The college football season is officially over. But that won’t stop some of us from watching Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s post-national championship press conference on repeat while listening to “Sweet Home Alabama” and gorging ourselves on South Carolina BBQ.
It was a wild ride with an ending that absolutely no one expected, and you are kidding yourself if you didn’t love every moment of it. From the upsets, to the underwhelming performances, to the GIF’s for the ages — the 2018 college football season will forever be trapped in a glass case of emotion.
Here are 10 things we learned from it all:
1) You will never love anything as much as Swinney loves football. And his faith. The newly minted national champion Clemson head coach isn’t afraid to let people know that the Tigers final victory was due in large part to God working through them. “Only God could do this,” exclaimed Swinney in the postgame press conference. “A Hollywood movie Steve Spielberg or whoever one of them producer people are, they couldn’t write this script. They really couldn’t. Only God can do this.” Surely a higher power is at work, as the Tigers are the first 15-0 champion in 121 years.
2) Texas is back. I know. We have said this a few times over the course of this tumultuous season, but this time it's for real. The Longhorns capped their first double-digit winning season this decade with a 28-21 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who ran for three touchdowns and threw for 169 yards, had a message for Longhorn Nation after the game:
3) But Jim Harbaugh isn’t. I mean physically he is; he vehemently denied rumors yet again that he would be leaving for the NFL. Fans were less than thrilled this time around with the news that Harbaugh intended to stay. Might it be because that 11th win continues to elude the Wolverines? Or was it the 41-15 smackdown they received at the hands of Florida in this year’s Peach Bowl? One thing is for sure: That 62-39 loss to Ohio State is harder to explain now. Harbaugh is struggling to change Michigan’s ability to perform well on a big stage. Luckily, there's always next year.
4) The Playoff format is fine. Dabo said it, so therefore it’s undeniably true. But I agree with him, mostly because as it turned out we didn’t need a bigger field — all the best teams were exactly where they were supposed to be. Swinney spoke out about how expanding the Playoff could diminish the value of non-Playoff bowl games. He also said that expanding the Playoff would put less meaning on the regular season, and to some degree he’s right. There are those who would argue that because he is on the inside looking out, his words don’t carry as much weight — or that Playoff expansion is really about the fans. But this year was proof that the fans got exactly what they deserved.
5) The Pac-12 wheel of death will never stop turning over. The Conference of Champions went a dismal 3-4 in this year’s bowl season, which is a far cry from last year’s 1-8 record but is still not impressive enough to win anybody over. Oregon defeated Michigan State with ONE fourth-quarter touchdown, Stanford beat Pittsburgh with an end-zone fumble and Washington State put down Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl with three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards from quarterback Gardner Minshew. The conference is a mess, top to bottom. From the Larry Scott issues to the cannibalistic tendencies of the teams, it is clear that some major changes need to be made:
6.) People just need to stop trying to make Notre Dame happen. It’s not going to happen. Not in the capacity that everyone thinks, at least. Yes the Fighting Irish made the College Football Playoff field, but after one quarter against Clemson it was clear that Brian Kelly’s squad left a lot to be desired. In fact, the Tigers went 27-0 in the remaining three quarters against Notre Dame. Quarterback Ian Book was off rhythm, and the Clemson pass rush proved too much. So next time you want to say Notre Dame is ready for a national title, just don’t.
7.) Mascot Fights are the new Twitter feuds. And yes, I’m talking about Bevo charging Uga prior to the Texas vs. Georgia Sugar Bowl. The 1,600-pound longhorn bull went after Uga X during what was supposed to be a friendly photo opp. This exchange sparked PETA to revive its argument against universities using live mascots. But at the end of the day, live mascots are part of the rich tradition woven into the college football tapestry and the animals are well taken care of. Uga has his own air-conditioned doghouse at Sanford Stadium for goodness sake:
8.) UCF is no longer the true national champion. The Knights took their first L in two seasons, in the Fiesta Bowl to the mighty LSU Tigers. Ed Orgeron’s squad came out fired up to take down the self-proclaimed national champs, and a physical, aggressive sometimes-dirty game ensued. Quarterback Joe Burrow had an outstanding game, finishing with almost 400 passing yards and four touchdowns. And he set the record straight about the physical aspect of the game:
“They’re a hell of a team, but as far as a physical game, we play in the SEC every week,” Burrow said in the postgame press conference. “So I’ve played more physical games than that, for sure.”
9.) Arizona survived the Herm Edwards experiment. Actually, thrived might be a better way to put it. The Sun Devils finished 7-6 on the year with notable wins over Michigan State, USC and Utah. This year wasn’t about winning the Pac-12 immediately but rather about restoring faith in the program that it will be able to do so one day in the near future. Edwards is killing it in the recruiting game, and the Sun Devils boast a favorable schedule next season. The energy and competitive nature is the big difference between Edwards’ first season and Todd Graham’s last. Replacing Manny Wilkins at QB and N’Keal Harry at wide receiver will be tough, but if we have learned anything it’s that Edwards absolutely knows what he is doing. Shout out to offensive coordinator Rob Likens, who is an awesome human being and big part of ASU's bright future.
10.) Sideline Sass is your girl’s favorite sports podcast. Probably. I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who followed along with my column this year and enjoyed being Hall Over the Place with us. It was truly a blessing to be able to see so many great games across the country and meet some awesome college football people. And to cap it off with such a crazy postseason was just perfect. Make sure to check out our Unofficial National Championship Postgame Podcast, featuring interviews with media members who covered the game and a look back at our time with Joey Chestnut at the CFP media day.
See you guys next season!