The SEC, college football’s top conference most years, is moving to a conference-only schedule for the 2020 season. That decision could have a significant impact on the College Football Playoff this year.
So far, not a year has gone by that the SEC hasn’t landed a team in the four-team field. One year, both Alabama and Georgia cracked the field, and played for a classic national championship. Evaluating SEC teams, as well as those in other leagues, without non-conference games could prove a difficult task for the College Football Playoff selection committee this fall.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 are also going with conference-only schedules, though they have not yet fully rolled things out. The ACC was the first Power Five out of the gates, announcing a 10-game conference schedule plus one non-conference game for teams. The Big 12 is still evaluating options, though it has signaled that it is the most open to playing something like a normal schedule. We’ll see how feasible that is.
“Since there won’t be as many non-conference games as normal, certain tools used by the committee, such as head-to-head results and results against common opponents, will have limitations this year,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN. “Evaluating strength of schedule will also be different.”
The College Football Playoff is evaluating a new timetable for its selection committee meetings and will reconsider protocols for the 2020 season, Bill Hancock tells @CFBHeather: https://t.co/XvPMFBiDHK
— Sam Khan Jr. 😷 (@skhanjr) July 30, 2020
While Hancock isn’t concerned about teams potentially playing different numbers of games—something that has been a factor in past years—he does say the cancellation of major non-conference games will make things more difficult for the College Football Playoff committee. Among the games out the window this year are Ohio State-Oregon, Michigan-Washington, Alabama-USC, and LSU-Texas.
“This year will be different. Golly, it will be challenging. But the committee is built to handle it. The fundamental mission has not changed — that is, rank the best four teams based on the schedules that the conferences play. And that is why the committee comprises these 13 football experts.”
Throw in Notre Dame playing an ACC schedule, and potentially playing in the conference championship if it finishes with a top-two record in the league, which scraps its divisions this year, and we really have a bizarre season upon us, if we wind up with one at all.