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Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Updated: January 19, 8:45 AM ET
Expansion, upsets mark 2010 season

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Before the 2010 college football season even kicked off, the Big Ten had 12 teams and the Big 12 had 10.

Jim Delany
Jim Delany and the Big Ten started the expansion wheel spinning.

Expansion and realignment threatened to blow up the sport this past summer, and college football fans around the country were anxiously awaiting the next domino to fall.

Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are bigger and presumably better, but the Big 12 and Big East survived after major threats to their existence.

When expansion's dust finally settled, Colorado and Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Pac-10 and Big Ten, respectively; TCU joined the Big East; and the Mountain West added Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii, after losing Utah to the Pac-10 and BYU to independence.

Amazingly, college football's tumultuous offseason seemed like only a ripple once the games actually started.

The 2010 season opened with Alabama defending its BCS national championship.

It ended with rival Auburn winning its first national championship in more than a half-century.

The season started with traditional powers such as Florida State, Notre Dame, Tennessee and USC sporting new coaches.

It ended with Florida, Miami and Michigan hiring new coaches.

The season began with Georgia star A.J. Green serving a four-game suspension for selling an Independence Bowl jersey for some quick cash.

It ended with Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four other Buckeyes facing five-game suspensions in 2011 for swapping memorabilia for something far more permanent -- free tattoos.

Frank Beamer
Frank Beamer and the Hokies experienced a rough start in 2010.

The season started with Boise State ranked No. 3 in the country, but howls about a schedule littered with the "Little Sisters of the Poor."

It ended with the Broncos playing in a non-BCS bowl game because they couldn't win in the "Biggest Little City in the World."

No. 1 Alabama lost at South Carolina 35-21 in Week 6; No. 1 Ohio State fell at Wisconsin 31-18 in Week 7; and No. 1 Oklahoma lost at Missouri 36-27 in Week 9.

Texas lost in weeks 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13.

Virginia Tech was a top-10 team until it lost to Boise State 33-30 on a last-minute touchdown pass on Labor Day night.

Five days later, the Hokies were a Bottom 10 team after losing to FCS foe James Madison 21-16.

Tennessee lost to LSU 16-14 because the Volunteers had too many players on the field.

The Volunteers lost to North Carolina 30-27 in the Music City Bowl because the Tar Heels had too many players on the field.

LSU coach Les Miles ate a few blades of grass.

A few Iowa players smoked a much different variety of grass.

Tennessee didn't miss former coach Lane Kiffin, who bolted for USC after only one season.

Kiffin might have missed Tennessee after the NCAA hammered the Trojans with a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships.

A Michigan quarterback nicknamed "Shoelace" was the Heisman Trophy favorite in the first month of the season.

Cam Newton
Cam Newton carried Auburn to the BCS title.

Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton won the Heisman Trophy -- and a BCS national championship -- even after his daddy apparently wanted more than a new pair of shoes.

The Big Ten gave us three co-champions and something called "Legends and Leaders."

Defending ACC champion Georgia Tech went 6-7; defending Big 12 champion Texas went 5-7; and defending Big East champion Cincinnati went 4-8.

TCU won the Rose Bowl. Oklahoma won a BCS bowl. Ohio State beat an SEC team in a bowl.

The rest of the Big Ten had a New Year's Day to forget, going 0-for-5 in bowls on the first day of 2011.

Notre Dame and Army played a football game at Yankee Stadium.

Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field proved to an interesting site for Illinois-Northwestern.

Illinois and Northwestern played with what looked like "losers walk" rules at Wrigley Field.

Oregon fascinated the country with its high-octane spread offense, scoring 40 or more points in 10 of 13 games.

Michigan disgusted its fan base with its porous defense, allowing 30 or more points in nine of 13 games.

Florida coach Urban Meyer retired for the second time at the ripe age of 45.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 84, is getting ready for season No. 46.

Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp got tired of waiting for Mack Brown to retire and bolted for Florida.

West Virginia apparently can't wait for Bill Stewart to retire and hired Dan Holgorsen as his eventual successor.

The 2010 season ended eight days ago.

And we're still trying to catch our breath.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. He co-authored Bobby Bowden's memoir, "Called To Coach," which was published by Simon & Schuster. The book is available in stores and can be ordered here. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.