As the days start getting closer to summer and fall, and with states like Georgia attempting to re-open and curves being flattened, the possibility that college football will be played in 2020 looks more and more likely, although we don’t really know what a college football season would look like. The possibility of having no fans for games would suck, because well, you cannot replicate that awesome feeling of gameday, especially Between the Hedges, with no fans. In addition, a spring football season would suck, because it would delay us from sports even more and there would be uncertainties about what NFL Draft prospects would do. However, I am going to propose three possible ideas that a coronavirus-impacted college football season could do that definitely wouldn’t suck.
Idea 1: Delayed Fall Season, but games and fans are non-impacted
This impact would have fans being able to attend games, and all games are played, just delayed. For simplicity sake, let’s say the season was delayed exactly four weeks, so instead of starting on Labor Day weekend, we would start the first week of October.
The question in this scenario is what would we do with the four games on the front-end. The options are shift the entire schedule, or put those games on the back-end of the schedule. Using Georgia’s schedule this is how those two scenarios would play out:
|Shift entire schedule||Put games on back-end|
|10/3||vs. Virginia (Atlanta)||Vanderbilt|
|10/10||East Tennessee State||Auburn|
|10/17||at Alabama||at Missouri|
|10/31||Vanderbilt||vs. Florida (Jacksonville)|
|11/7||Auburn||at South Carollina|
|11/21||BYE WEEK||at Kentucky|
|11/28||vs. Florida (Jacksonville)||Georgia Tech|
|12/5||at South Carolina||vs. Virginia (Atlanta)|
|12/12||Tennessee||East Tennessee State|
|12/19||at Kentucky||at Alabama|
|1/2||SEC Championship||SEC Championship|
As seen from the table, each scenario has its pros and cons about it. A shifted entire schedule wouldn’t change much, but it would keep the traditional rivalry weekend in tact for UGA, as the Florida game would move to Thanksgiving weekend. Frat Beach on Black Friday? Who say’s no? Also, an entire shifted schedule would put the Auburn game back in November, as God intended it to be. Also, how fun would it be to play Tech on Christmas weekend? However, playing in Lexington in mid-December would probably be a cold one for the Dawgs.
In terms of putting the four games on the back-end, that would mean UGA would open up with seven straight conference games, including Auburn in Week 2 and Florida in Week 5. Would that give Jamie Newman, Todd Monken, and Co. enough time to wrinkle out the new offense? UGA’s first non-conference game would be Georgia Tech, how crazy is that? This would also put Alabama in week 12, which means Alabama and Georgia could end up playing one another twice in a span of three weeks. I’m sure CBS would salivate at that opportunity, but would Kirby and Saban? And how many UGA fans would change up their Christmas routine to go watch ULM?
However, the fun for college football fans would lie in what happens at the end of the season. With the shifted schedule, rivalry week goes to Christmas weekend and conference championship weekend goes to New Years Weekend. The way the calendar works, both Christmas Day and New Years Day falls on a Friday. With the holidays, you could have back-to-back weekends of two days jammed with football. Although Christmas Day wouldn’t have as many games as Black Friday due to the fact it is Christmas, TV networks would be running to show some high-profile games with millions of people at home. ABC/ESPN would be busy with the NBA, in what would probably be the first day for NBA action following a delayed start to the 2020-21 season assuming they get the Playoffs in come July and August, but CBS and Fox could have the Iron Bowl and The Game, for example, sitting there to be seen to millions of people at home.
Also, the idea of conference championship games on New Years Weekend would be great, because you could spread out all Power 5 conference championships. On Friday, January 1, the SEC could continue its 4pm kickoff tradition in lieu of the Rose Bowl on CBS, and the Big Ten could then play its 8pm kickoff game in lieu of the Sugar Bowl on Fox. On Saturday, January 2. The Big 12 (ABC), Pac 12 (Fox), and ACC (ABC) could all have an action-packed 12, 4, 8 triple-header.
In terms of the College Football Playoff, conference championship weekend would be on a non-delayed NFL Week 17, so you could easily work around the NFL playoffs. Semifinals on the Saturday of NFL Conference Championship Week, and then two weeks later the National Championship on the Saturday before the Super Bowl. Those would be the two greatest weekends in football history, and you know it.
