Sep 11, 2020 - Sports

College football's fall of uncertainty

an illustration of a football
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With all due respect to last weekend's slate of games, college football started in earnest last night when Miami beat UAB, 31-14, to kick off the Power 5 season.

The state of play... Power 5: ACC and Big 12 begin this weekend; SEC starts on Sept. 26; Big Ten and Pac-12 are postponed until the spring.

  • Group of 5: The American, Sun Belt and C-USA began last week; the MAC and Mountain West are postponed until spring.

The state of play: Just to reiterate a line you've maybe heard once or twice by now — this season's going to be pretty weird.

  • 54 of 130 FBS Division-I teams won't be taking the field this fall.
  • Notre Dame, famously one of the seven FBS Independents, has temporarily joined the ACC.
  • Conference scheduling: Most seasons begin with a handful of non-conference, tune-up games, but nearly every game this year will be played against a conference foe.
  • Testing: Players and coaches will get tested roughly three times a week — far more than the average student, per WSJ's Laine Higgins (subscription) — though some schools are withholding that data, citing student privacy laws.
  • Fans: 33 schools are allowing at least some fans from the get-go; but, as with the NFL, that number could change as the season goes on.

Between the lines: The uncertainty surrounding certain aspects of the season is shocking.

  • For example, the Big 12 is the only conference with actual guidelines on what will cause a game to be postponed (and they're pretty weak). Other leagues seem content to play it by ear.
  • "I have no idea what the requisites are to play or not play a game," said Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente. "No clue. Nobody knows to my knowledge. I don't know who makes the call."

What to watch: The Big Ten is facing mounting pressure to play as early as October, and there's potentially "game-changing" news out of the Pac-12.

  • Big Ten: Ohio State coach Ryan Day released a statement Thursday criticizing the lack of communication from the league, and James Franklin voiced his frustration on ESPN radio.
  • Pac-12: A new partnership with Quidel Corporation will give Pac-12 campuses access to daily testing by the end of September, two months ahead of previous estimates. Will that speed up their timeline? How soon can the Big Ten and others gain access to daily testing?
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