*Warning: Major spoilers for Stranger Things 2 ahead. You have been warned.*
Like many of you, I binge watched Stranger Things 2 over the weekend. The first season was an absolute blast, and I had high expectations heading into season two.
Fortunately, Stranger Things 2 lived up to the hype and delivered a storyline that was engrossing, captivating, and unique. The Duffer Brothers managed to continue the plot from the first season while adding in new story elements and wrapping up some questions that viewers still had.
In Stranger Things 2, we see how the Hawkins group is handling life after Will’s disappearance and subsequent rescue from the Upside Down. Will is having nightmares and seeing terrifying monsters, Hopper is investigating a strange plague spreading throughout the town, and Eleven is revealed to have survived her battle with the Demogorgon.
The characters in Stranger Things 2 steal the show, much like the individual teams in college football. Each is unique, yet some share similar traits. Some are alive in the playoff picture, some are dead.
Let’s compare the characters of Stranger Things to college football teams and see what we can figure out.
Dr. Martin Brenner: Miami (FL)
At one point, we believed Brenner to be dead, mauled to death by the Demogorgon in season one. But Stranger Things 2 teased the possibility that Brenner could still be alive. It’s uncertain how he might have survived the Demogorgon attack, but his presence still haunts Eleven in Stranger Things 2.
Similarly, we believed Miami to be dead at one point. “Da U” was just a distant memory of championships won before current players were even born. But with Mark Richt at the helm, the Hurricanes are 7-0 and contending for the ACC for the first time in forever.
Plus, no one likes either of them.
Jonathan Byers: Oklahoma State
I feel as if Jonathan is a forgotten character in Stranger Things 2. He was a major character in the first season, but his role seems to get diminished in the second season. Jonathan’s side story with Nancy to reveal Barb’s death to the public is interesting, but he doesn’t get involved in the main plot until late in the game.
Oklahoma State is a major player that seems to have fallen out of the national attention after losing to TCU, despite being 7-1 on the year. Mason Rudolph and the ‘Pokes have a chance to create some noise this weekend when they host Oklahoma.
Joyce Byers: Penn State
Joyce is among my favorite characters in the show. Dedicated to her family, she is willing to risk life and limb to protect her two sons. Joyce works tirelessly to save Will from the Mind Flayer in Stranger Things 2, often resorting to extreme tactics like sedating Will and trying to burn the Mind Flayer from his body.
Penn State’s offense is not odd, but the way Joe Morehead uses Trace McSorely and Saquon Barkley is unique. Much like Joyce, Penn State often resorts to extreme measures to get the ball into Barkley’s hands, such as putting him back on kickoff returns. It has paid dividends, as Barkley is the front-runner for the Heisman so far.
Will Byers: Iowa State
After being trapped in the Upside Down for the entirety of season one, Will stole the show in Stranger Things 2. He is still suffering from the effects of his capture at the hands (claws?) of the Demogorgon and Will’s internal battles with the Mind Flayer are the highlights of the season.
Coming into the season, we expected little from Iowa State. But Matt Campbell and the Cyclones have stolen the show, busting out to a 6-2 record with wins over Oklahoma and TCU. With games remaining against West Virginia and Oklahoma State, it will be fun to see if Iowa State can continue its momentum and cause havoc in the Big 10 race.
Billy Hargrove: Michigan
Billy seems to be the human antagonist of the show. He shows up and takes Steve’s role as the alpha dog of the school. But other than being a dick to other characters, I’m not quite sure of his role in the show. Frankly, Billy’s biggest moment in the series was getting tranquilized by Max in the final episode.
On the same hand, it feels like people are starting to get tired of the attention that Michigan receives. The Wolverines are 6-2 on the season, but suffered losses to Michigan State and Penn State to put them at 4th in the Big Ten East. At this point, even Michigan’s own fans seem to be turning against Jim Harbaugh. Since arriving in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh’s biggest moment is… attending, but not winning, the Orange Bowl last year?
