COVID-19 and college football: Where each Power 5 conference stands on 2020 schedule

The COVID-19 pandemic continues in the United States, and it continues to impact the looming 2020 college football season.  

The Power 5 conferences in the FBS have already shifted their views about a potential season, but not everybody is on the same page. The conference-only model is in effect in some places, but it is not a universal plan. 

BENDER: Conference-only is college football’s best hope for 2020

The season is supposed to start Aug. 29, but that seems like a stretch given the state of the five most powerful conferences.  

Here is a closer look at where each one stands:  


Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement July 10 that the conference will continue to review multiple scenarios for the upcoming season.  

“The league membership and our medical advisory group will make every effort to be as prepared as possible during these unprecedented times, and we anticipate a decision by our Board of Directors in late July,” Swofford said.  

The ACC on Monday postponed its virtual media days, which were scheduled for July 21-23.  

Notre Dame, which has six ACC opponents on its schedule, is a part of the discussions, of course. The Irish have a blockbuster matchup with Clemson scheduled for Nov. 7.  

The ACC plays eight conference games, so it will be interesting to see whether it explores playing any nonconference games.  

Big Ten  

The Big Ten was the first to adopt a conference-only model for the 2020 season, announcing the change on July 9.  

That means key nonconference games such as Michigan-Washington, Oregon-Ohio State and Notre Dame-Wisconsin won’t happen. The 11 nonconference games with the Mid-American Conference also are off the schedule.  

The Big Ten plays a nine-game conference schedule (six intradvision, three crossover), so it will be interesting to see whether there are changes to the matchups.  

Big 12 

According to, conference will decide in late July how to proceed.  

“As we go forward, we’re going to have our own set of criteria,” commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “We’re mostly relying on the advice of scientists and doctors who are advising us. We believe the decisions ought to be made slightly later.” 

The Texas State Fair is already canceled, but Texas and Oklahoma seem committed to playing their Red River Showdown game on that weekend. Oklahoma also petitioned the NCAA to move its opener against FCS Missouri State up from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29 to create an extra bye week before a nonconference matchup against Tennessee.  


The Pac-12 followed the Big Ten’s lead and moved to a conference-only model for 2020 on July 10.  

“Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities,” commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.  

The Pac-12, like the Big Ten, plays nine conference games, but this year it won’t be playing in nonconference games that could have helped its College Football Playoff chances. The conference has not been represented in the Playoff the last three seasons and has the fewest appearances (two) among the Power 5 conferences. 


The conference’s athletic directors met in Birmingham, Ala., on July 13, the day SEC Media Days were supposed to start, to discuss options for the upcoming season. A decision will be made later in July. 

“In the coming weeks we will continue to meet regularly with campus leaders via videoconferences and gather relevant information while guided by medical advisors,” commissioner Greg Sankey said. “We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us.”  

The SEC, like the ACC, uses an eight-game schedule, but it has given no indication it favors a conference-only slate. There also are rivalry games with ACC schools to consider, including Florida-Florida State, Kentucky-Louisville, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson.

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