify firing a coach or you care less about winning than padding your resume as a quarterback guru — hang in there, Lincoln, some misinformed NFL team will come calling any day now — every team always needs a win.

Still, some teams need it more than others. Today, let’s look at four squads playing this weekend with the most at stake.

Miami: Starting 0-3 in conference play (vs. Clemson)

The Canes are 0-2 in ACC play with exactly as many conference wins as Virginia, Syracuse and Wake Forest. That 48-33 win over Texas A&M in Week 2 has been doing more heavy lifting than Miami’s entire defensive line, if last week’s game against North Carolina is any indication.

The first win won’t come easily, either. Clemson isn’t great, but the Tigers at least seem competent, competence being Miami’s kryptonite for the last 15 years or so.

Regardless, this is an intriguing matchup of stubbornness. Miami, the team so hardcore it refuses to take a knee. Clemson, the team so righteous it refuses to use the portal. You, the viewer so desperate for football that you’re watching this game during primetime.

West Virginia: Neal Brown sliding back onto hot seat (vs. Oklahoma State)

It was going so well! After an impressive 4-1 start, West Virginia lost on a Hail Mary to woeful Houston last week, ever so subtly reheating Neal Brown’s seat.

Beat Oklahoma State this week and everything’s fine. But Mike Gundy and the Pokes might have things figured out. I genuinely have no idea how quarterback Alan Bowman is still playing after breaking his collarbone and collapsing a lung, but maybe there just isn’t anything left to injure at this point. Fortunately, one lung and half a collarbone are really all you need to finish top-3 in the Big 12 this year.

Ohio State: The right to call out the haters (vs. Penn State)

Ohio State could lose to Penn State, go on to beat Michigan, win the Big Ten and everything would be fine. But a loss to Penn State means people questioning Ohio State’s toughness, which was a sensitive enough point that head coach Ryan Day briefly called out Lou Holtz on national television.

Personally, I find beefing with a man who’s one stiff breeze away from being hurled against the side of a building a bit silly. Still, I’d love to see Penn State win a gutsy physical battle just so Holtz can call out Day again. I sense we’re a few tense moments away from the most hilariously lopsided, doughiest celebrity boxing match of all time.

Alabama: The moral fabric of the state (vs. Tennessee)

If Alabama dropped to two losses this weekend against Tennessee, it would be the Tide’s quickest exit from the National Championship race in a long time. I shudder to think of what madness would ensue if Bama fans had nothing more than the Cotton Bowl to look forward to in late October.

Sports talk radio shows would turn into grief counseling sessions. Riots would devastate even the most prosperous local businesses. This is a warning to all Waffle House franchisees in the state of Alabama — if the Tide are down at halftime and you haven’t taken out a robust insurance plan, now might be the time.

-Bradley Hohulin


Coming on strong in Second Act Saturday

As the second half of the season gets underway, here are the various ways you can engage with our community of passionate college football fans…

1️⃣ Build your quads with our Week 8 preview episode

Preview episodes are all about possibilities. While we, of course, spent time discussing how Penn State could upset Ohio State and whether Utah has USC’s number, we also spent a considerable amount of time helping you build your Week 8 quads. Which four games should you watch at the same time in your multiview mode? Listen below:

☝️ Also, on the suggestions of our Patreon subscribers, we popped the hood and did a deep statistical dive of Rutgers and Oregon State. In case you’re into that kind of thing.

2️⃣ Roast someone on our voicemail line: 855-VERBAL3 (855-837-2253)

We’re looking for your best roasts this weekend on our voicemail line. The kind of thing that we can play around the Saturday night campfire as a way to vent those emotions. Don’t let us down.

(Oh, and if you’re looking for a fun place to hang, we invite you to come lurk on your Discord and see if it’s something you’re into.)

3️⃣ Support the podcast by leaving us a 5-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts

Please consider leaving us a 5-star rating and review if you listen over on Apple Podcasts! And, of course, Verballers.com is the spot for you if you’d like ad-free episodes, bonus content and more!

-Ty Hildenbrandt

Thanks for reading. Until next week, stay solid!