I just want to make it clear that “two” weeks of college football have been played and if Alabama wins the national championship this year, the answer is no. That said, the four (should be 12) teams that will qualify for the CFP will not be the focal point of this key question.
The key question revolves around this season’s intrigue in terms of storylines and upsets. In comparison to the 2007 season, I would say yes. Before I go into further detail as to why that is the case, I want to take you down memory road to what is considered the most chaotic college football season of all time, the Year of the Upset.
Two days after the official start of the season, No. 5 Michigan took their most embarrassing loss in school history when they lost to unranked Appalachian State on a last-second missed field goal. This loss had major ramifications for both sides as Michigan fell out of national dominance until Jim Harbaugh came home and Appalachian State dominated and got promoted to the Sun Belt Conference.
That game is what people remember best about that season, but there is so much more. At least one Top Ten team lost in every week except for week two when the highest-ranked loser was No. 11 Georgia, led by Matthew Stafford, getting their hearts broken by South Carolina. No week had less than three upsets within the Top 25 for a total of 62 ranked upsets, causing more shakeups than the CFP rankings year after year.
Throughout the season, multiple teams like Michigan and Georgia were on either end of the upset, whether they were the ones getting upset or the ones breaking someone else’s chances of being a Top Ten team. One of those teams, Kentucky, laid the beatdown on a Top Ten team twice in No. 9 Louisville (Week three) and No. 1 LSU (Week seven). South Florida meanwhile had to deal with heartbreak two weeks in a row when they lost to unranked Rutgers and then No. 23 UConn during weeks eight and nine of the season.
There were two weeks that stood out the most with regards to the 2007 season. The first is week five when eight of the Top 25 teams were upset, most of whom lost against unranked competition. Three of those teams were in the top five, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Florida and No. 5 West Virginia. Five out of the eight teams were in the Top Ten, making it seem like no ranked team was safe.
The second belongs to the week of the conference championships. The top two teams in the nation, No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia, both lost in the championship game with the opportunity to vie for the BCS title on the line. Those crushing losses paved the way for LSU, which was ranked sixth, to climb to the top and take on Ohio State, which ranked at No. 3 for the BCS crown. LSU would go on to win that game.
The biggest storyline from that season was the “curse” of being the No. 2 team in the country. The team with that much power lost seven times in the last nine weeks of the season. Those teams that fell victim to the curse of the No. 2 seed included Oregon, post-Reggie Bush USC, Kansas, South Florida, Matt Ryan’s Boston College, the Aaron Rodgers-less Cal Golden Bears and West Virginia. Kansas got the least damage because they were the only one to lose to a ranked team (No. 4 Missouri, their first loss of the season) while the others lost to unranked opponents.
Alright back to the 2021 season.
Looking at the “significant” upsets first, FCS teams such as South Dakota St., Holy Cross (sorry guys), UC Davis, Eastern Washington and Montana took down FBS teams that they had almost zero odds of conquering.
Most of the 2021 season has yet to be written, but there are teams now that no one would have expected in the Top 25 back in 2015 such as No. 10 Iowa St. (led by Brock Purdy), No. 24 UNC (remember they were No. 10 last week), No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 17 Coastal Carolina of the Sun Belt Conference. Several of those teams in the Top 25 last week were nearly upset by unranked competition and while some survived like No. 3 Ohio State and No. 8 Notre Dame, there were those that fell against the competition like LSU when they were No. 16 against UCLA and No. 18 Wisconsin to Penn St.
Like every year, a Top five team will lose to another Top five team like then No. 3 Clemson did on Saturday when they lost to then No. 5 Georgia, but there will be more magnitude associated with these type of games, especially since Clemson just lost consecutive games for the first time since 2011. Certain rivalries will have added pressure as well. The CyHawk battle between No. 10 Iowa State and No. 9 Iowa will be the first one in which both teams are in the top ten.
Like the 2007 season, records have and will be broken. Fordham linebacker Ryan Greenhagen collected 31 tackles in one game against Nebraska, breaking the single-game record. As mentioned earlier, this week alone had the most FCS beating FBS upsets since the 2019 season when there were four overall. There are other records out there, but the long story short is that several records are not safe this season.
There will be wholesome stories as well. Already, we have witnessed the return of Makenzie Milton three seasons removed from a devastating leg injury. His return sparked a comeback for Florida State that sent their contest against Notre Dame into overtime. At this point, just give him the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Finally, the conference championships have the potential to be very interesting this year like they were fourteen seasons ago. While we will see the regulars like Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State, teams like USC, UCLA, UNC, Wisconsin, Miami and so much more have the potential to fight for the throne of their conference and add another credential to their storied program.
All in all, there are about 200 different aspects where I could make a case that this season will be as exciting as 2007 but instead, I will leave you with this. Fasten your seatbelts because this college football season is going to be one wild ride.