Technically speaking, the game of college football never left. Teams of college students gathered to compete against their peers from other institutions in the game of football in the fall of 2020 and the spring of '21, and the efforts of the players, coaches and staff to make the 2020-21 season happen should never be minimized or forgotten.
But for the first time in nearly two calendar years, the sport of college football is back. The fans in the stands. The bands marching at halftime. The aroma of grilled sausage wafting through the parking lot.
And in the most welcome addition since 2020, the entire football world has joined the party for this fall's season. This isn't just an FBS-and-friends affair. Everyone is playing -- even the Ivy League (though not until Sept. 18).
In fact, the 2021 season began Thursday night with the Paint Bucket Rivalry, when Valley City State defeated the University of Jamestown, 24-7.
"It's good to be back," opened Valley City State's official game recap.
Yes, my friends, it is.
Here's a look at the full schedule for Week 0 in college football.
Nebraska at Illinois -- 1 p.m. ET, Fox. Bret Bielema's debut at Illinois, but the focus is on Scott Frost and Nebraska. If it's possible for a Week 0 game to be a must-win, this is it.
UConn at Fresno State -- 2 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. UConn's first game since Nov. 30, 2019.
Hawai'i at UCLA -- 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. An important tuneup game for Chip Kelly's Bruins before the Tigahs of LSU visit the Rose Bowl next week.
UTEP at New Mexico State -- 9:30 p.m. ET. New Mexico State has won three straight in this I-10 rivalry.
Southern Utah at San Jose State -- 10 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. Brent Brennan's crew begins its defense of the program's first Mountain West title.
Eastern Illinois at Indiana State -- 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Alcorn State vs. North Carolina Central (at Atlanta) -- 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. GameDay will be on hand at Center Parc Stadium to ring in the new season.
Kentucky State at Central State (Ohio) -- 3 p.m. ET. The Classic for Columbus kicks off the 2021 D2 season begins at the Horseshoe after neither program competed in 2020.
No games. The division that played the fewest games in 2020 will be the last to join the party in 2021.
A nearly full schedule for Week 0, so full we might have to call it Week 1. Let's split the difference and consider this Week 0.5.
Arkansas Baptist at Tabor (Kan.)
Central Methodist (Mo.) at Grand View (Iowa)
Mayville State (N.D.) at Roosevelt (Ill.)
Iowa Wesleyan at St. Ambrose (Iowa)
Evangel (Mo.) at Clarke (Iowa)
Sterling (Kan.) at Midland (Neb.)
College of Idaho at Montana State-Northern
Carroll (Mont.) at Montana Western
Florida Memorial at Edward Waters (Fla.)
Lyon (Ark.) at Missouri Baptist
North American (Texas) at Louisiana College
Missouri Valley at Peru State (Neb.)
Briar Cliff (Iowa) at Waldorf (Iowa)
Madonna (Mich.) at Lawrence Tech (Mich.)
Northwestern (Iowa) at Presentation (S.D.)
MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) at Graceland (Iowa)
Benedictine (Kan.) at William Penn (Iowa)
Baker (Kan.) at Culver-Stockton (Mo.)
Eastern Oregon at Montana Tech
Dakota State (S.D.) at Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.)
Personally, our friend Doug's Comstock Park (Mich.) High School team won their opener on Thursday night. I'm going to a high school game tonight, my 3rd grade and Kindergarten boys have games Saturday, and football will be on television all Saturday afternoon and night.
Glory, glory, hallelujah. Football is back.