It began with Joe Burrow, Coach O and an unprecedented LSU run that made college football history, and 2020 ended on an even more unprecedented historical note.
In between, a global pandemic threatened the entire sport and exposed rifts and power imbalances across its landscape.
This was a year of pain and protest, followed by a new era of player empowerment. The summer was a new moment for athlete activism across college campuses, from the #WeAreUnited movement to athletes and activists joining forces to change building names for more inclusive campuses.
Coronavirus restrictions led to staggered schedules, start times and cancellations of games all season long. These are all unforgettable memories.
But as we reminisce now about this past year, let's look back to what felt somewhat normal: the verbal bickering, jabbing at rivals and coachspeak to which we're so accustomed. Here's our attempt at remembering the words that shaped the college football season.
We hope you enjoy and share with your friends, but in the words of Tom Herman, we're "not going to worry about a grown man's tweet count."
"I think that this team is going to be mentioned as one of the greatest teams in college football history, 15-0. One of the greatest teams in LSU history, led by some of the greatest players.''
-- LSU coach Ed Orgeron, in January, after LSU's 42-25 national championship victory over Clemson.
"Either change the flag or I won't be representing this State anymore & I meant that ... I'm tired"
-- Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, whose tweet prompted Bulldogs coach Mike Leach, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin and others to lobby at the state capitol before lawmakers voted to change the Mississippi flag to one that won't feature the symbol of the Confederacy.
"Considering retirement after I was informed the football will be slipping out of my tiny hands. Please keep me in your thoughts."
-- LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, on Twitter, after questions about his hand size at the NFL scouting combine.
"I keep telling people, creativity takes courage. Me singing a song like that takes courage."
-- TCU coach Gary Patterson, on his song, "Game On," about getting back to college football.
"We want to play a Big Ten schedule. I think the only reason we would look at any other options is if for some reason the Big Ten wasn't playing and only a handful of teams from the Big Ten wanted to continue playing. I think if that's the case, I think we're prepared to look at any and all options."
-- Nebraska coach Scott Frost, on Aug. 10, when Big Ten leaders were considering canceling the season.
"We're getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight."
-- Nebraska president Ted Carter, caught on a live mic in September, when there was heavy speculation about the Big Ten potentially reversing course and bringing football back.
"We are so much better on defense right now than any part of the season last year."
-- Orgeron in September, four months prior to the departure of new LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini -- with $5.2 million remaining on his contract -- as the Tigers gave up 34.9 points per game in 2020, up from 13.6 the season before.
"I think on any given Saturday, there are some interesting outcomes that are happening, I can tell you that."
-- Kansas coach Les Miles, in September, on the Sun Belt Conference's three wins over the Big 12.
"You saw what happened last week; you can say we're the best team in Florida."
-- UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel, after Florida State's season-opening 16-13 loss to Georgia Tech, followed by UCF's 49-21 win over the Yellow Jackets.
"This game was not canceled because of COVID. COVID was just an excuse to cancel the game."
-- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, after the Tigers' game at Florida State was canceled when the teams' medical staffs could not agree after a Clemson player who tested positive traveled with the team.
"Football coaches are not doctors. Some of us might think that we are."
-- Florida State coach Mike Norvell, responding to Swinney's comments.
"I have to be honest, I haven't quite gotten the hang of the cutout people in the stands. I mean, that's an episode of 'Twilight Zone.' ... I don't even know how they decide the seating. Do the fake people have a lottery for where they sit? Because I know this, some of those fake people have way better seats than the other ones. ... In these funny times, even a fake person can get screwed. Live clean, live smart, and maybe when you become a fake person, you'll get good seats at the LSU game."
-- Mississippi State's Mike Leach.
"Our hope would be today but could slip into tomorrow. Everybody's exhausted, it's Friday, there's a Georgia game tomorrow, it's a really big one. We have to focus on the important things sometimes."
-- Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, during a ballot-counting update on Nov. 6, the day before the Georgia-Florida game.
"This whole time has been if I can do it, if I'm good enough to do it. It wasn't if I was a girl or not.''
-- Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller, who became the first woman to score a point in a Power 5 game.
"I'm like, 'Dang, I feel like I was kind of athletic, you know? Rece Davis? It kind of hurt my feelings."
-- Northwestern defensive end Earnest Brown IV, on Joey Galloway talking about Northwestern appearing outmanned during a segment on ESPN, saying, "Honestly, they've got a bunch of Rece Davises running around out there."
Vanderbilt's Sarah Fuller: Her story is history
Soccer star Sarah Fuller and the college sports community reflect on the moment that she became the first woman to compete in Power 5 football.
"The opening statement is we got our ass kicked."
-- Miami coach Manny Diaz, after No. 10 Miami's 62-26 loss to North Carolina.
"Trust me, I don't think it looks good. I just think it's funny."
-- Nebraska wide receiver Kade Warner, the son of former NFL QB Kurt Warner, on his impressive mustache.
"I think they're [more] worried about growing mustaches than playing football."
-- Iowa kicker Keith Duncan after beating Nebraska 26-20 for the Hawkeyes' sixth consecutive victory over the Cornhuskers.
"Every time I've played golf with [Georgia coach] Kirby Smart, he's the only guy who always finds his ball in the woods. Always."
-- Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt.
"For the record -- I don't play golf with 25-plus-handicap golfers."
-- Smart, on Twitter, after Pruitt's quote made the rounds.
"When you don't get on the internet and you stick to Yahoo News and Words with Friends and the Chive app when you're bored, you tend to stay above the fray a little bit."
