Every fall when college football season rolls around, ESPN makes me feel like the most popular person in the world by blowing up my phone with updates from every team and major game across the country. My normal response is to just quickly glance at the notification and then clear it if it is not one of “my teams.”
But this most recent football season changed that. Suddenly every update and alert had some relevance and intrigued me.
I love all sports, but my heart belongs to the world of college athletics. Every game and event is exciting and unpredictable. Athletes give the game everything they have purely because they love it. The level of competition and passion in college sports is unrivaled.
The amount of heart and competition from the players seeps into every college football game, and 2016 was no exception.
Suddenly, I was following teams and watching games I would not have cared about before. Any team could win or lose any game. Conferences that struggled to produce a top 10 team in seasons prior suddenly had the potential to hold the top spots.
Normally, I stick to my Pac-12 favorites, and maybe a few other random teams I decided to follow, and that was it.
But this season sucked me in with every upset and exciting change.
I watched as three of the top four teams in the College Football Playoffs (CFP) ranks went down in one weekend.
I watched as four Big Ten teams moved into the top 10 after starting the season with nothing. I watched as my Huskies went from “overrated” at No. 14 to underrated on the national stage as they headed to the College Football Playoff.
Even on a more local level, Idaho fans watched as a team that struggled to get more than a few wins in a season go on to pull an upset and win the third bowl game in program history.
Breakout players, coaching changes and shakeup upsets across the country marked the 2016 season. Nothing was predictable.
This momentum continued to build through the playoffs when No. 1 Alabama headed into a championship rematch game with No. 2 Clemson. Many assumed the mighty Crimson Tide was untouchable as it they went into the game a popular favorite to take the title for the second consecutive year.
And maybe in any other regular season, Alabama would have won as it was “supposed to.” But 2016 was the exception to the rule.
Clemson played a full 60 minutes and made the last seconds count with a last minute touchdown to take the win.
The underdog had dethroned the untouchable team and found redemption in one of the most exciting championship games.
Although the four contenders fighting for the title were relatively familiar, the playoffs captured everything that made the 2016 season great: upsets, underdogs and the unexpected.
Fans everywhere would only be so lucky as to have a 2017 season that lived up to the jaw-dropping excitement that the 2016 season brought to the field. Here’s to raising that bar once again, 2017.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at email@example.com