Two months ago, the hope was that the Power 5 football conferences would be, if not in lockstep, at least in sync with each other in terms of scheduling and COVID-19 testing. That wish, fractured with the conference-game only scheduling decisions of the Big 10 and Pac-12 conferences, was pretty much shattered with the ACC’s decision, announced Wednesday, to play ten conference games and only one non-conference game in 2020.
The kicker is that the non-conference game must take place in the home state of the ACC school, which eliminates West Virginia’s Chick-Fil-A kickoff game against Florida State, and a potential reshuffled contest against Virginia. The latter contest, first reported as an option by BlueGoldNews.com, now appears to be off the boards.
The ACC’s decision leaves only the SEC and the Big 12 as Power 5 schools still considering their scheduling options. Both leagues could try to work out some non-conference games with each other to replace those lost due to the decisions of other leagues, but they also could bow to the momentum set by the other three leagues and go with a conference-only model, or a conference plus one slate. In the latter case, WVU would stick with Eastern Kentucky in Morgantown as its non-conference contest, providing the Colonels meet the testing and tracing protocols established by the Big 12. Those are expected to be part of any non-conference Big 12 contest.
Other potential scheduling options remain, as many schools have had their early season slates disrupted due to scheduling decisions. West Virginia now has open dates on the weekends of August 29, September 5 and 19, and October 31.
Air Force, which also has a Sept. 19 opening, is one possible replacement foe, although that would require a long trip for the Falcons, who originally were scheduled to play at Purdue on that weekend. Air Force added Duquesne as a non-conference opponent in February.
The nearby Mid-American Conference, which lost some ten games when the Big Ten announced a conference-only slate, is one potential target for additional WVU games. Buffalo and Toledo each lost one Big 10 game, while Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois each lost two.
The Big 12 has continued to delay its announcement for its fall scheduling plans, hoping to keep as close to a normal 12-game slate as possible. The ACC’s announcement, though, means that unless there are more last minute Big 12-SEC contests worked out, the non-conference Big 12 slates are likely to be less attractive than they were heading into the season.
With more games sure to be cancelled across the college football landscape as the pandemic ebbs and flows, schedule changes are almost sure to continue through the fall. The best that can be hoped for, at this point, is that a majority of schools can get in most of their scheduled 10 or 11 contests this year, as the domino effect of just one or two teams getting with a rash of positive tests and sitting out a couple of weeks will affect numerous teams and games.