Nov. 21, 2016: Tennessee head coach Butch Jones creates the Life Championship and awards it to his own team, which had entered the year as the SEC East favorite and did not win the SEC East.
Jones on this senior class: "They’ve won the biggest championship – that’s the championship of life"— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 21, 2016
Also Nov. 21, 2016: Everyone makes fun of the Life Championship.
SEC Championship?— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) November 21, 2016
Nah. UT won the Life Championship, per Butch Jones.
( by @TomFornelli, @MinisterofD, @JArnholz) https://t.co/3N2PaQISHt pic.twitter.com/0wTAuYXzBC
Nov 26, 2016: Five days after winning the Life Championship, Tennessee loses it to Vanderbilt.
Dec. 26, 2016: One month after winning the Life Championship, Vanderbilt loses it to NC State in the Independence Bowl. So we updated the title belt:
The Wolfpack are now the Champions of Life for a glorious eight months. Think of the parades and book royalties. They'll defend the strap next against South Carolina, meaning the hardware has a chance to go straight back to the SEC East, which is definitely the most "Champions of Life" division at the moment.
NC State will be good next year, though. And while we were distracted by the win-loss record, NC State was good this year, too. Bill Connelly:
In 2016, NC State took on four teams currently ranked 13th or better in S&P+: Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, and Miami. The Wolfpack went 0-4 in those games, suffering two narrow losses and losing two others by a combined 55.
That they went 7-2 against everybody else makes this a hard season to interpret. A 41-17 win over Vanderbilt further verified the Wolfpack's upside.
Dave Doeren's Wolfpack entered the game 28th in S&P+ despite the 6-6 record, and their Monday performance will give them a chance at a top-25 S&P+ finish. That affirms the job Doeren has been doing; it also adds another twinge of regret for missed opportunities (an overtime loss to Clemson, a 24-20 loss to Florida State) and letdowns (a 33-30 loss to East Carolina and a 21-14 home loss to Boston College).
Regardless, Finley is a sophomore, four of his top five targets are scheduled to return, and a defense that allowed more than 30 points just twice all year will be extremely senior-heavy in 2017. State could be ready to improve even further in 2017.
So Philip Rivers memes might remain the face of the Life Championship for a while.
Also, hours before State won the gold, Jones commented on the reaction to the title:
Butch Jones on champions for life "I want to say 7 college football programs have that motto so when I said it it didn't resonate very well"— Rhiannon Potkey (@TennesseeBeat) December 26, 2016
That wasn't the part everyone was making fun of, but don't let this take away from NC State's moment.
Wait, UConn fired its head coach? Like, now? No, in like a week, to save some money. Wait, what? WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE CIVIL CONFLICT TROPHY?
The grandest moment from Monday's bowls: Maryland getting to the 2-yard line, running 10 plays, and scoring 0 points in the process.
The Quick Lane Bowl did turn out to be stupid fun. Not good, no. Stupid fun, which is far better than good.
Let's look at the country's hottest teams heading into bowl season. I didn't realize Florida State would rank this HOT, but it makes some sense.
Nick Saban compares Washington's secondary to the damn Seattle Seahawks'.
Bob Stoops vs. an SEC team is always a great time, considering the trash he enjoys talking about the conference.
Mark Richt has lost control of the Russell Athletic Bowl, with seven Hurricanes staying home and chatter on Twitter about some staredowns between Miami and West Virginia at a charity event.
It seems Washington State QB Luke Falk is coming back next year, but it's a little hazy.