The 2022 season is over. Even though the ending was an absolute dud, with the Georgia Bulldogs beating the life out of TCU to clinch their second straight championship, this year was one of the most fun seasons in a long time. Chaos reigned supreme throughout much of the year, with a few upsets reminding all of us why we put up with the nonsense which consumes the offseason. Let’s look back on this incredible year with the usual ten categories.
Game of the Year: The game that was the most fun to watch that week. Importance could be a factor, but it isn’t necessary to qualify.
Most Important Game of the Year: The game that had the biggest impact on the playoff race or the college football landscape as a whole.
Drunkest Game of the Year: The game that scrambled your brain just watching. A drunk game is full of chaos, but not the good kind. As the name implies, it’s a game where it wouldn’t be a shock to find out everyone involved chugged a fifth of Admiral Nelson’s beforehand.
Head-Scratcher of the Year: The result that makes less and less sense the more you look at it. This is a celebration of the random, outlier games that we look back on later in the year in awe.
Sickos Game of the Year: The game that you enjoy for all of the wrong reasons. The train wreck that you can’t look away from. This is the game that makes you shake your head and say “Only in college football.”
Hype Killer of the Year: The game where one bandwagon comes to a screeching halt. The game where a team that looked like a future college football darling crashed back down to Earth.
Seat-Warmer of the Year: The game that pushed a coach’s job security into the danger zone because coach search season never ends. It’s usually about the coach of the losing team, but that’s not always the case.
Seat-Cooler of the Year: The opposite of the seat-warmer, this is the game that will let the winning coach sleep a little more soundly at night. At least for now.
Your Future Coach: A new category where I look at a game involving an up-and-coming G5 coach that probably won’t be sticking around very long. If your team is ever in the Seat Warmer section, this one is for you.
Dealer’s Choice of the Year: The game that I just feel like talking about. It could be because it was especially fun, or stupid, or just because I want to make fun of a team I don’t like. It’s more of a catch-all category than anything.
All caught up? Good, let’s go.
Game of the Year: Tennessee vs. Alabama
Was there even a question? This game was the perfect encapsulation of what makes college football great. It was a matchup between bitter rivals in a full stadium of more than 100,000 rabid fans. The passion in Neyland Stadium was unrivaled. Tennessee jumped out to an early lead thanks to Jalin Hyatt, who had the greatest performance from a wide receiver I have ever seen. Alabama fought back with their usual sense of inevitability, taking the lead in the fourth quarter thanks to a scoop-and-score out of nowhere. Then, the Volunteers did something they haven’t done in fifteen years: they fought back. Hendon Hooker threw his fifth TD pass to Hyatt to tie it, Alabama’s recent good kicking voodoo wore off, and the Vols went 45-yards in thirteen seconds, setting up Chase McGrath’s game-winning field goal, and setting off the biggest party East Tennessee has ever seen.
Most Important Game of the Year: Utah vs. USC
This was the lone bright spot in what will go down as the worst conference championship weekend in history. For the first time ever, nine of the ten games had absolutely no impact on the playoff, with Georgia, Michigan, and TCU all simply playing for pride. USC was the only team who needed a win to punch their ticket to the playoff. For all intents and purposes, this was a playoff game for Lincoln Riley. If you’ve watched him coach in the playoffs before, you already know what happened. None of the Trojan’s defenders seemed particularly interested in making a tackle, and the normally explosive offense couldn’t keep up. Caleb Williams did his best to carry the team but was clearly hobbled for most of the game and couldn’t do it all by himself. USC’s failure opened the door for Ohio State to sneak back into the playoff, and they almost took full advantage, ending up just a few yards short of a likely national championship.
Drunkest Game of the Year: Auburn vs. Missouri
I’ve never seen a clearer example of a game where both teams were trying as hard as they could to lose. I can’t describe how stupid this game got at the end. Words cannot convey the drunken stupidity that occurred down on the plains. Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to watch the condensed highlights below.
Head-Scratcher of the Year: Stanford vs. Notre Dame
This result only got more confusing as the season went on. Notre Dame followed up this stinker with a five-game win streak, including a major upset over Clemson. Stanford, on the other hand, would beat the dumpster fire that was Arizona State the next week and has not won a game since. Marshall was a more embarrassing loss for Notre Dame, but it makes a little more sense in hindsight. It was only week two under a first-time coach and going to South Bend is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a team like Marshall. The difference in motivation in those P5-G5 games is so great that no upset should be too surprising. Stanford plays Notre Dame every year. There was no extra motivation to explain this shocking loss by the Fighting Irish.
