Each of the Power Five conferences have announced amended schedules for the 2020 season that either remove non-conference games entirely or, in the cases of the ACC and Big 12, allow for one non-league game.
The conferences that have moved forward in the face of the coronavirus pandemic have offered variations on a similar theme: fewer games, all within a familiar footprint, played over enough time to allow for scheduling flexibility.
Here’s where things stand across the Power Five:
The ACC will allow games to begin the week of Monday, Sept. 7, which is Labor Day, “if public health guidance allows.” (Every conference has included the caveat that these plans are subject to change due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.) Unlike other Power Five leagues, the ACC will team 10 conference games with one non-conference game that “must be played in the home state of the ACC institution.”
In all, the games will be played over a 13-week season with two open dates, moving the ACC championship game to either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19 in the customary location of Charlotte, North Carolina. Since the ACC will compete as one large division instead of the customary two, the championship will pit the two teams with the best winning percentage in conference games.
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Most interestingly, the ACC will also bring in Notre Dame as a conference member for the 2020 season, meaning the Fighting Irish will play the same 10-game league schedule and be eligible for the ACC title. The program has famously never been a member of a conference.
The Big 12 was the last to join the other Power Five leagues in announcing a schedule built to be flexible in the face of COVID-19. The Big 12 will play nine conference games and allow every conference member to play one home game outside of league play. Two teams, Oklahoma and Kansas, are scheduled to face opponents from the Championship Subdivision on Aug. 29.
As the first conference to ditch any plans for a traditional schedule, doing so on July 9, the Big Ten set a blueprint that’s been followed by three other Power Five leagues.
All that’s left is the schedule itself: Big Ten programs are still waiting to see when they’ll play — and who, since adding another game to the schedule would mean an additional crossover game between the East and West divisions.
The Pac-12 announced a conference-only schedule one day after the Big Ten. Likewise, the Pac-12 has yet to issue a season schedule or confirm exactly how many games will be played and when the season will begin.
Adding a 10th game would again require teams to play another opponent from across the opposite division. Which raises one final unknown for both the Pac-12 and Big Ten: Will these leagues follow the example of the ACC and eliminate divisions?
One difference between the two situations is that adding Notre Dame gave the ACC an uneven number of teams; besides, how could the league have picked which division to place the Irish?
Teams will play a 10-game schedule against fellow SEC opponents with the season set to begin on Sept. 26, nearly a month later than originally planned, the conference announced Thursday.
The conference championship game, held in Atlanta, will be moved from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19, allowing for “one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on December 12,” the league said.
While the ACC’s choice to allow that single non-conference game maintained hope that some of college football’s most intense rivalries could still be played in 2020, the SEC’s conference-only schedule eliminates games between South Carolina and Clemson, Florida and Florida State, and Georgia and Georgia Tech. The latter rivalry, known as “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” has been played 113 times since 1893 and continuously since 1925.