This college football season has been anything but normal. There have been teams playing in 13 games, while others playing in only four. There were four conferences that postponed their seasons until the spring way back in the summer, but all of them surprisingly canceled their postponements and started only a few months after the rest of the conferences.
There were countless surprises sprinkled throughout the season, especially for the best of programs. The top conference, the SEC, had a shootout for a championship game in an Alabama victory over Florida, 52-46. The game featured four of the top five Heisman finalists (best player in college football) in QBs Mac Jones and Kyle Trask, RB Najee Harris and WR Devonta Smith. Both of the quarterbacks threw for over 400 yards and RB Najee Harris, 5th in Heisman voting, accounted for 245 total yards and 5 touchdowns.
Another good conference championship game was between the big 20.5 point underdog Northwestern and Ohio State. The spotlight for this game was on both of the highly touted defenses as Northwestern was winning 10-6 at the half (Ohio State averaged 42 points per game for the season). The Buckeyes offense finally got going in the second half as transfer running back Trey Sermon ran for 331 yards on the day breaking the OSU single game rushing record set by Eddie George as they prevailed 22-10.
What might have been the weirdest events of the season happened out west. For the PAC-12 Championship game, a 5-0 USC team was set to play a 3-1 Washington squad. Due to COVID cancellation policy, a 3-2 Oregon program replaced the Huskies in the championship because Washington had neither the minimum scholarship players required to suit up nor the players per position, due to a COVID -19 outbreak. In a shock, the Ducks beat the Trojans 31-24 after losing back to back games and going four weeks without a win prior to the matchup.
As entertaining as the power 5 conference championships appeared, the group of five were filled with possibly even more surprises. In the Mountain West Conference, San Jose State won their first championship in the conference beating out powerhouse of the previous decade, Boise State, 34-20. The Spartans went from 2-6 in the previous season to 6-0 in league play this year.
In the American Athletic Conference, powerhouses of the league in the previous decade Memphis and UCF shockingly missed the championship game as Tulsa and Cincinnati fared off. UCF missed the championship last season because of losing to Tulsa after being 17 point favorites, and missed it again this season due to losing to Tulsa despite being 20.5 point favorites. Tulsa went from worst to first in the western division after also going from 2-6 to 6-0 in league play.
The biggest surprise in the group may have been the season that Coastal Carolina had. The team went undefeated in league play winning the conference in just their fourth season as a program. They beat a very good BYU team led by projected 1st round quarterback Zach Wilson, forcing him into his worst showing of the season.The team may have lost in their first bowl game in a devastating fashion (blocked fg in OT), but the program has a lot of optimism for the future.
The college football season had shocks and surprises throughout the year, stemming from even having a season in the first place, demonstrating that college athletes were lucky to have the opportunity to play a sport during the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Football player Jack McNulty ’22 said, “What really surprised me was Ohio State pulling off a win during the Clemson game, it was an amazing rematch from their game last year!”