-- Texas coach Tom Herman, on rumors about his job status (and his app usage).
"I'm not gonna worry about a grown man's tweet count."
-- Herman, on being asked whether it bothers him when athletic director Chris Del Conte doesn't tweet about a football victory.
"It's unreal. I'm representing something different. Having this nameplate on my back is really cool. When I first saw it -- my tears coming out right now. So exciting. I can't believe it."
-- Arizona State running back Jackson He, the first Chinese-born player to score a touchdown in FBS history, whose name in Chinese lettering on his jersey was a surprise from Sun Devils equipment managers.
"I love Michael Jackson. My last name in English is like 'HEE!' And you know Michael Jackson did that 'HEE!'"
-- He, whose real name is Peizhang He, on how he chose his Americanized first name.
"I have no interest in going back to Florida State."
-- Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall, on whether he would like to reschedule a game against FSU after the Cavaliers traveled to Tallahassee only to see the game canceled on the day it was to be played.
"Good game Nebraska. Thanks for bringing back B1G football."
-- A since-deleted tweet from Illinois Athletics after the Illini's 41-23 victory over Nebraska. Weeks later, Minnesota's Gopher Sports Twitter account sent the same message after the Golden Gophers' 24-17 win over the Huskers.
"As much as I hate it, I love it."
-- Les Miles, on the analytics his Kansas staff uses to decide whether to go for it on fourth down or for a two-point conversion.
"I am a vacuuming fool, and I am a bathroom-cleaning fool. And [athletic director Mike] Holder tries to save money, so I clean my own office and I clean my own bathroom that's in my office."
-- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, after joking that he could see a reporter vacuuming his house during a video call.
"I don't know if I'll ever play in a ballgame that ranks with the Cheez-It Bowl."
-- TCU coach Gary Patterson, on how a 33-31 victory over Texas with 26 combined penalties compared to the Horned Frogs' 10-7 win over Cal in the 2018 bowl game, when the teams combined to throw nine interceptions.
"It's five-star culture vs. five-star players."
-- Iowa State RB Breece Hall, after Iowa State's 23-20 win over Texas.
"Tell the baby 'Hook 'em' for me."
-- Tom Herman, after a reporter's crying baby interrupted a postgame video call.
"Well I don't play and he doesn't play, so we'd have a better chance if that was the case. I don't think he can cover me."
-- Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, on "The Dan Patrick Show," on if Ole Miss-Alabama was a Kiffin vs. Nick Saban matchup.
"I think he's probably right. I guess what I would ask is, when he's my age, what's he going to do? It's a little bit of a disadvantage to be my age [68 at the time] and have had a hip replacement, but I still pride myself on my ability to cover. I just don't think I can cover him."
-- Saban, a former Kent State defensive back, answering a question about Kiffin's quote.
"I wanted to say what I learned from my mentor: That if you guys are going to keep asking this, I'm going to have to tell you, 'I'm not going to be the head coach at Alabama,' OK? So stop asking me."
-- Kiffin, being asked about his interest in the Auburn job while mocking Nick Saban in 2006, when he was the Miami Dolphins' coach and said, "I guess I have to say it: I'm not going to be the Alabama coach." Saban became the Alabama coach two weeks later. Kiffin did not become the Auburn coach.
"We figured we'd take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here."
-- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who called three timeouts on the Hawkeyes' final drive, up 35-7, after Minnesota called timeout to try to score a touchdown on the previous drive during the rivals' battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy named after, and shaped like, a pig.
"BECAUSE I CAN"
-- San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel, who formerly started at Texas A&M and Arkansas, responding to a tweet (without @ing Starkel, BTW) that said: "[WHY IS NICK STARKEL STILL PLAYING COLLEGE FOOTBALL LMAO]."
"I guess I could channel George Orwell, 'Animal Farm': 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.'"
-- American Athletic Conference commissioner Michael Aresco on the College Football Playoff system ranking undefeated Group of 5 teams so low.
"That'll be a quick study for us, because there's only six [games]."
-- Swinney on studying tape for Clemson's game against Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Dear Santa,— Leon O'Neal Jr 🛌 (@WakeEmUp9) December 26, 2020
Next Christmas 🎄........
I wish I can only play 6 games and go to the CFP ❤️
Love, Leon 🙏🏾
"We are about as 2020 a story as you can think of. We have a lot of fun. I think people need some fun right now. But we also aren't just about mullets and crazy locker room celebrations. We're pretty good at football, too."
-- Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell, about his then-undefeated Chanticleers.
"Unsportsmanlike conduct, throwing the LSU player's shoe 20 yards down the field."
-- Official James Carter, assessing a penalty in the Florida-LSU game. After a third-down stop, Florida defensive back Marco Wilson celebrated by throwing tight end Kole Taylor's shoe, well, 20 yards down the field. Six plays later, Cade York hit a 57-yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining to give the Tigers a 37-34 victory over the No. 6 Gators.
"He made the tackle. Part of the football move, the kid's shoe was in his hand and he kind of threw it and jumped and celebrated with his teammates."
-- Florida coach Dan Mullen's assessment of why the shoe was thrown so far.
"Oklahoma is a good matchup but they're not on our level. They're not SEC. They're not the Florida Gators. So we should put on a good show."
-- Florida LB James Houston IV on playing Oklahoma in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
"Glad 2020's over. Can we end the pandemic? ... Ready for 2021."
-- Houston coach Dana Holgorsen, who saw eight games canceled this season, after the Cougars lost to Hawai'i 28-14 in the 2020 New Mexico Bowl, which was played in Frisco, Texas.