From Georgia’s national title win to shocking coaching changes, 2021 college football season was a wild one


INDIANAPOLIS — The celebration in Athens, Georgia, was as big as Widespread Panic ’98, Kirby Smart said. Wait, what’s Widespread Panic ’98?


“Google it,” said an indignant Stetson Bennett, the quarterback who largely orchestrated Georgia’s first national championship in 41 years, sending a gush of emotion through the Athens streets Monday night.


We did. Turns out the reference is from a legendary free open-air concert held a quarter century ago by a band that lives in the hearts of Athenians just like their latest national title.


“First thing I thought of was Widespread Panic,” Smart said. “I was like … there’s people on signs. There’s people on poles. You can’t see the street. I was pretty blown away. Hopefully, everybody is safe.”


Twenty-five years ago, Smart was headed toward his senior season as a defensive back at Georgia. Who knows, he might have been part of the crowd that day? Not so secondarily, who would have thought that a Widespread Panic reference would be used to describe the widespread joy Dawg Nation is experiencing?


These are among the who-would-have-thunk-it moments that populated the 2021 college football season.


Somehow, football intervened in a year in which college athletics were redefined by the U.S. Supreme Court and the NCAA stood down, letting name, image and likeness rights spread unchecked. The transfer portal became such a tool it created staff positions on programs across the country just to monitor it.


As for the College Football Playoff National Championship, we knew Georgia was good, especially the defense. We didn’t know it would be the sixth team since 2001 to play for a national title without winning its conference.


“If we’d beaten them the first…

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