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2007 was dubbed the “Year of the Upset” along with “The Curse of No. 2.” Seven second-ranked teams lost in the last nine weeks of the regular season. Also, 13 times during the regular season, a top-five team lost to an unranked team. This included USC losing 24-23 at home to Stanford despite being 41-point favorites and the famous Appalachian State upset over fifth-ranked Michigan to open the season. For the first time in history, a sophomore (Tim Tebow) won the Heisman Trophy. LSU defeated Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS National Championship Game despite losing twice during the season.
This was my real introduction to college football. Before this, I watched college football periodically and mainly focused on the NFL. During the wild 2007 season, I was 10-years old and college football quickly became my favorite sport over the NFL due to its vast number of teams, unpredictability and crazy atmospheres.
For the next three seasons, this was still the case. I have always been a USC fan as my dad also rooted for them when he was my age and I thought they had the coolest helmet in the sport. However, I developed a secondary interest in the mid-major teams such as Boise State, TCU, Hawaii, East Carolina and Utah. I loved watching mid-majors play in major bowl games and beat the elite teams.
Utah defeated Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl in 2008, TCU and Boise State faced off in the Fiesta Bowl in 2009 and TCU defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in 2010. The mid-majors were dominant and must-watch television, the PAC-10 (now PAC-12) was a powerhouse with many of their matches on the channel, VS, and rivalries were aplenty.
In 2011, the scope of the college football landscape started to change for the worse, making it the year the NFL surpassed college football to become my favorite sport (still is today). This is where the decline of college football started as it now stands below multiple different leagues and sports in my favorite sports list.
Conference realignment started to take place (included Colorado and Utah moving to the PAC-12, Nebraska to the Big Ten) and over the course of the next few seasons, the conferences would look very different. This broke up rivalries such as Pitt vs West Virginia, Texas vs Texas A&M, Missouri vs Kansas, Oklahoma vs Nebraska, etc. Rivalries are one great aspect of college football and losing those rivalries stung. Also, losing the Big East conference from football was sad as many good teams competed in it from 2007-10.
Also, the PAC-12 went from a powerhouse conference with Pete Carroll’s USC dynasty, Andrew Luck’s dominance Stanford and the other-worldly explosive offense of Oregon led by Chip Kelly, to a conference without a true championship contender since Oregon in 2014. PAC-12 games are no longer on VS and the PAC-12 is no longer relevant in the championship discussion. As a USC fan and, therefore, a PAC-12 fan, the decline of the conference has lessened my enjoyment of college football.
Lastly, I hate the structure of power in college football and the College Football Playoff has made it worse. I loved the BCS as the top-two teams made it to the championship game, making the other major bowl games such as the Sugar and Fiesta Bowl more memorable. The BCS’s formula was flawed but the idea of it was fine; I just wish the AP Poll had more influence in determining the top-two teams. The playoff allows the bigger teams to get in at the current power structure makes it repetitive. Also, with the rotation of the bowl games for the semifinals, it has dumb matchups like Georgia and Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl when it mainly displays PAC-12 and Big Ten schools.
Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma. At least three of these teams have made the playoff time except for the first playoff when just Alabama and Ohio State qualified. It’s the same teams every time and its clear who the best teams are. Alabama and Clemson have faced each other four straight years in the playoff, splitting the four championships in the time-span. The gap between number one and nine in the polls has greatly increased in the last decade, making top-10 matchups lose some of their luster.
The quality of the mid-majors (now the Group of Five) has greatly decreased as well. In 2010, heading into Thanksgiving weekend, TCU and Boise State were third and fourth respectively in the AP Poll and were considered serious National Championship contenders. Today, MAC teams make the top bowl games and no Group of Five teams have a chance of making the playoff. UCF went undefeated in 2017 (played the game of the year in a 49-42 win over South Florida on Thanksgiving weekend) but had no chance of making the playoff. Their win over USF provided a reminder of how great those teams once were. UCF beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl but they never got the chance to compete for a championship .
It is sad to see the quality of college football continue to lessen despite how cool it was seeing Joe Burrow and LSU dominate college football last year. This season looks doomed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and as awful as it is for everyone involved, I am not sad to see it go from a fan’s perspective. Clemson and Ohio State would have been the National Championship Game and there would have been one, maybe two other true contenders.
I miss the way college football used to be and little hope remains for it to improve. The top teams are taking most of the big recruits, the Group of Five’s quality continues to diminish and the PAC-12 is still mediocre at best.
Watching highlights from 2007 and 2008 provide me solace in the fact I got to experience greatness and peak entertainment.