The 5 biggest surprises of the 2020 college football season

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

October 16th, 2020

The 2020 college football is well underway, with more to come as the Big Ten, Pac-12, and MAC commence play in the coming weeks. With nearly two months of play officially completed, let’s look at the five biggest surprises of the season thus far.

5. Scoring is way up in the SEC

The SEC has spent years establishing itself as the premier conference in college football, where defense is cherished as much as offense. Its players make NFL rosters, and typically the scoring in the conference averages lower than other conferences throughout the country. Just one year ago, they had seven teams in the Top 30 nationally in points allowed per play over the course of the season.

In 2020, that script has been flipped, with headliners like Alabama and Florida proving incapable of slowing opponents down. The arrival of Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin can be viewed as contributors to this trend, but the whole conference has been a disappointing surprise on the defensive side of the ball.

4. The pandemic hasn't halted college football

Despite hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases throughout the country and on many college rosters themselves, the season has trudged forward without significant risk of total shutdown. Unlike the NFL, each conference operates rather independently in this 2020 season, and as such has the autonomy to continue on despite positive cases elsewhere.

Head coaches like Nick Saban have tested positive, and while many suspected waves of positive cases would put the entire season at risk, the season has moved forward with only minimal delays and postponements. With so much doubt coming into the season, this has been a rather pleasant surprise.

3. The Sooners have stumbled out of the gates

The Big 12 has really been a one-team conference for years now, with Oklahoma having reeled off five consecutive conference championships. As the conference champions, the Sooners have also played in the College Football Playoff in four of the last five years, an impressive streak that had them picked again in 2020 to be the favorites.

While Oklahoma isn't mathematically eliminated, the team's 0-2 start and current sixth-place standing has them chasing a trio of leaders. Their main rival, Texas, is equally challenged, also sitting at 1-2 in conference play. Iowa State and Kansas State suffered shocking defeats in their first games, but are now 3-0 in conference play and lead the pack. It is a wacky year in the Big 12 standings, and one that has preseason double-digit picks to win currently leading the way.

2. Rutgers is undefeated in mid-October

It is now Week 7. This Saturday will be October 17th. And Rutgers has zero losses. They also have the same number of wins as Ohio State. Truly remarkable and almost certainly the latest in the season that this will ever occur.

1. LSU has been a mess

In 2019, the LSU Tigers had one of the more memorable seasons in recent history. It was so good, in fact, that thirteen players in total were drafted by NFL teams, including an amazing five in the first round. While such losses are hard to overcome, the overwhelming sentiment was that this loaded roster would be able to reload in some fashion.

Three games in, it now appears that the defending champs are in more of a rebuilding stage. The defense has proven incapable of stopping two teams whose only victory on the season came against LSU. LSU is 50th out of 75 teams in points allowed per play defensively, and 70th out of 75 in yards given up per opponent pass attempt. LSU is a mess on defense and with an exclusively SEC conference schedule this season, it may not get much better. I don’t think any of us expected LSU to repeat as champions, but a 1-2 start has still been shocking.

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