Some Non-Con Rivalries Should Stay Amid Conference-Only CFB

David Visser

The last couple days have significantly altered how a 2020 college football season could look. Like the Big Ten, the ACC could be destined for an abbreviated, conference-only schedule, and we've already examined what that could entail. 

We all want the 2020 college football season, assuming there is one, to be conducted in as safe a manner as is possible. So I get why restricting teams to their respective conference footprints makes sense. Canceling novel non-conference games between programs separated by vast geographical distances seems logical. 

Florida State vs. Boise State. Michigan vs. Washington. Ohio State vs. Oregon. We'd all love to watch these contests, but the prospective risks associated with the travel required for these intriguing matchups is obvious. Flights, hotels, and the people involved in facilitating such services are apparent. 

But on the same token, some of the safest games that could be played are those that fans embrace most and pump the lifeblood through college football: those featuring in-state, non-conference rivals, typically located within a tight proximity. 

Take the Seminole and Gators. FSU's closest ACC foe is Georgia Tech, in Atlanta-- more than a four-hour drive away. And the 'Noles and Yellow Jackets aren't even scheduled to play this season (a crime in and of itself, frankly). Which means Florida State's nearest ACC road-trip would be to Miami Gardens to face the Hurricanes: 471 miles away and a drive of about seven hours. Or, more likely, a flight. Also on FSU's itinerary, assuming an ACC-only schedule, would be trips to Raleigh (619 miles), Louisville (664 miles), and Syracuse (1,235 miles). 

But Florida State retaining its traditional post-Thanksgiving date with SEC-rival UF, this year scheduled for Tallahassee, would entail just a two-hour bus ride from Gainesville for the Gators, followed by the same quick trip back. No jets. No hotels. And the Sunshine State Showdown, a rivalry played every single year since it began in 1958, continues. 

Tallahassee and Gainesville are separated by only 152 miles, and several other in-state, non-conference rivalries (including some great ACC-SEC traditions) can claim similar proximities. Georgia Tech and Georgia are just 72 miles apart. Only 99 miles are between Louisville and Kentucky. And Clemson and South Carolina? 130 miles. 

Farther west, Iowa and Iowa State are only 129 miles apart, and the Rocky Mountain Showdown, typically played in Denver between Colorado and Colorado State, sees the Buffs and Rams travel a scant 28 and 63 miles, respectively. 

COVID-19 doesn't know conference affiliations-- but it loves large groups of people traveling great distances. Let's curtail that, while retaining some great college football traditions, by prioritizing these fantastic rivalries among neighbors.

Post-Publication Update:

It looks like the SEC is of the same mind as me, as this came out later in the day I originally ran this piece:

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