One of college football’s most significant attractions is its unpredictability. We can project any number of results both on and off the field, but Team Chaos and Father Time have their own ideas.
Five years ago, only our wildest dreams could have foreseen what has happened or is coming in 2016.
From coaching situations, team success—or lack thereof—and off-field topics, our 2011 counterparts would’ve had a tough time believing these developments were in the future.
Please head to the comments section to share your biggest surprises in college football.
It’s a weird time for the University of Miami, isn’t it? More than a dozen players have been implicated in the investigation into improper benefits, and the basketball program is taking some heat, too.
Don’t worry: The NCAA so desperately wants head to roll that someone will screw up a little bit.
Anyway, here’s the thing: Al Golden is a wonderfully caring person, but he’s not destined to save the program. The other guy Miami just hired, Jim Larranaga, will turn around a team that—to your knowledge—has never finished above .500 in the nation’s best basketball conference and bring an ACC title to Coral Gables.
More than a decade after joining the ACC, the Hurricanes still won’t have earned a trip to football’s championship game.
But hey, at least Mark Richt is coaching them now. Yes, really.
Five years ago, conference realignment was all the rage. Nebraska was playing its first year in the Big Ten, while Colorado and Utah were new members of the Pac-12.
Plus, Texas A&M (SEC), Pitt (ACC) and Syracuse (ACC) were accepted into their new leagues, and Missouri (SEC) soon followed.
The Big 12 ultimately lost four schools (Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M) and brought in two (TCU and West Virginia), dropping membership from 12 to 10. It wouldn’t last long, right?
After all, the conference had plenty of potential suitors. Air Force, BYU, Cincinnati, Florida State and Louisville had interest. Even Clemson and Miami were briefly linked, maybe depending on FSU’s decision.
But nothing happened.
Still, nothing has happened other than a decision to remain at 10, though the Big 12 chose to bring back a conference championship game anyway.
Washington and Colorado haven’t been truly relevant on the national scale since 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Heading into the final month, the two programs are leading candidates to meet in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Washington is 8-0, and Colorado is 7-2.
But their resurgence has coincided with the first truly terrible season at Oregon since 2004. Five years ago, the Ducks rattled off their fourth straight 10-win year and had an offensive genius, Chip Kelly, running the program.
College football is typically cyclical, but although all of this could be expected eventually, it wasn’t expected to happen all at once.
We owe 2011 thanks for helping develop the College Football Playoff. Though the 2005 campaign was a problem, 2011 was the final nail in the BCS’s proverbial coffin.
LSU defeated Alabama in the regular season. However, the SEC programs ended up having a rematch in the national championship—yet 11-1 conference-champion Oklahoma State was left out.
A playoff of some kind already seemed likely, but the LSU-Alabama-Oklahoma State issue made the discussion louder than realignment talks, which were dominating the headlines.
In late June 2012, an NCAA presidential committee formally approved the four-team championship tournament.
In all likelihood, Michigan and Ohio State are headed for a division-deciding showdown. That wouldn’t have been an insane thought. But with these coaches? No way, man.
Jim Harbaugh had just accepted a position with the San Francisco 49ers. As of this date exactly five years ago, the 49ers owned a 6-1 record and were moving toward a 13-3 finish.
Urban Meyer, on the other hand, was busy preparing for his next assignment as a color commentator. While a return to coaching seemed probable for him, an eventual Harbaugh-Meyer showdown in the Big Ten was not.
But for now, it’s become a yearly event.
Lane Kiffin was in the process of leading USC to a 10-2 record despite playing under the cloud of a postseason ban five years ago. The Trojans were even ranked No. 1 in the next preseason Top 25.
After disappointing 2009 and 2010 campaigns, USC was back.
Well, that didn’t happen. The Trojans mustered a 10-8 mark over the next 18 games, which resulted in Kiffin’s notorious tarmac firing. He ended up accepting a position at Alabama to serve as Nick Saban‘s offensive coordinator.
Kiffin didn’t just turn around his career, though. The former Tennessee and Oakland Raiders coach has installed uptempo spread concepts that are continuing the dynasty in Tuscaloosa.
As Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee wrote, Saban remains unsettled about the new brand of football. But his willingness to adapt with Kiffin—however reluctantly—is a significant reason why Alabama is nearing a third straight College Football Playoff appearance.
All recruiting information via Scout. Stats from CFBStats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.