There is a strong case to be made that 2021 was the best college football season we have had since 2007.
Every week, we were on the edge of our seats, waiting to see what could happen next. We started off the season with underdogs consistently winning big. It ended with a former walk-on quarterback leading his team to a national championship.
With 226 days until college football’s return, let’s look back at the programs who accomplished historic firsts in 2021:
Baylor Finishing in the AP Top 5
The Baylor Bears may have a mediocre .538 all-time winning percentage, but 2021 proved that Baylor could reach elite status. For the first time ever, the Bears have finished in the AP top five. Following a No. 5 finish, it will be interesting to see if the defending Big 12 champions can make a playoff run next season.
Wake Forest Finishing in the AP Top 15
While the casual college football fan may not think this is a big deal, the devout college football fan does. The devout college football fan knows that Wake Forest is the smallest Power 5 school by enrollment, and this was an underdog story.
The Demon Deacons had never finished inside the AP top 15 before this season. Even when they won the ACC Championship in 2006, the Demon Deacons settled for a final ranking of No. 18. This year, they finished No. 15.
Head coach Dave Clawson has been nothing short of amazing there. Luckily for the Demon Deacon faithful, he inked a long-term deal.
Cincinnati Cracked the Glass Ceiling
Boise State crawled, so UCF could walk, which pathed the way for Cincinnati to run right into the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats are the only Group of 5 team that can say that.
While it didn’t end up the way they wanted it to, they gave a better show than their neighbors to the north in a 27-6 Cotton Bowl loss to Alabama. Michigan was also making its first playoff appearance as it got blasted by Georgia in the Orange Bowl, 34-11.
Utah is a Football State
For the first time ever, the three FBS schools in the state of Utah finished ranked in the AP Poll. Utah, the champion of the Pac-12, finished at No. 12. Utah State, champion of the Mountain West, finished 24th.
BYU, which beat both Utah and Utah State, finished at No. 19. With Blake Anderson, Kalani Sitake, and Kyle Whittingham leading these programs, football in the Beehive State is in good hands.
Georgia Historic Season
For the first time since 1980, Georgia is college football’s national champion. While this is the Bulldogs’ third national title, it was a season of historic firsts:
- School record 14 wins.
- First time ever beating Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia Tech in the same season.
- First program to be led to a College Football Playoff National Championship by a former walk-on quarterback.
- The first No. 3 seed to win the College Football Playoff.
Kansas Defeated Texas in Austin for the First Time
No Longhorn fan thought he or she would ever see the day, especially after paying Steve Sarkisian $34.2 million, that Texas would lose at home to Kansas. Losing to Kansas once may have happened this millennium but no way were they expecting it twice, especially at home.
Kansas’ 57-56 overtime win on Nov. 13 ended a 56-game road losing streak for the Jayhawks against Big 12 opponents — a streak no one has ever seen before. Let’s also not forget that Kansas was a 30.5-point underdog.
Kentucky Finished in Sole Possession of Second Place in the SEC East
When the SEC broke into divisions in 1992, it went geographically East and West. In 30 seasons, the Kentucky Wildcats have finished as high as second in the SEC East twice, but this was the first year that they were in sole possession of it. While many might quote Ricky Bobby saying “if you’re not first your last”, that doesn’t hold much relevancy to this Kentucky program.
It will be interesting to see if the Wildcats can keep climbing the next few years and perhaps compete with Georgia for the division crown. Kentucky has also won four consecutive bowl games for the first time ever.