Oklahoma and LSU Upsets Could Signal a Season of Chaos After the COVID-19 Pandemic Stole Most of the Offseason

By David Regimbal on September 28, 2020 at 10:30 am
Boomer Sooner Going Down
© Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

You could tell right out of the gate it was going to be a strange day of college football action.

The bizarre 2020 season continued on Saturday as the SEC officially kicked off with No. 5 Florida letting Ole Miss hang around far longer than it should. The same went for No. 4 Georgia — which trailed lowly Arkansas 7-5 at the half — before scoring 22 third quarterback points on the way to a 31-10 win.

But the real madness started to unfold further west in Norman, Oklahoma. Lincoln Riley and the Sooners entered the day as the country's No. 3 team after comfortably running up 41 points in the first half of its blowout win over Missouri State in Week 1.

Their matchup against Kansas State was going as many expected. Oklahoma, the 27.5-point favorite, led the Wildcats 35-14 in the late stages of the third quarter. It looked like they were well on their way to avenging the only regular-season loss they suffered the year before.

But that's when Kansas State caught fire. Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson and running back Deuce Vaughn started making plays, and a Kansas State defense that had been walked on all afternoon started to flex. 

At the same time, the Sooners defense started to buckle, giving up drives that ended in a trio of touchdowns and the go-ahead field goal.

That put the Wildcats up 38-35 and led to an Oklahoma loss that severely damaged its playoff hopes.

As Kansas State was putting the finishing touches on its marquee upset, LSU was kicking off its repeat bid against Mississippi State after going a perfect 15-0 to win last year's College Football Playoff.

The Tigers, ranked No. 6 nationally, were replacing a remarkable 14 players who were selected in the NFL draft last spring, as well as several others who either opted out of the 2020 season or weren't available for the game.

The lack of continuity showed. Under the guidance of new head coach Mike Leach, Bulldogs quarterback K.J. Costello threw for an SEC-record 623 yards and five touchdowns. New LSU quarterback Myles Brennan, given the nearly impossible task of replacing record-setting quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, couldn't keep pace as the Tigers fell 44-34.

Utter chaos was unfolding.

Shifting focus back west, Texas was struggling to put away a Texas Tech team it was favored to beat by 17.5 points. Just about every Longhorns touchdown was answered by a Red Raiders scoring drive in the second half, and with just over three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Texas Tech running back SaRodorick Thompson broke free for a 75-yard touchdown that put his team up 56-41.

Texas rallied miraculously, scoring quickly on the ensuing drive before getting eight more points after a perfectly executed onside kick. That forced overtime, where the Longhorns prevailed 63-56.

Upsets (and near upsets) take place in college football, but the results that came through on Saturday suggest they could happen much more regularly in 2020.

That possibility is understandable, considering the situation. No college football team went through an ordinary offseason routine. Most of spring practice was canceled nationally, and offseason conditioning programs weren't able to be established.

That'll impact a lot of teams, especially those who are competing for a spot in this year's College Football Playoff. But it's fair to expect the teams returning the most key players to overcome that hurdle the most effectively.

That could give Ohio State an edge. The Buckeyes return their most important player in quarterback Justin Fields, who never thought of opting out of a season in which he wants to win the Heisman Trophy and a national title.

The Big Ten won't kick off its season until October 24, but it's safe to assume a level of chaos will take place not just in the three weekends leading up to Ohio State's 2020 debut — but beyond it as well.

Head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes are coming into their 2020 campaign with a title-or-bust mentality. If this past Saturday was any indication, reaching their goals will be tougher with less time to prepare.

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