I have covered eleven seasons of College Football here at Dawg Sports. I have covered twelve overall in the college sports blogosphere. And I watched a solid twenty seasons of college football before I ever spilled a drop of digital ink on the subject.
2007 was the weirdest of those by far. It's not even close. If you weren’t around for it I’m not 100% certain I could convince you it really Happened. It was the sports season Bob Newhart woke up from to find himself in bed with Suzanne Pleshette.
Let's catalog briefly a sampling of the weirdness that occurred ten seasons ago.
- Kansas came within a whisker of playing for a national title. Kaannsssaaass.
- Kentucky spent a fair amount of time in the BCS top 10. And had a bona fide Heisman candidate at quarterback.
- Arizona State was right there with them.
- Let's talk about the Kansas Jayhawks some more. I don't think we can overtalk the Kansas Jayhawks in 2007. Anyway, Kansas played Missouri in what was considered by many a potential play-in game for a freaking national championship. No, really. It happened. I watched the whole thing. It was decided in the final two minutes and people characterized it as a game of the decade candidate. There was a guy named Todd Reesing. I don’t think I just imagined him, but I cannot be completely sure. It was a different time, man. We were experimenting with a lot of new stuff. Like Youtube, and something called an "iPhone."
- Four words: Second ranked South Florida.
- Four more words: Second ranked West Virginia. Which lost a shot at the title to something called a "Dave Wannstedt."
- Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe.
- Preseason #5 Michigan began the year by promptly losing to division 1-AA Appalachian State.
- Oregon, with first year offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, looked to be headed for the national title until an injury to their Heisman-candidate quarterback derailed things.
- The University of Hawaii was good, too. Like, New Year's Day bowl good. But more on that later.
It was a four month long Mario Cart race in which the only sure way not to win was to be the one in the lead, waiting for a missile from behind.
And that’s leaving out a lot of the utterly bonkers stuff that happened in the last couple of weeks. And the uniquely frustrating experience of being a Georgia Bulldog fan that season. As with most other things in life, I blame Phil Fulmer.
You may recall that Tennessee started that season 1-2. Fulmer had been roundly criticized by anonymous former players in a newspaper editorial the week of the Georgia game. His tenure in Knoxville was hanging by a thread.
So naturally the unranked and floundering Vols led by Erik Stinking Ainge steamrolled the favored Bulldogs 35-14 in a game that really wasn't as close as the score indicates. Because 2007.
Georgia responded by vanquishing a favored and Tim Tebow-led Florida in Jacksonville. It was nice.
The Dawgs then hung around in the top ten for November, waiting for the Tennessee Volunteers to lose a single game. To choke and/or sleepwak the way they’d done repeatedly in 2007. If the Creamsicle Cavalry did so, Georgia would likely capture the SEC East, head to Atlanta to play for an SEC title against LSU, in what it turns out would have actually been a play-in game for the National title.
The UT team that lost to Cal (yeah, even they were pretty good in 2007) and got throttled by Proto-Saban Alabama 41-17 finished the year by first scoring 16 unanswered points to come from behind and beat Vanderbilt, then beating Kentucky in quadruple overtime to keep the ‘Dawgs out of Atlanta in December. Tennessee played clutch football for quite literally the only two weeks of, oh, let’s say "2004 through 2016" that we needed them not to.
LSU then beat that Tennessee team, won the SEC title, and parlayed that into a national title game berth. It was the last time Les Miles' reality and the one occupied by the rest of us intersected.
Georgia’s consolation prize was a trip to New Orleans and a chance to take out its frustrations on June Jones’ Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Which the Bulldogs most decisively did, as the defense teed off on Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan repeatedly. Marcus Howard personally parlayed his MVP effort and a stellar NFL combine performance into a higher round NFL draft pick. The team as a whole turned that game into fodder for a preseason #1 ranking in 2008. I don't really remember what happened next. I must have blacked out.
There is a part of me that sadly believes that 2007 may have been the apex of college football history. The moment at which all of the crazy, unpredictable, and just plain fun stuff about the game coalesced into a tumbling, shrieking maelstrom of bat crap crazy. It was week after week of watching the unexpected and downright impossible happen until about 1:00 am, then trying to sit down at a keyboard and make sense of it in paragraph form.
It exemplified all of the things that make college football a must-watch endeavor. I do not believe the sport has been that entertaining since. I just keep watching because I hope that one day we will eclipse the metaphorical 38 rabid weasels in a sack that was the 2007 season. It’s a pretty damn high bar. You’re up, 2017. Give us your best shot. Until later...