This whole season went pretty much how we expected, right?
AP preseason No. 1 Alabama is in the College Football Playoff, as is Georgia, who was No. 5. And then there’s … Michigan and Cincinnati.
OK, so Cincy was No. 8 at the start of the season. Michigan was unranked. And that’s just the beginning of the unpredictability that we saw this year.
Two of the biggest names in college football — Texas and Oklahoma — shook up the sport by announcing they’re departing the Big 12 for the SEC. The season saw a record number of ranked teams lose. Then all of a sudden, there were giant coaching changes along with giant contracts all over the place.
Let’s look back at all the twists and turns of the year in college football in the words of the people who lived it.
“We’re going to keep getting back here, and everybody can keep saying Notre Dame is not good enough. Well, you know what? You’re gonna have a problem because we’re gonna keep winning games, we’re gonna keep getting back here, and we’re gonna break through. And then I’m going to be terrible to be at a press conference with. Terrible.” — Coach Brian Kelly, frustrated with reporters’ questions about Notre Dame’s 0-7 record since 1988 in BCS or New Year’s Six games after a College Football Playoff loss to Alabama on Jan. 1.
“I don’t think it’s going to take us as long as many might think. We’ve got a talented young roster. I think we’re going to hire a tremendous coaching staff. … This work will be all gas and no brakes. We will lay down on the hammer and go get it.” — Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, at his introductory press conference on Jan. 12.
“You don’t need brakes when you run out of gas.” — Fox analyst (and current interim Oklahoma coach) Bob Stoops, before 4-7 Texas’ final game this season, against Kansas State.
“I’ve never been a head coach with a crowd before. So that will be interesting. I tell you, every game, this is where my mind would kind of play tricks on me. Every game, I’d run out the tunnel, I’d get so worked up, so excited. The smoke would clear … they were the damn cardboard fans every single time.” — Boston College coach Jeff Hafley, at ACC media days on having fans in stadiums again this year.
“About half of our game plan was out the window when they lined up how they did.” — Nebraska coach Scott Frost on his offense facing Illinois in coach Bret Bielema’s first game back in college football since 2017.
“Was I fighting back tears? No, I was just sweating.” — Bielema, on his return to the sidelines, when a reporter asked if he was emotional.
“We thought Michigan was a better team and deserved to be ranked ahead of Michigan State.” — CFP committee chairman Gary Barta, on Nov. 9, after the Wolverines had lost to the Spartans 37-33 on Oct. 30.
“My father was a farmer, and there’s an old saying you reap what you sow. If you sow kindness, you reap kindness. If you sow jackass, you reap jackass.” — A lightsaber-wielding Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz, after beating Florida and Dan Mullen, the year after Mullen wore a Darth Vader costume to his postgame press conference after beating Drinkwitz and Missouri.
After Florida coach Dan Mullen dressed up as Darth Vader following the Gators’ win in 2020, Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz pulls out a lightsaber after the Tigers’ win on Saturday.
“My focus is completely on Illinois and this team and this program. … We’re trying to be focused on Illinois and talking about Illinois as much as we can.” — Penn State coach James Franklin — whose Nittany Lions were coming off a nine-overtime loss to Illinois — when asked about being a candidate for other job openings in a Tuesday press conference before facing Ohio State.
“I’m in favor of execution — maybe our entire team needs to be executed after tonight.” — Kelly, with a bit of a stumble on a reprisal of the old John McKay line.
“In our world, we battle more academically prowess teams.” — Washington coach Jimmy Lake, on if he considered Oregon a recruiting rival.
“Get your popcorn ready.” — Lane Kiffin, to CBS reporter Jamie Erdahl, on the field before Ole Miss played Alabama.
“Get your popcorn ready.” – Lane Kiffin 🍿 pic.twitter.com/ZDdr60cjuj
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 2, 2021
“I don’t even know why it came out, and I actually said to Lebby, I got on the headsets and said, ‘I just said something really stupid. You better score a lot of points.'” — Kiffin, on trying to rally Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby after his Alabama comment. Kiffin said after the 42-21 loss that at halftime, with the Rebels trailing 28-0, he told Lebby, “It looks like we didn’t plug the microwave in, buddy.”
