OPINION: After an offseason unlike any other, college football is finally back

The football team attempts a field goal in its game against Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Nov. 18, 2017. (Archive Photo by Cooper Kinley | Collegian Media Group)

You wake up on a Saturday in the fall, the leaves are falling, there is a chill in the air, and the centerpiece of it all? Your favorite college football team is kicking-off in a few minutes.

Just a month ago, that final piece of a person’s Saturday in the fall was in jeopardy as the Mid-American Conference became the first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to postpone their football season due to COVID-19 concerns.

That postponement started a domino effect that almost killed the entire 2020 college football season.

The Mountain West Conference called off their season next, and then the big news — The Big Ten and the Pac-12 had both postponed their seasons in the hopes of salvaging a spring season.

As questions swirled around the other conferences that hadn’t made the call yet, the fate of the 2020 fall season rested in the hands of the Big 12 Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference.

Their decision? Play ball.

Since that decision, nine college football games have been played, starting last Saturday, Aug. 29, with a Football Championship Subdivision matchup between Austin Peay and Central Arkansas.

The game started with a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the college football season by Austin Peay’s true freshman running back CJ Evans and ended with a 10-yard game-winning touchdown pass by Central Arkansas with 34 seconds to play.

If that game is any indication for what college football could look like this season, we’re in for a treat.

Even with football being back, there are still plenty of changes to adapt to with COVID-19 still at the forefront of the world we live in today.

Everyone from fans to cheerleaders and even the band are spread out in stadiums across the country, with many stadiums deciding to just allow a quarter of normal capacity inside and face masks being required. This will definitely make the experience different.

The referees on the field have also done away with whistles to avoid the spread of saliva. Instead, they are going with electronic whistles that are activated by touch. This has not worked out very well since the electronic whistles are not nearly as loud as a regular whistle, leading to players getting hit after the whistle is blown. An increase in volume with the electronic whistles is going to have to be implemented soon to avoid any more issues.

Players and coaches on the sidelines were also seen wearing face masks, primarily neck gaiters. Distancing was also visible — made easier by extending the player boxes from the 25-yard line to the 15-yard line.

Neck gaiters were still taken down below the mouth and players still got relatively close with each other on the sidelines though. It will be interesting to see if stricter rules will be put in place as the season goes on with that issue.

Each conference has different rules on how many times COVID testing will be done per week, with some conferences deciding to test three times a week — like the Big 12. Players must test negative for COVID-19 to play, and if multiple players and staff test positive, games can be postponed.

This was the case for the SMU and TCU matchup scheduled for next Saturday after multiple TCU players and staff members tested positive for the virus.

There will also be fewer games on a college football Saturday than usual, fewer non-conference matchups and more conference clashes since most conferences have decided to play a schedule mostly made up of conference games.

While these new changes are going to be different, it is something that people are going to have to adapt to as this is the new normal for college football this season. Even with the changes, the game on the field is still the same for the most part.

This week brought multiple great highlights to start the season, from Frank Gore Jr. getting his start with Southern Mississippi on Thursday evening, to a record-setting debut for Marshall quarterback Grant Wells who threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns in the Thundering Herd’s victory over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.

Fans of college football also saw one of the catches of the year in just week one as Texas State wide receiver Jeremiah Haydel had a one-handed catch in the back of the endzone against SMU on Saturday.

Wildcat fans got a chance to see what their week one opponent looks like on the field as well with Arkansas State matched up with Memphis in the primetime game on Saturday night. Memphis took down the Red Wolves 37-24 in a hard-fought game, showing that Arkansas State could be a tougher test for the Wildcats next week than fans originally thought.

Even under all the circumstances, it was great to see action on the gridiron over the weekend. With more games happening next week, including the start of the NFL season and the Wildcats home opener, it might be safe to say that football is back.

It’s back for now, at least.

Cameron Bradley is the Collegian sports editor and a senior in journalism and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

Hey! I’m Cameron Bradley and I am the sports editor for the Collegian! I am a junior from Wichita, Kansas, and I am majoring in journalism. When I’m not working for the Collegian, I’m creating content and putting on broadcasts with K-StateHD.TV. I am also currently a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. I love sports, spending time with friends, family and doing everything that I do for the glory of God!