The 2020 college football season remains ominous amidst the continued surge of the coronavirus across the country. However, if there is in fact to be a season, a Power Five conference, the Big Ten, has announced their plan to strictly play conference schedules to help reduce further risk associated with the virus.
Unfortunately, this means there will be a multitude of highly anticipated matchups that will be cancelled, as both conferences were very active in scheduling non-conference opponents this season. Ohio State-Oregon, Michigan-Washington, Wisconsin-Notre Dame, Michigan State-Miami, Iowa-Iowa State, and Penn State-Virginia Tech will all be postponed indefinitely, as it remains to be seen whether or not these games will be made up at a later date.
These non-conference matchups often serve as telling barometers for these top-rated programs, so it is disappointing to see these opportunities go to waste. It is still unclear how this ruling will impact Notre Dame, as they’re one of the only independent programs in the country — meaning they’re not affiliated with any conference. Their schedule is typically rooted in the ACC, who is also expected to go conference-only, but there’s plenty of other matchups that will have to get sorted out as we inch closer to the fall.
College Football Playoff Implications
Since it appears inevitable the rest of the Power Five conferences will follow suit with this plan, it is important to recognize how this conference-oriented schedule will impact the college football playoff (CFP) selection process.
As mentioned before, these early season games are huge resume-boosters for teams with playoff aspirations, as it shows a program’s willingness to schedule tougher opponents whom they are not obligated to play against. It can often be the deciding factor when comparing end-of-season resumes, and gives the committee a better sense of how a team stacks up to the rest of the country.
For the ACC’s sake, if they do officially announce the news, it probably won’t make much of a difference this season, as Clemson has a stranglehold on the conference. However, Clemson was originally slated to travel to South Bend this November for a game against Notre Dame, and now it is unclear as to whether or not it’ll take place.
This would not only be a huge game for both programs, but a huge game for the NCAA, as these are two of the top brands in college football. Notre Dame has a total of five games against the ACC this season, so hopefully something can be worked out so their schedule can stay mostly intact.
On the other hand, the Big Ten will have a much easier time surviving this directive given the number of good programs in the conference. These teams will still have plenty of opportunity to prove themselves on the biggest of stages, as they’re currently considered one of the best conferences in college football. The only slight difference is that they will have a much tougher time getting two teams in the playoff field since they’re all going to beat up on each other.
This schedule will make it so each conference will have a more equal shot at making the playoff, which is something the committee has tried to ‘impose’ in years past. It is safe to assume this announcement will be administered across all NCAA conferences, as this seems like the safest, and most realistic way of ensuring there is a 2020 college football season.