“They’ve got like 100 five-star football players on their defense. They have a defensive lineman that weighs 340 pounds and runs better than everybody on this call. They’ve got five-star defensive backs. They’re big and physical and fast. I mean, other than that, they’re really freaking good. That’s why they have the top defense in the country. They’re hard to run the football on, so there wasn’t some magical scheme they came out with tonight. They’ve got five-star recruits everywhere and they play really physical … damn.” — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer on Georgia’s defense
“Oh man, I’m not even thinking about Georgia. Kirby won 100-0 or whatever today.” — Arkansas coach Sam Pittman, after the Hogs’ 20-10 win over Texas A&M, the same day that Georgia, his next opponent, beat Vanderbilt 62-0.
“I have elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private. While I have made my own decision, I respect that every individual — including our coaches, staff and student-athletes — can make his or her own decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. I will not comment further on my decision.” — Washington State coach Nick Rolovich, on July 21. Rolovich and four assistant coaches were fired on Oct. 18 after refusing to comply with Washington’s state vaccine mandate.
“Let’s lose the narrative that he hasn’t played a football game in two or three years, and he was walking up and down the halls like Uncle Rico talking about what he did back in the day.” — Beamer on transfer quarterback Zeb Noland, who had joined the Gamecocks as a grad assistant coach before being pressed into starting QB duty after injuries.
“I had to check my eyes. That’s the largest human being I’ve ever seen.” — Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, on seeing Jordan Davis, Georgia’s 6-foot-6, 340-pound defensive tackle, in person.
“People cheer. You go to any school in the SEC, except for maybe Vanderbilt, and people are cheering.” — Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott, on if the crowd was a factor when they played Auburn.
“I saw a picture of me at the bowl game last year and told the players I looked like an anaconda that had swallowed a deer and the deer got stuck in its neck.” — Kiffin, saying he went on a diet so he could stress accountability to his team when he asks them to eat better.
“I’ve got a deal for you. Anybody who heard me on your show … just say ‘I heard Barney on the BFT’ at the Barney Beer Garden and I’ll buy your beer. I’m not buying your ticket, but I’ll buy your beer.” — Portland State coach Bruce Barnum on Oregonian columnist John Canzano’s radio show, offering to buy beer for fans at his team’s game since the Vikings were playing at the same time as Oregon and Oregon State. He ended up with a $14,448 bar tab.
— Bruce Barnum (@CoachBarnum69) September 21, 2021
“We’re in the season right now. We’ll do recruiting after the season. When it gets to recruiting time, we can talk about recruiting. OK? Next question.” — Mullen, who clearly didn’t want to talk about recruiting at a press conference.
“They hate you ’cause they take a song that you wrote about COVID and getting back to families and they make fun of you. If I had the time, I’d go out and get all the copyright laws and I’d get after their ass, but I’ve got Longhorns on my mind right now. Not them.” — TCU coach Gary Patterson on SMU making a parody of his song “Take A Step Back” that he wrote last season after the Mustangs beat the Horned Frogs.
“We call that the Berenstain Bears search. There’s a Berenstain Bears book, ‘Old Hat, New Hat,’ where he’s looking for, he wants a new hat. Papa Berenstain Bear. And he’s trying all these hats on, it’s like too tight, too loose, too colorful, right? Too shiny, all that. And he finally puts on his old hat. And so that’s what that was.” — Baylor coach Dave Aranda, on how he finds the right looks to defend big plays.
In his postgame press conference, Dave Aranda answered a question about shutting down big plays by referencing the famous football book “Old Hat, New Hat” from the Berenstein (?) Bears.
You hear something new every day… #Baylor #SicEm pic.twitter.com/rWOtR30QAE
— Jack Allen (@JackAllenKXXV) October 30, 2021
“I’m going to go have a cold one and then we’ll get ready for Miami.” — Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett (He’s 23!) after the Panthers beat Clemson.
“We’re going to beat his ass when he’s there.” — Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, to an alumni group in the summer on if the Aggies can beat Alabama when Saban retires.
“In golf?” — A bemused Saban, when told of Fisher’s comment.
Nick Saban’s face the moment I told him Jimbo Fisher said he was going to beat his a$$… Coach replied, “in golf?” 🤣 #RollTide pic.twitter.com/3VzCPe1o05
— Simone Eli (@SimoneEli_TV) May 7, 2021
“I mean, I completely hate candy corn. [I like] gummy bears for sure. The Haribo ones. It’s got to be the Haribo ones. And then the other thing I like is when they used to have the Sprees in a box. Outstanding. You have to go to the dollar store to find it, but I do. And then the latest … There’s still candy innovation, although a while back I found that Europe had better candy than we did overall. It’s because they have gummy everything. But they have those Nerds Clusters, which is new. Which is good! The Nerds Clusters is good. And then if you go chocolate, probably Almond Joy.” — Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, to SEC Network’s Alyssa Lang, on the field after beating Vanderbilt a week before Halloween.