Steve Harrington: Notre Dame
In Stranger Things, we hated Steve. He was a dick, but managed to redeem himself by the end of the season when he fights the Demogorgon. In Stranger Things 2, Steve might be my favorite character. He acts as the de-facto leader for Dustin, Lucas, and Max and shows off his heroic moments, both fighting the demodogs in the junk yard and leading the kids to safety from the tunnels.
Similarly, Notre Dame is a team that has regained a lot of national attention after its 4-8 campaign in 2016. The Fighting Irish are currently 7-1, but have crushed back-to-back ranked teams in USC and NC State in recent weeks. At this point, Brian Kelly might be in the Coach of the Year discussion if Notre Dame makes the playoffs.
Dustin Henderson: Georgia
I’m not sure how to feel about Dustin in Stranger Things 2. On one hand, he took in a baby Demodog as a pet and hid it from his friends. On the other hand, Dustin took charge in the hunt for Dart when it became apparent that the pollywog-like creature was… well, evil.
Much like Dustin, Georgia might have its own baby Demodog in Nick Chubb. The senior running back has recovered spectacularly from his knee injury suffered as a sophomore and is the heart and soul of a Georgia squad that is 8-0 and the No. 2 team in the nation.
Barb Holland: Florida State
Barb is dead.
Florida State is dead.
Jim Hopper: Wisconsin
Hopper is one of the most likable characters in the Stranger Things series. From his tireless efforts to rescuing Will in season one to his parenting of Eleven in Stranger Things 2, Hopper is easy to cheer for. But his methods are somewhat odd, given that he broke into Hawkins Lab in Stranger Things and dove into the Mind Flayer’s tunnels in this season without contemplating the repercussions. Hopper seems to be a guy that acts first and asks questions later.
Much like Hopper, Wisconsin is a team that busts into a situation head first without a second thought. The Badgers have bulldozed to a 8-0 start behind freshman phenom Jonathan Taylor at running back. With only four games standing between perfect season, don’t be surprised to see the Badgers continue running headfirst into the teams left on its schedule.
Max Mayfield: North Carolina State
Coming into this season, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Max. I was pleasantly surprised to watch her develop into a main character in Dustin and Lucas’ group. Her involvement in the love triangle was an interesting dynamic to the storyline, but Max stole the show in the final episode after tranquilizing her abusive step-brother Billy and stealing his car to drive the group to the Mind Flayer’s tunnels.
Prior to the season, I was unsure how NC State would fit into the ACC equation. Despite having talent like Bradley Chubb and Ryan Finley, we’ve seen the Wolfpack fall to the back of the pack before. But NC State has surprisingly emerged as a contender for the ACC this year. Despite being 6-2, the Wolfpack still control their own destiny and a matchup this weekend against Clemson will decide the ACC Atlantic.
Bob Newby: Virginia Tech
Oh, Bob. Poor sweet Bob.
Bob is easy to root for. A Radio Shack salesman with a heart of gold, Bob is incredibly dorky and only seems to care about helping others. From his advice to Will about nightmares (which turned out to be terrible advice, by the way), solving the puzzle of Will’s drawings, and selflessly electing to turn back on the power in Hawkins Lab despite the danger of the demodogs, Bob will live on in fan’s hearts as one of the best characters in the show.
It was easy to root for Virginia Tech as well. Justin Fuente has established himself as one of the better offensive minds in football and his work with freshman Josh Jackson at quarterback has further cemented his legacy. But after a 4-0 start, the Hokies ran into the buzzsaw known as Clemson.
Unlike Bob, Virginia Tech has a chance to revive itself this season. Poor Bob.
Dr. Sam Owens: Michigan State
A doctor running Hawkins Lab who is very interested in the extraterrestrial anomalies surrounding local kids? Where have we seen this story before?
It was easy to paint Dr. Owens as the villain early in Stranger Things 2. After all, he made it clear to Nancy and Jonathan that he would prevent the truth about Barb’s death from spreading by all means necessary. But the doctor redeems himself in the closing episodes of the show, helping Bob navigate through the demodog-infested labs and helping Hopper officially adopt Eleven.
