Out of Left Field

Steering through this wacky season of college football

Posted 11/19/20

Allow me to state what’s probably obvious at this point: College football is a mess this year.

In the pastime’s 151-year history, there has never been a stranger season. Due to …

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Out of Left Field

Steering through this wacky season of college football

Posted

Allow me to state what’s probably obvious at this point: College football is a mess this year.

In the pastime’s 151-year history, there has never been a stranger season. Due to COVID-19, some teams started in August, others in mid-to-late September and a handful — Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC — began in the last couple of weeks.

As a result, some teams will finish with 10 games under their belts, a few will finish with more, while others will finish with less.

We are just over a month away from when the College Football Playoff Committee makes the decision on which four teams will appear in this year’s event, and how the committee will pick those four squads is about as clear as when the pandemic will be over.

Major conferences like the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 didn’t play a single non-conference game, while the ACC and Big 12 played one each. How are we supposed to know if a conference is good or bad if its teams only play each other?

With a seven-game schedule, it’s somewhat likely a Pac-12 team runs the table and finishes with an unscathed record. But, with how bad the conference has been in the last few seasons and only seven games on the resume, is that enough to land a spot in the playoff?

Other competitive programs outside of “Power Five” conferences — i.e. BYU, Cincinnati — have longer schedules and perfect records so far and have seen high rankings as a result. But will their weaker schedules and not playing in big conferences keep them out of the conversation?

And then comes another question: What about games that were clearly affected by COVID-19?

Clemson quarterback and NFL prodigy Trevor Lawrence tested positive and didn’t play in the Notre Dame game, which the Tigers lost in overtime. How does the committee assess that? Does it give Clemson the benefit of the doubt, assuming they win that game with T-Law behind center, or do they see it as a true loss to the Irish?

One thing is pretty well agreed upon: The SEC will be in the playoff. It’s still universally regarded as the nation’s best league, and with Alabama, Texas A&M and Florida all hanging in the top six, it’s hard to believe one of those schools won’t make it.

But the tricky part is whether the conference gets two teams in the playoff. A&M has the best win in the country — a 41-38 home victory against Florida — and Florida has been dominant in every game except that one. So it may be difficult for the committee to rank them against a one-loss Clemson team.

Also, things will only get trickier if Alabama loses.

The Tide still has a handful of tough games remaining — the Iron Bowl against a ranked Auburn team and almost certainly the SEC Championship against Florida —  so winning out is no guarantee. If they were to drop either of those contests, the puzzle would only become harder to put together for the committee, which would be tasked with maneuvering the top-heavy SEC.

More than just selecting the top four teams for the playoff, choosing an entire bowl schedule based on shortened seasons is going to be next to impossible.

Just like for the top schools, it’s a weird year for teams out of playoff contention. So many teams — almost all — have suffered cancellations due to the pandemic and dozens have canceled two games in a row. Locally, Wyoming already had to ax a game against Air Force, and with the skyrocketing numbers within the state, its more than possible that the Cowboys will be forced to cancel another.

My alma mater, Arizona State, has scrapped its last two games (home vs. California, road vs. Colorado) due to positive tests within the program. Now, the Sun Devils have played just one game to this point and have four remaining — a total of five games for the entire regular season.

What’s the point? As a Sun Devil fan, it’s hard for me to get excited about a season that wasted a year of eligibility for so many entertaining players just to play (at most) five games.

Don’t get me wrong: I will welcome any form of college football on my TV screen come Saturday. And it’s refreshing for players, coaches and fans alike to have competition during what has been a taxing year.

But due to its unconventional nature, the 2020 season’s results should be taken with a grain of salt when reflected upon in the future.

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