Mike Leach discusses postgame what his favorite candy is as we near Halloween.
“What is 12 personnel? Two tight ends? And two wide receivers or one? I’m just kidding, I know what 12 personnel is.” — Saban, answering a question at SEC media days about offensive evolution.
“I’m still blown away on this Bryce Young. The guy’s made a million dollars already? That’s good, man. He don’t need to play next year against us.” — Kiffin, at SEC media days after hearing about Young’s NIL earnings.
“A lot of the motivation for realignment is no longer there. Is that to say it couldn’t happen? No, it could possibly happen for other reasons. But it doesn’t appear to me that the motivation is there at this point in time. Not to say it couldn’t happen, but it’s not one of the things that keeps me up at night.” — Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, at Big 12 media days on July 14. Seven days later, the Houston Chronicle broke the news that Texas and Oklahoma were looking to join the SEC.
“I bet they would.” — Fisher, at SEC media days, after being told that the Longhorns and Sooners wanted to join.
“They’re thinking they’re going to recruit better and they’re going to get more money. Anybody that thinks Texas’ football problems have been a result of league affiliation are completely delusional.” — Bowlsby, on why he thinks the Longhorns and Sooners were departing for the SEC.
“There’s not a lot of empirical data out there to suggest this will work, let’s be honest. But I also think, if there’s a decision point, whether it’s football or anything else, you know, Scott’s a brother, he’s a Husker, and he’s a Nebraskan.” — Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts, on the decision to bring Frost back for another season with a $1 million pay cut and staff changes despite a 15-27 record in Lincoln to that point.
“Sometimes people that are standing on third base think they hit a triple, but they didn’t.” — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh after the Wolverines’ 42-27 win over Ohio State and Ryan Day, who took over for Urban Meyer.
“What these guys wanted to gain was more respect. Not just the fact they were underdogs, but you guys gave us a lot of really positive rat poison. The rat poison you usually give us is fatal. This rat poison you gave us this week was yummy.” — Saban, after Alabama beat Georgia in the SEC championship game, on seeing Georgia get most of the pregame hype.
Nick Saban praises the media for putting out positive rat poison for the Crimson Tide.
“I will die here at Texas Tech.” — New Red Raiders coach Joey McGuire, on his intentions to stay in Lubbock long term.
“All right, so I’ll keep this short. I heard they got Jambalaya Shoppe and beer back there, and that’s what everybody’s here for.” — Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns coach Michael Desormeaux’s first words at his introductory press conference.
“Let’s not create narratives as we sit in this press conference. Oregon is working on some stuff for me and that’s what I have right now. … How the media treats it, how the media postures it, I have no control of it.” — Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, on Dec. 3 after a 38-10 loss to Utah in the Pac-12 title game, on rumors that he could be the next coach at Miami.
“We have to bring it in tight and we have to bring it. Because when The U is on and The U brings it, there’s nothing like it.” — Cristobal, at his introduction as Miami’s new coach on Dec. 7.
“I’m not gonna be the next head coach at LSU. Next question.” — Then-Oklahoma Sooners coach Lincoln Riley, on Saturday, Nov. 27, in a postgame news conference after the Sooners lost to Oklahoma State.
“This is a surreal moment to be honest. So honored to be the next head football coach here at USC. It means a great deal to me.” — Riley at his introductory press conference two days later in Los Angeles.
“It was never our goal to change the landscape of college football with one of the biggest moves in the history of the game, but we did exactly that.” — USC athletic director Mike Bohn at Riley’s introduction.
“I think it’s great. My wife’s glad I’m out of the house.” — Interim Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, on hitting the recruiting trail during bowl season before the early signing period.
“No. I mean, look, … unless that fairy godmother comes by with that $250 million check, my wife would want to take a look at it first. I’d have to run it by her.” — Kelly, on Nov. 22, on if he could imagine a scenario where he would leave Notre Dame.
“It’s a great night to be a Tiger. I’m here with my family, and we are so excited to be in the great state of Louisiana.” — Kelly, at his introduction as the new LSU coach, on Dec. 2.