Idea 2: The SEC goes rogue and only plays in-conference
This is probably the craziest idea of the bunch, and it probably wouldn’t come close to happening, but it is probably the most fun alternative of the bunch. In this scenario, let’s say governors of some states like California and New York shuts down the idea of college football, but the governors of the SEC footprint do not. The NCAA can’t hold a full season, but who says the individual conferences can’t? May I present to you the 13-game, round-robin, SEC schedule. 14 weeks, 13 games, nothing but SEC vs. SEC action.
In this scenario, I had to shift some divisional games, like Florida vs. South Carolina and Georgia vs. Kentucky into their traditional ACC rivalry spot. Also, to make the schedule work, some other games, like Arkansas vs. Auburn and Kentucky vs. Florida got shifted. Weeks 1, 2, and 14 are exclusively inter-division games. Weeks 1 and 2 due to the traditional spot of non-conference kickoff games and cupcakes, and Week 14 due to everyone having an open spot that week. Under this scenario, Georgia would open up with road trips to Baton Rouge and Alabama in the first two weeks of the season.
The only problem with a 13-game schedule is that some teams would have 7 home games and some teams would only have 6. Also, Georgia and Texas A&M are the designated home teams for their conference neutral site games, and it wouldn’t work if they were slotted for 6 “home” games and only had 5 true home games out of 13. Also, how the home games are divided between the additional games could pose to be an issue. In my model, I didn’t change the current year locations but some inter-division matchups from last-year such as Texas A&M at Georgia and Auburn at Florida would have the same location as last year. The SEC would have to work that out.
However, this idea would be made-for-TV, and sports fans will be itching for some action on TV. Week 1 would have Georgia at LSU, Auburn at Florida, and Texas A&M at Tennessee, while Week 14, the traditional SEC Championship Week, would end with Alabama at Florida, Texas A&M at Georgia, and some classic SEC Championship matchups like Auburn vs. Missouri and Tennessee vs. Miss State. However, there would be no SEC Championship because of the round-robin scenario.
Idea 3: Eight game conference schedule, but the Cocktail Party comes to Athens
This is the most-sucky of the ideas that don’t suck, because we would lose games, and I’m not sure if a conference-only schedule is feasible, as some teams play non-conference rivals, and what about independents like Notre Dame? For this idea, I made two scenarios, one with only eight conference games and one with eight conference games and a kept non-conference game. I made sure the kept non-conference games were traditional rivals or Power 5 opponents, just for the fun of it, although we know teams like Vandy and Miss State would rely on cupcakes in their quest for an easy win.
The eight-game model provides challenges, and a lot of games would have to be moved around. A possible challenge of the eight-game only schedule is that Georgia-Florida and Texas A&M-Arkansas would have to be moved to campus sites because who would want only three home games while the rest of the conference gets four? But, lucky for UGA, they are the home team in 2020. Therefore, the Cocktail Party would move Between the Hedges. Georgia and Florida look to be the contenders in the East this year, but I’m not sure Florida could compete in a raucous environment like Sanford Stadium. Many students can’t get student tickets for Jacksonville until they’re an upperclassmen, and many old-timers remember what Steve Spurrier did in Athens in 1995 as TIAA Bank Field was being built, so the Bulldog Nation would sure rally around and bring a Notre Dame-type environment to Sanford. And I’m sure Dan Mullen remembers how loud it was when Miss State came to Athens in 2017.
The same challenges present itself in a nine-game model, specifically how games are moved around. I took liberty in placing non-conference games in what would be the easiest for this SEC-specific model, but I’m sure in real life conferences would have to work really hard to move all of those puzzle pieces. Because UGA and A&M would get an extra home game with Georgia Tech and Colorado respectively, I kept their neutral site matchups as is.
Now, it’s your turn.
These ideas are just to get people talking, and I want to hear your opinion! What idea or scenario did you like the best? What are some of your ideas for a college football season come fall, or Spring? Let us know by tweeting us @ATLSportsWire!