How seriously will you take the 2020 college football season?

We all have six weeks to prepare for random weirdness like no season we've ever seen before

One of the many reasons that I love college football is because the sport is inscrutable. When you take an inherently volatile group like 18-22 year-olds, make them attend college, and then ALSO have them play a short, 12 game schedule, you’re cranking the randomness quotient very, very high. It makes for an unpredictable sport. A sport where a team can lose to one team 38-7 one week, then beat a team of similar quality 37-3 six days later.

Trying to understand, analyze, or even predict college football is inherently hard and infinitely fun. This year, it might be impossible and pointless.

Consider the new variables heaped on top of all the other variables you would expect in a normal season. Unavailable players due to COVID. Lack of scouting and film for coaches. Lack of practice and/or conditioning time for players. Roster turnover as more players opt out or declare early. Fewer games.

Consider that 21 games have already been cancelled so far. Consider that we only have a smattering of games to analyze and 2020 has already been off the wall. Kansas State hosted Arkansas State to start the season and lost, then came back a week later to beat Oklahoma in Norman. KJ Costello broke the single game SEC passing record against LSU in a win for Mississippi State.

Later this week we’re going to get Cal’s 6 game conference schedule. I’m excited to have the Bears back in my life. I’m itching to watch a game, and then rewatch it the next day on DVR, and then type out my thoughts and try to make sense of what happened . . . but that might be a massively silly thing to do.

While I’m sure it will be fun to absorb, is it smart to take anything away from what happens on the field this year? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it means something. If Chase Garbers leads the Pac-12 in passing yards and Cal makes the Pac-12 championship game, I’m not going to question that the Bears are talented. If Cal goes 1-6, it probably won’t be unfair to conclude that something went seriously wrong.

It’s just that it was already dangerous to try to draw conclusions from college football games. Now you have to wonder, if Washington State beats Stanford, is it because Nick Rolovich was a great hire who got the best out of his players, or is it because Stanford’s athletes spent all summer stuck at home not working out? If Washington beats Oregon, is that because Jimmy Lake was the right pick to replace Chris Petersen, or is it because Oregon was the program most hurt by early draft entrants? If certain players have break out seasons, is it because they were hidden gems, or is it because they were the guys that had access to weights and equipment while other guys were stuck at home doing 8 different kinds of lunges?

Look, I’m going to absolutely be a hypocrite about this. It’s my understanding that UCLA and Stanford might be the teams most behind in terms of coaching time with players over the last six months, but that won’t stop me saying snarky things about Chip Kelly and David Shaw if UCLA looks bad on the field come November.

But as we gear up for the season, such as it is, I want to take everybody’s temperature. How would you answer the following two questions:

  1. How seriously are you going to take the results of the 2020 season?

  2. Will you consider the winner of the Pac-12 Championship as legitimate as any other season?