The weirdest part of 2020 isn’t the pandemic or the upcoming election. It’s not even the empty stadiums during sporting events. It’s the 2020 college football season.
While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, college football has been anything but normal at this point in the season.
The Big Ten returned this weekend and joined their power-five conference brothers in participating in pandemic-football.
House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ played through Camp Randall Stadium on Friday in Madison, Wisc., but no students were there to partake in the tradition.
Washington Post writer Chuck Culpepper called the occurrence “a glaring oddity tucked amid new-normal oddities, such as when the giant stadium screens at Alabama show the band marching, coaxing the eyes to glimpse down to the field, where there’s no band.”
Ohio Stadium, affectionately called “The Shoe,” was empty. Memorial Stadium, 100 miles south of Taylor, donned cardboard cut-out fans in the endzone seats.
Everyone expected 2020 college football to be odd. Minimal fans, no tailgating and conference-only schedules were the low-hanging fruits to football purists. Fans knew that bizarre occurrences were coming, but instead of just those things, college football fans have been gifted weird football, too.
The Southeastern Conference, a historically defense-first conference, is all of a sudden putting up huge scoring numbers. Alabama and Georgia faced off in primetime last weekend, and Alabama hung 41 points on a Georgia team that was lauded for having perhaps the best defense in the nation going into the matchup.
For perspective, that was only the second time in the series history between the two squads where a team scored 40 points or more. They’ve played 70 times. Through four games, Alabama is giving up 28.8 points a game. In 2019 that number was 18.6, in 2018 it was 18.1 and in 2017 it was 11.9.
The week before, Alabama surrendered 48 points to unranked Mississippi. Ole Miss, under first-year coach Lane Kiffin, dissected the Tide’s defense of 5-star recruits and future NFL talent.
“We’ve never played this way on defense,” Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said about the game. “It’s certainly not what we aspire to be as a defensive team, and we’re going to work hard with our players.”
Take Louisiana State as another example. The Tigers are giving up a porous 32 points a game.
Some coaches have hypothesized that the high-scoring numbers come from a lack of practice time due to COVID-19.
However, it isn’t just high-scoring numbers. It seems like every single week, a few elite teams are either being upset or being threatened by teams that shouldn’t be able to compete with them.
Last week, the No. 3 team in the AP Poll, Notre Dame, beat 1-3 Louisville 13-7. North Carolina, who was ranked No. 5 at the time, lost to winless Florida State. South Carolina beat Auburn for the first time since 1933.
Fans aren’t just witnessing a crazy year of COVID-19 restrictions, but one of the most unpredictable and jumbled seasons in recent memory. Outside of a few elite teams, no one seems to know what to expect.