Sicko Game of the Year: Iowa vs. South Dakota State
The beginning of Iowa’s Hall of Fame Sicko season was a work of art. From inventing the Iowa-style touchdown (two safeties and a field goal) to gaining a combined 286 yards, (only 7 teams averaged fewer yards per game by themselves this season), these two offenses put on a show of incompetence the likes of which we’ve never seen before. The two teams combined only had eight plays that went for ten or more yards. For context, TCU in the national championship, literally the biggest beatdown in bowl season history, had six. What set this game apart from the rest of the ugly pack is that it stayed close. By one definition it was technically a good game! SDSU had the ball with a chance to win at the very end. We all had an actual reason to watch this train wreck other than football rubbernecking! I have never seen a game this disgustingly intriguing before, and I doubt I ever will again.
Hype Killer of the Year: South Carolina vs. Tennessee
Of the two games where South Carolina destroyed the playoff hopes of an orange team, Tennessee was clearly the bigger hype killer. The Vols came into the game ranked 5th in the nation with their only loss being a respectable defeat on the road against Georgia. They had a crystal-clear path to the college football playoff, all they had to do was beat South Carolina and Vanderbilt, the two teams at the bottom of the SEC East. The Gamecocks were coming off their ugliest loss in years. Florida pounded them the week before, out-gaining SC on the ground by 330 yards and holding them to zero offensive touchdowns. All Tennessee had to do was take care of business in Columbia, and they’d be playing for a national championship. About that…
South Carolina completely flipped the script in this game. The previously stagnant Gamecock offense scored touchdowns on their first five possessions, leaving Tennessee shellshocked. Spencer Rattler played the game of his life, kicking off an incredible close to the season for the Gamecocks and leaving Tennessee on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Seat-Warmer of the Year: Georgia Southern vs. Nebraska
No single game impacted a coach’s job security more than Nebraska’s loss to Georgia Southern. Scott Frost’s fate was likely sealed after their season-opening loss to Northwestern across the pond, but the general consensus was that he’d keep his job until October. Frost started the year with a $15 million buyout that would be cut in half on October 1st, which isn’t too long to wait by any means. Firing a coach after four games would have been unheard of just a few years ago. The powers that be at Nebraska decided that losing to Georgia Southern, the team in their ninth season in FBS, was so embarrassing that it was worth an extra $7.5 million to get rid of Frost early. That’s either some serious dedication or serious stupidity. But hey, this is college football, so it’s probably a bit of both.
Seat-Cooler of the Year: West Virginia vs. Oklahoma
Neal Brown’s job status was one of the stranger parts of this year’s coaching carousel. The prevailing opinion was that his $17 million buyout would be prohibitive, even if the team was underperforming. Then, rumors surfaced that money was not an issue and that WVU had already raised the necessary funds to make a change. The school also fired the AD who gave Brown that ridiculous buyout, further complicating things. Ultimately, the university and new AD Wren Baker decided to bring Brown back for one more year. I don’t think there’s any chance everything plays out this way if Brown doesn’t beat Oklahoma for the first time since WVU joined the Big 12. It doesn’t matter that OU was kind of trash this season. Anytime a smaller profile school can upset one of the sport’s blue bloods, it provides a shot in the arm that, in this case, was just enough justification to save Neal Brown’s job for a few more months.
Your Future Coach: Troy vs. South Alabama
This rivalry matchup was also one of the only games this year to feature two up-and-coming G5 coaches. Both Troy’s Jon Sumrall and South Alabama’s Kane Wommack led their teams to a ten-win season and a share of the Sun Belt West title. Sumrall especially pulled off a miracle, taking the Trojans to twelve wins and a Sun Belt championship in his very first season as a head coach. The game itself might’ve been a complete dud, but the coaching was spectacular. If you’re a fan of an SEC team, keep an eye on both of these candidates the next time you’re looking for a new coach.
Dealer’s Choice of the Year: South Carolina vs. Clemson
You thought I wasn’t going to talk about this game? You fool. Why would I ignore my alma mater beating their rival for the first time in nine years, ending their 40-game home winning streak, and knocking them out of the College Football Playoff? Why wouldn’t I acknowledge the hilarity of Clemson’s students clearly not knowing if they were supposed to meet at the paw after a loss because none of them had ever experienced one? Or the fact that South Carolina fans rushed the field on the road? Or Clemson running the worst trick play of the year? Or the fact that a recruit who ghosted the South Carolina coaches on signing day was the one who fumbled the ball away to seal the loss? I would never deprive the world of that joy.
(Header courtesy of LA Times)