Revisiting my Ten Biggest Storylines of the Season
I'd say I batted about .650
As I was reminiscing on the 2021 college football season, I remembered that I wrote a blog at the start of the year that highlighted my ten biggest storylines of the season. Some aged well, some could not have possibly aged worse. So, let’s take a gander and see how right I was or how tremendously wrong I was.
“Oklahoma and Georgia are on the same level as Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson”
So let’s pick this one apart. I must start out by saying that Clemson, and to a lesser extent Ohio State, were not on the level that we’ve come to expect from them. But, for the sake of simplicity, let’s compare Oklahoma and Georgia to the standard all three of those teams have set. Obviously I was spot on about Georgia considering they beat Alabama to win the national title. That one’s easy. Oklahoma not so much, they weren’t a bad team but certainly they didn’t live up to this preseason hype. A quarterback controversy halfway through the season, their defense struggled at times, and their impressive Big 12 championship streak came to an end.
“The PAC 12 is good”
Nope, nope, nope. Wrong wrong and wrong again. My logic for this was the South division had five teams that were at least good, and the North had two playoff contenders. Well, let’s revisit that. Washington was garbage. Oregon fell apart at the end of the year. USC was awful. Colorado was terrible. UCLA turned heads early then receded. Arizona State was disappointing. The only teams whose seasons I would truly call a success were Utah, and maybe Oregon State given their expectations. So no, the PAC 12 was in fact not good this year. Surprise, surprise.
“If you’re an elite team, do you even need an experienced quarterback?”
I’d say this one was mostly correct. Bryce Young won the Heisman and CJ Stroud was a finalist. Stetson Bennet won the national title with just a handful of starts the previous season. Caleb Williams showed out as a true freshman and took the job from Spencer Rattler. The waters of this question get a little murky with my outlook of our national champion, as I wrote it anticipating JT Daniels rather than Stetson. However, neither quarterback was exactly a four year starter, so I’d say it still applies. If you’ve got the top-end talent, you can throw your quarterback out there and he’ll figure it out sooner rather than later.
“Will coaches in their second or third years get a ‘Covid-Pass?’”
I’d say we got a very definitive answer on this one. We were right back to the cutthroat nature of the business. Jimmy Lake and Nick Rolovich were fired before their second seasons even ended. Dan Mullen got fired less than a calendar year after winning the SEC East. Matt Wells got fired while his team was 5-3. On and on we got coach firings in the wildest coaching carousel we’ve ever seen. So no, there was no reluctancy, no mercy, and no patience. College football coaching is a nasty business.
“Was the Big Ten being down in 2020 a fluke?”
For the most part I’d say yes. Most of the teams that had unexpected struggles in 2020 had a good-great 2021. The most obvious example is Michigan, going from 2-4 in 2020 to making the playoffs in 2021. Penn State struggled down the stretch but had big wins and made a bowl game. Minnesota had a strong bounce back year aside from a truly awful loss. Michigan State came on strong. Wisconsin found their next star running back which they failed to do the year before. And if anything demonstrates the flukey-ness of the 2020 Big Ten season, it’s what happened to Indiana. The upstart darlings of college football the year before, and how do they follow it up? 2-10, 0-9 in conference play. The Big Ten is just fine, and showed that they are more than just Ohio State.
“Who has the better coach: UCF or Tennessee?”
Man, I sure missed the mark on this one. I hated the Josh Heupel hire, and I thought UCF snagging Gus Malzahn after Auburn got tired of going 8-4 every year was a home run. UCF had an up and down year, they lost Dillon Gabriel to injury, lost to Navy and were not even remotely competitive against Cincinnati. But they ended the year on a high note beating Florida in their bowl game. We’ll see what becomes of Malzahn going forward, but the bigger deal is Tennessee. I thought they’d be dreadful this year, but they found a quarterback in Hendon Hooker, found skill position players that nobody saw coming, and turned heads with a high flying offense. It’s early, and giving Tennessee hype is a dangerous game, but so far the early returns on the Heupel era are more promising than I could’ve predicted.
“Cincinnati can make the playoffs”
And they did. It took so many things going right for it to happen, but they did it. A down ACC with no <2 loss teams. Baylor taking down Oklahoma State at the last second to hand them a second loss. Oregon falling apart and no PAC 12 team in playoff contention at the end. Notre Dame going 11-1 and staying in the top 5-10 all year. And of course, Cincinnati going undefeated and winning all their important games by double digits. Will we see it again before expansion? Not sure, because of how many different things had to fall into place. But boy was it fun and I am so glad it happened.
“Can Ed Orgeron get fired?”
Another one that’s very cut and dry, because he did. Off a win against a rival, too. He was basically sunk after Week 1 when he told UCLA fans “Bring your ass on in your sissy blue shirts” and proceeded to get whipped from the jump. If you want to give him a shade more credit, he was sunk after losing by three touchdowns to Kentucky, a program that LSU never expects to lose to. By my estimation of the season there’s no hard feelings either way, LSU loves Ed and Ed loves LSU, it just wasn’t meant to be anymore. He ended his career with a big win over Texas A&M, he’s going to take his buyout and go relax on the beach with his millions of dollars. Good for Ed.
“Will the number 1 pick be a quarterback?”
The draft hasn’t happened yet, but all the signs point to the number 1 pick being either of the top two edge rushers in Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson, or maybe the top offensive tackle Evan Neal. If I was the Jaguars I’d take Neal, knowing that I need to protect Trevor Lawrence, but the pairing of Josh Allen with one of those two guys off the edge is a fun thought. If the Lions or Texans had gotten the pick maybe they could’ve talked into a quarterback, but I’d still doubt it. With the Jags having the pick the chances are virtually zero.
“Who will be the worst team in Power 5 football?”
I did in fact make a segment just to make fun of Kansas, and they certainly have a case but I’d say there’s four teams that you could argue were the worst team in Power 5: Kansas, Vanderbilt, Arizona and Indiana. If I was forced to choose one I’d have to go with Arizona, 1-11, lost to an FCS team. However, the case for Indiana is while the rest of these teams played better and were competitive down the stretch of the year, Indiana got worse. They lost their last 4 games by a combined score of 146-31. That included 38-3 against Rutgers who went 5-7. But whoever you want to roll with, it was a fun year for the race for the worst in P5 regardless.