As America steadily emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, the question on every college football fan’s mind is when their favorite sport will be back to normal. But what does normal even mean?

Sure, stadiums will reopen to greater capacities, but that’s a largely superficial change that barely impacts most schools south of the Mason-Dixon line.

No, we won’t be able to confirm a return to normalcy until these tried and true traditions are back on the gridiron bringing us equal parts joy, shame, and pain.

Week One national championship preview is actually more of a Gasparilla Bowl preview

It was a hot September night in Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium. Texas backup quarterback Tyrone Swoopes had just scrambled past the Notre Dame defense into the end zone to clinch a 50-47 victory in double overtime.

Texas was back — for a solid two weeks, I mean.

It’s hard to not get amped for opening day showdowns between highly ranked interconference opponents, whether it’s Michigan and Florida in 2017 or Miami and LSU in 2018. But just know that as soon as a commentator says a game could be a preview of the playoff, it absolutely won’t be.

On one hand, these games are terrible at predicting actual postseason matchups. On the other, what prepares fans for the playoff better than an overhyped, extremely underwhelming letdown?

Game with zero postseason implications goes into a stupid amount of overtimes

These are the games you probably wouldn’t have paid any attention to if you didn’t notice a basketball score sneak into the football section of ESPN’s Bottom Line.

Texas A&M and LSU scored how many points? Wait, North Carolina and Virginia Tech are doing a two-point conversion shootout now?

Bonus points go to Western Michigan and Buffalo in 2017, a contest whose seven overtimes were more than the number of games either program won that season.

The best part about games like this is that you watched the whole thing. You definitely didn’t see Twitter blow up, fumble with three remotes and nine streaming services, and tune in right as fans stormed the field.

No, you and I were there for every second, and we would never lie about it.

Intensely 7-5 quarterback is hailed as the second coming of Tom Brady

If you want to be among the first quarterbacks off the board on draft night, you’ll have to showcase a variety of elite traits.

Poise in the pocket. A cannon for an arm. The ability to win four games in a so-so conference.

Don’t get me wrong — Mitchell Trubisky, Josh Rosen, and Daniel Jones are all remarkable athletes with 50 times the physical acumen of a slouch such as myself. I’m just not sure there’s a ton of carryover between Sun Bowl participant and Super Bowl champion.

Nevertheless, credit where credit is due. It’s not easy to direct the flow of millions of dollars in rookie contracts. Pro scouts blow Shark Tank contestants out of the water when it comes to marketing blatantly flawed products.

Listen to our ACC Preview

The Pac-12 cannibalizes its only shot at the playoff

It’s easy to forget Sam Darnold’s 2017 USC team likely would have stolen Alabama’s playoff spot if the Trojans hadn’t bungled a late September game against Washington State.

Then there’s 2019 Oregon, which might have made the playoff if only it had held Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels to slightly fewer than 408 yards and three touchdowns in week 13.

Look, Pac-12, I appreciate your commitment to intraconference parity, but that’s simply not how modern college football works. If you want to fit in, you have to let one school steamroll through the others every year so it can snag the fourth seed and get obliterated by Alabama or Clemson.

Can’t you just be a little more like the Big XII?

Generally well-liked coach has some truly awful takes

Ah, those lovable clipboard-toting goofballs with their big personalities, press conference antics, and tendencies to make cringeworthy, tone-deaf comments.

Maybe it’s mulleted heartthrob Mike Gundy getting called out by one of his athletes for wearing a shirt representing a far-right news network. Perhaps it’s Dabo Swinney taking a break from his “aw, shucks” attitude to claim Florida State used COVID-19 as an excuse to avoid facing Clemson.

Then there’s Mike Leach, the swashbuckling pirate who energizes programs with his patented air raid wherever he goes. Unfortunately, the only thing Leach enjoys throwing more than the football are his own players directly under the bus after a tough loss.

Just wait. If you watch long enough each season, one of these charismatic leaders is bound to pivot from fun uncle to weird uncle.

Unlikely opponent hangs with Alabama for about a quarter and a half

Like a doomed teenage romance, Alabama stoops to the level of the fourth best team in the SEC West, toying with it before suddenly remembering the Crimson Tide is way out of its adversary’s league.

With roughly 10 minutes to go in the second quarter, Alabama does the equivalent of breaking up via text message and walks away without looking back. The recently dumped party, probably one of the Mississippi schools, is left wondering where it went wrong.

What if our receivers were a smidge taller? What if we had spiced things up with a pass longer than six yards every once in a while?

Keeping pace with the Tide for nearly a full half might be your greatest accomplishment that season, but the sad truth is Alabama doesn’t think about you at all.

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