Crimson Corner: A Solution to Conference-Only Play
Ok, so hear me out.
Last week, both the Big Ten and the PAC-12 conferences announced that they will be switching to conference-only schedules due to the novel coronavirus.
As of the writing of this story, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is holding a meeting in Birmingham, Ala. with the athletic directors of the conference to discuss their options heading into the fall.
The ACC and the Big 12 have not reached a final decision, with the ACC saying that they will have a decision by the end of July, just over a month before college football is scheduled to kick off.
Things don’t look good.
With two of the Power Five conferences having announced conference-only schedules, it is only a matter of time before the other three conferences announce the same. Why? Because with the other conferences canceling their games with non conference opponents, the remaining games need not be played due to their lack of importance.
Alabama is a prime example of this. With the PAC-12 canceling non conference games, the Crimson Tide’s 2020 season opener against USC on Sept. 5 is scrapped. Now, take a look at Alabama’s other non conference games: Georgia State, Kent State, UT-Martin.
Doesn’t exactly sound like those games are worth it, does it?
With non conference play essentially in limbo, there are still many options that the SEC, ACC and Big 12 can consider. For one, they could keep non conference play alive and simply reschedule opponents from the other conferences.
For example, back when California was in the midst of its worst coronavirus outbreak, rumors were circulating that Alabama’s matchup with USC was going to be canceled, and the Crimson Tide would instead play TCU. Those rumors were put to rest when Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne repeatedly insisted that the USC was still on, but now a game against an opponent like TCU could be a viable option.
However, with the massive amount of rescheduling, it would be a difficult task for each team to fill its schedule with opponents on such short notice.
There’s also the question of the College Football Playoff.
With two of the Power Five now dedicated to conference-only play, what new metrics will the committee have to use to gauge the strength of schedules? Clemson is a prime example of this, with its two best games of the year both being non conference games against Notre Dame and South Carolina, which are now both up in limbo. How could a committee determine that Clemson is a top-10 team when it hasn’t played a single tough opponent?
My solution is a complicated on, but it would work.
For the 2020 season, restructure all Power Five schedules to 10 conference-only games. From there, play a conference championship game with the two top teams of each conference, be it like the SEC with two regular-season division winners, or like the Big 12 where the top two teams play in the game.
Each conference champion automatically gets a bid into the CFP, and the committee selects three at-large teams to fill in the gaps and create an eight-team playoff.
With only ten games, the college football regular season would end sometime around Thanksgiving, including the conference championships.
Now, with a vaccine being promised by the end of 2020 or early 2021, hold off on the actual playoff until January. This gives teams ample time to prepare for the expanded playoff format as well as regroup after an interesting season. Host the playoff in late January after the vaccine has been administered, ensuring player and fan safety.
This year has thrown many curveballs at college sports, and at the end of it all many of us just want college football back in our lives. My solution is far from perfect and will never come to the light of day, but at the same time it is fun to speculate the wide array of options that could potentially happen with college football in 2020.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.