Michigan State isn’t the best football team in the nation, but the Spartans have slowly worked to an impressive 6-2 record this season. Despite lacking the star power they’ve had in year’s past, Mark Dantonio has his team 2nd in the Big Ten East. Much like the good doctor, it’ll be easy to root for Michigan State in games against Penn State and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks.
Lucas Sinclair: Washington
Like other characters, Lucas seems to have a diminished role in Stranger Things 2. His romantic relationship with Max is developed, but he seems to be forgotten from the main plot until late in the series. It’s unfortunate that we don’t get to see him utilize his slingshot again to slay any Demogorgons.
Much like Lucas, it feels like Washington has slipped out of the national consciousness. The Huskies are 7-1 with its only loss coming to a feisty Arizona State team, but no one seems to be discussing Washington in the playoff conversation anymore. Games against Oregon, Stanford, and Washington State will give Chris Peterson and company a chance to make a splash in the playoff rankings.
Mike Wheeler: USC
In Stranger Things, Mike was essential to the storyline. His evolving relationship with Eleven set the tone for most of the season. But after coming into Stranger Things 2 with a lot of hype, it seems that Mike has taken a backseat to other characters. Sure, his talks with Will about them both going crazy are interesting, but his involvement in the conclusion of the plot is limited.
On the same note, USC once again entered the season with tons of hype. With Heisman favorite Sam Darnold at quarterback, many pegged the Trojans to make their first trip to the playoffs. But USC currently sits at 6-2 with loses to Washington State and Notre Dame. Just like Mike, it seems that USC’s involvement in the end of the 2017 season will be overshadowed by other teams.
Nancy Wheeler: Oklahoma
Nancy’s character goes through a swirl of emotions in Stranger Things 2, from her continued guilt about Barb’s death to her relationships with Jonathan and Steve. Nancy’s maturity over the course of two seasons has been interesting to see and it will be a storyline to look for in future episodes.
Oklahoma has also gone through many emotions in 2017. The Sooners started off with a big win at Ohio State, capped off by Baker Mayfield planting the flag at midfield. But since then, Oklahoma has escaped with nail-biting wins over Baylor, Texas, and Kansas State while losing to Iowa State along the way. With games against Oklahoma State and TCU remaining, Mayfield and new head coach Lincoln Riley still have a chance to make some noise.
Eleven (aka Jane Ives): Clemson
In two seasons, Eleven has transformed from a scared runaway to a psychokinetic capable of combating the Mind Flayer. It’s no question she is one of the most powerful characters on the show and her role will be crucial in future battles against the Mind Flayer and the Upside Down.
For the longest time, no one was able to match up with Alabama. But then along came Clemson, who battled the Crimson Tide in back-to-back national championships. Despite losing Deshaun Watson, the Tigers are 7-1 and still have a great shot at the playoffs, where another rematch with Alabama looms large.
The Demogorgon: Ohio State
The primary antagonist of Stranger Things, the Demogorgon is a relentless killing machine who stops at nothing to devour its prey. The Demogorgon is like a shark, sensing blood in the water and striking when you least expect it. Just ask Will.
After an early loss to Oklahoma, Ohio State has turned into an monster. The Buckeyes have crushed everyone since then and just came back from an 18-point deficit to beat Penn State. Ohio State’s success should not come as a surprise, as the Buckeyes have more star talent on its roster than anyone not named Alabama.
Just watch out if Ohio State (The Demogorgon) matches up against Clemson (Eleven) in the playoffs. We’ve seen how this might turn out.
The Mind Flayer: Alabama
In Stranger Things 2, the demonic presence known simply as the “Mind Flayer” is revealed to be the overarching villain of the series. Its intentions are not completely understood, but the Mind Flayer seems determined to take over the town of Hawkins and perhaps more. Although defeated by Eleven in season two, we’re left with a parting shot of the Mind Flayer looming over Hawkins Middle School, hinting that the creature is not finished just yet.
Much like the Mind Flayer, Alabama is the final villain of every college football season. Nick Saban has acquired more talent than anyone in the nation and the Crimson Tide have made the playoffs in every year since 2014. Whether its Clemson, Ohio State, or someone else, the battle for the soul of college football will come down to a match against Alabama.