For the next four months, college football will share the stage with its more popular older sibling—the NFL.
But in its solo act, the younger sibling stole the show and may have even lived up to the hype with its “best opening weekend ever.”
After the first week in college football nearly started with a monumental upset as Appalachian State pushed No. 9 Tennessee to overtime, the sport churned out one thriller after another. Competing with only the dog days of summer in a baseball season that feels like it has lasted a lifetime and with a U.S. Open missing Roger Federer, college football took full advantage and left fans excited for what lies ahead.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the weekend was the sheer duration of the excitement.
The near-upset Thursday was followed by an exhilarating day of action Saturday, which included No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 5 LSU both falling in their openers. No. 15 Houston handled the Sooners easily and the Tigers' comeback against Wisconsin came up short. Sunday may have provided us with the best game of them all when Texas stunned No. 10 Notre Dame in a double-overtime instant classic and Monday showed that the preseason hype for No. 4 Florida State is warranted.
With nonconference wins carrying significant weight for the College Football Playoff selection committee, the opening weekend excitement will likely continue in future seasons. Florida State and Alabama are already slated to do battle next fall.
After struggling with the obscurity of the BCS system and its unanswered questions, college football seems to have found a system that works with teams needing tougher schedules to have a shot at making the playoff. The result—more excitement for fans.
But arguably as important as the increase in juicy nonconference matchups is the star power permeating the sport this season.
Although many have found the NCAA’s rule that college players must spend three years at school unfair, one thing it has done is force the sport's biggest names to return to school.
Unlike college basketball—which forces the casual fan to spend the first two months of the season learning how good a new crop of freshmen are—college football breeds familiarity.
There’s the familiarity of Alabama’s season-opening thumpings. There’s Deshuan Watson back with an always exciting Clemson squad looking to get back to the national title game. There’s running backs Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook continuing to plow defenders and quarterback J.T. Barrett continuing to scamper past opponents. The star power extends across the country, where Stanford's Christian McCaffrey has given late-night college football entertainment a new meaning.
College basketball has always dominated the month of March and made household names out of unheralded players such as Villanova's Kris Jenkins. But it's hard to imagine the sport ever getting as much buzz from an opening weekend as college football just did. Roster overhauls are common and it’s increasingly rare to find multiple upperclassman as the most scintillating players in the game, though last year might have been an exception.
Even if this year’s crop of standout college football juniors proves to be just an outlier in a cyclical progression of players, the extra attention provided to the sport this season will create even more familiar names for fans. After watching the Longhorns and the Fighting Irish do battle Sunday, it’s hard to envision fans not tuning in to watch Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer again in the future. The same applies for those who watched UCLA sophomore Josh Rosen nearly lead the No. 16 Bruins to a comeback victory against Texas A&M a day earlier.
College basketball has historically had an advantage was on the sidelines, but the star power of college football has even extended to coaches these days. Whether it's Dabo Swinney’s “dab”, Houston coach Tom Herman’s diamond grill, or Nick Saban’s yearly proclamations about his team not being that good, the traditional idea of an iron-fisted coach has been relaxed a bit. Well, maybe except for Saban.
In just a few days, the NFL regular season will start, shifting the attention of the masses to the likes of Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. But if this week is any indication, college football will hold its own and could provide a level of intrigue we haven’t seen in years.
Parity always makes things entertaining, but it’s the stars of the sport that sell and college football has a ton of them this season. Give them a four-day showcase like we were just treated to and they will shine bright in the year to come.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.