When the SEC Basketball Tournament was canceled along with the college baseball season in mid-March, it was an incredibly odd and unsettling feeling. To experience the month of March without any Madness in the form of a buzzer beater or Cinderella story was definitely disheartening. 

However, I think we all understood the reasoning, especially in the moment and seemingly looked at it as a collective sacrifice we all made. A once-in-a-lifetime sacrifice I absolutely expected to usher back in some form of normalcy. Then, as the months progressed and the situation continued to look dire, there began to be legitimate conversations about a cancelation of the college football season. 

I love the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Millions of people love the NCAA Basketball Tournament but not nearly as much as I, and millions of others, love college football. It was unfortunate and disappointing not to be able to see the Final Four. It would have been unthinkable and depressing not to be able to watch college football this fall.

I realize Auburn hasn’t played a game yet and there have been several minor outbreaks at some SEC schools, but those teams are dealing with it and preparations are continuing to be made. This season is going to be a major challenge as everyone continues to understand. 

There are probably going to be some strange matchups along the way. There will be games we thought would be extremely competitive that end up as blowouts and games we never gave a second thought that end up being extremely competitive. 

Mississippi State travels to Baton Rouge to take on LSU in the season opener. Three weeks ago, that looked like a laugher, but LSU seems to lose another quality player every day and the Bulldogs are hungry for an upset. A lot of pundits crowned Georgia transfer QB Jamie Newman the best quarterback in the SEC. He, rather surprisingly, chose to opt out last week. Does that automatically make Florida the favorite in the East now? Who knows? It’s going to be a crazy year and Sept. 26 cannot get here fast enough.

While it will be a few more weeks until the SEC kicks off, FBS football got underway this past weekend. It hasn’t exactly been a “Who’s Who” of college athletics or the highest quality execution, but it’s football and I’m not complaining. UAB got off to a good start defeating Central Arkansas and South Alabama won its first road game since 2017 upsetting Southern Miss. 

Next week is when things start to get a lot more interesting. The ACC and Big 12 will begin their seasons. They both decided to play one out-of-conference game along with a conference schedule. Of course, the Big 12 only has 10 teams (it’s not big on math) so it’s playing nine conference games plus one. The ACC will play an 11-game schedule with 10 conference games plus one. The crowds have been sparse, the masks have been aplenty and the teams have noticeably not been Power-5. 

Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care. Welcome back, college football.

Andy Graham is a regular columnist for The Outlook.