From the Bleachers: Chaos across college football
Baily Deeter breaks down a crazy year in college football in this week’s edition of “From the Bleachers.”
A few weeks ago, I sat in the stacks of the Dartmouth library, scrolling aimlessly through YouTube videos in hopes of finding anything remotely interesting to prevent me from having to write my three discussion posts. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a video chronicling the 2007 college football season, the “craziest college football season of all time” and the “year of the upset.” The University of Michigan lost to Appalachian State University. No. 1 University of Southern California lost to Stanford University, a 41-point home favorite. The University of South Florida was ranked No. 2 overall at one point. Harvard University won the Ivy League championship. It was all chaos.
The 2021 season hasn’t quite reached that same level of madness, but there’s been a fair share of excitement and surprises up to this point. While many of the usual suspects remain perched atop the college football hierarchy, there is a palpable feeling that any team can lose on any given Saturday. The University of Alabama is still mighty, but after a loss to Texas A&M University and a near-upset at the hands of Louisiana State University two days ago, they no longer wield the power they had last season.
With that being said, we may finally have an exciting college football playoff on our hands. In the seven-year era of the four-team college football tournament, we have yet to see three exciting games — two semifinals and one championship. Often, the No. 1 seed is far superior to the No. 4 seed, and certain teams always seem to slip through the cracks only to get blown out in the semis — looking at you, Notre Dame University. Last year, all three games were decided by a margin of 17 points or more.
This year, however, we may see the tournament unfold differently. With Alabama losing earlier in the season, the University of Georgia has seized control of the top spot in the rankings and has yet to let go. After a close victory over Clemson University in Week 1, the Bulldogs have beaten every opponent by at least 17. The Bulldogs should find themselves in the top four barring an epic collapse.
Alabama will most likely end up in the tournament as well, but not with the same bravado that it carried last season. Mac Jones, Devonta Smith, Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle are gone. Nick Saban is not, and the likes of Bryce Young and John Metchie III have picked up the slack, but the Crimson Tide are certainly beatable.
After the two SEC powerhouses, there remain a lot of unknowns. For instance, Michigan State University worked its way up to No. 3 with a stunning comeback win over the University of Michigan, who, once again, can’t seem to win the big games. However, the Spartans fell victim to the trap game against spoiler Purdue University, who knocked off No. 2 University of Iowa — another surprise — earlier in the season.
With Michigan State poised to move down a few slots, the University of Oregon should rise to No. 3, which raises questions. The Ducks, impressively, went down to The ‘Shoe without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and knocked off No. 3 Ohio State University, earning a high ranking. However, after a loss to a 3-6 Stanford University team and four unconvincing close wins against mediocre Pac-12 opponents, I have my doubts about the Ducks. You can always count on death, taxes and the best team in the Pac-12 choking at some point in the season. Don’t be surprised if the Ducks lose to the University of Utah next weekend, and if not it will only be a matter of time.
With that said, there may very well be two spots up for grabs. Ohio State will move up to No. 4 and Michigan may move up to No. 5, so the winner of the heated rivalry game in Ann Arbor should have a playoff spot waiting for them. The University of Oklahoma and the University of Cincinnati are both undefeated, but they are ranked eighth and sixth, respectively, with few impressive wins and many narrow escapes against bad teams. They strike me as the Notre Dames of this year, just happy to be there before losing by 30 in the first round. Speaking of Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish are climbing back into the hunt at No. 10.
There have been a lot of upsets this season, with many top four teams losing and even eight ranked teams losing this week. As rivalry season approaches and tensions build, we can expect to see more and more upsets. Personally, I’m rooting for Cincinnati to lose so that their fans can’t claim it’s unfair that the committee leaves out an undefeated team that scrapes by the likes of the University of Tulsa and Navy every week. I would be rooting for Oklahoma to suffer the same fate, but it’s somewhat satisfying to see Spencer Rattler’s replacement thrive after watching YouTube videos of Rattler being a bad teammate. I’ve been watching a lot of sports YouTube videos lately, in case that wasn’t clear.
Regardless, we have an exciting few weeks of football ahead as we approach the best time of the year. There’s nothing like enjoying Thanksgiving football followed by rivalry college football games throughout that weekend as you start blasting Jingle Bells on the house speakers (which you’re not allowed to do until the day after Thanksgiving, by the way). Good times are ahead, unless you’re rooting for a Pac-12 team to make the playoffs, in which case you may be disappointed.