College Football Returns: Storylines Heading into 2021 Season
The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. It’s football season baby and today kicks off the start of the 2021 NCAA College Football Season. Although the majority of the teams start next weekend, we do have some solid matchups on the slate this afternoon. The game of the day will be the Big Ten matchup between the good ol’ Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Fighting Illini of Illinois. The Huskers will look to finally break loose from their recent troubles and once again reach the heights of greatness they experienced throughout the 1990s. Head coach Scott Frost enters his fourth year at the helm and has yet to produce a winning season which is a must at this point. Illinois brought in a new Head Coach for this season so they could turn their program around. Bret Bielema will lead the Blue and Orange this season and has a plethora of experience and success both at the college and NFL levels. He has led major programs in the past such as Wisconsin & Arkansas and will now look to turn Illinois into a consistent winning program. Those are the storylines for today’s top game but here are the major storylines heading into this new season.
Guess Who’s Back, Back Again?
Let’s admit it, the best part about college football is the fans and the traditions they create or continue every season. There’s a reason why the 16... (I repeat 16!) largest football stadiums in America are college football stadiums. Last year we were very fortunate to get to watch college football games but there was obviously a huge component missing. This season will finally bring back a sense of normalcy and college football fans will get back the full game day experience. Whether it be fans in Austin who “Hook ‘em Horns”, those in the Gainesville Swamp that give the notorious Gator Chomp, or Morgantown Mountaineers attendees screaming out “Take me Home, Country Roads”, I’m amped to have the heart and soul of college ball back in their seats where they belong.
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Name Image Likeness
This offseason, the NCAA FINALLY announced that it would be relaxing its rules and regulations that had previously prohibited college athletes from benefiting off their name, image, and likeness. This had been a discussion and topic of debate for several years and the change of rules is long overdue. The athletes at these schools generate so much money for the programs they play for, they should be able to make some money for themselves as well. Almost immediately after the NCAA made the announcement, athletes started cashing in. Bryce Young, who is projected to be Alabama’s starting Quarterback this season, has already racked up $1M in endorsements and other forms of compensation. He has never even started a game. It goes to show that there is a market for these college players and many businesses and corporations are interested in their services /showcasing them.
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The Rich Get Richer with Realignment
Another major storyline this offseason was the one in which both Texas and Oklahoma requested to leave the Big 12 and head to the already stacked SEC. Initially the two programs announced that they would not be renewing their media contracts that are set to expire in 2025. The very next day, the two schools sent an official request to be invited to become members of the SEC. Obviously thereafter, the SEC presidents voted unanimously to invite the two powerhouse and storied programs into the SEC. I mean who wouldn’t want Texas and Oklahoma to be part of their conference? Of course, this realignment will not take place this season but it is still a major storyline because these moves will completely alter the landscape of college football in the future.
Same Faces, Different Places
The coaching carousel witnessed a lot of turn-over this past season and several respected, tenured head coaches moved to new teams. Some of the biggest names changing squads and leading different programs this upcoming season include:
Bryan Harsin (Boise State -> Auburn)
Steve “Sark” Sarkisian (Alabama OC -> Texas)
Josh Heupel (UCF -> Tennessee)
Gus Malzahn (Auburn -> UCF)
Shane Beamer (Oklahoma AHC -> South Carolina)
Photo By Texas Athletics
Who stays on top? Who bounces back?
A new season means a brand-new slate. Last year no longer matters. Which begs the question: Who will be on top? Will we see familiar faces like Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson in the final four? This very well could be the case, but keep in mind that all three of these programs lost their starting quarterbacks along with several other stars. Can Bryce Young of Alabama lead them to back-to-back titles? How will DJ Uiagalelei fill the enormous shoes that Trevor Lawrence left for him? On the contrary, how do the teams that underperformed last season bounce back? Can Coach O get the Tigers back to the National Championship? Will Jim Harbaugh or James Franklin be able to get over the hump and get the Wolverines or Nittany Lions respectively into the college football playoff conversation? Many unanswered questions out there now but one this is certain football fans, time will tell. Thanks for reading, Happy Kickoff, enjoy!
thesportsbank.net / Nathan-Atkins