Before the recent schedule changes, there were a number of exciting non-conference College Football games to look forward to in 2020. However, due to concerns of the spread of COVID-19, many conferences within the NCAA have decided to alter their college football seasons. Some conferences, such as the Ivy League, Patriot League, and MEAC, have canceled their fall seasons altogether. The Big-10 and Pac-12 took a different approach, and decided to only participate in in-conference games. While the other power-5 conferences (ACC, SEC, and Big-12) have not decided anything yet, the decision to cancel non-conference contests will have a major effect on college football this season.
Not only is it unfortunate for the players, the decision to get rid of all non-conference games in the Big-10 and Pac-12 is unfortunate for fans. There were some great games scheduled for this season that we will now miss. Some gamed had major draft implications and others just consisted of two evenly-matched programs. It is a tough pill to swallow for fans, who were looking forward to some competitive non-conference games in 2020.
Here are 5 games that we will be missing from the Big-10 and Pac-12 this fall.
North Dakota State vs. Oregon (Sept. 5)
The first game in this list is a week one contest that was drawing more and more hype within the scouting community. Trey Lance, North Dakota State’s latest star quarterback, was about to face his toughest test yet; the Oregon Ducks’ defense. Last season, Lance logged 42 total touchdowns and threw 0 interceptions. Most scouts know about him, but many mainstream fans do not. This could have been the game where everyone learned about the talent of Trey Lance, as well as North Dakota State’s other NFL Draft prospects, including tackles Dillon Radunz and Cordell Volson.
It was also a big game for the Ducks, who are a candidate to make the College Football Playoffs this year. A win against arguably the most talented FCS team would have caught the attention of the playoff committee, and it would have given their new starting quarterback and new offensive coordinator, Joe Moorhead, some confidence. The game would have also showcased Oregon’s top defense in the country. But, the Bison are known for knocking off FBS teams, so Oregon had no guarantees. NDSU has beat Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Colorado State, Minnesota, and Kansas all in the last ten years. In general, this would have been a great week one game for both schools and it’s unfortunate that we will miss it.
Michigan vs. Washington (Sept. 5)
Another week one matchup, the Wolverines would have traveled to Washington to take on the Huskies. This is Harbaugh’s sixth season as the head coach, and, with nothing special on his resume, 2020 is a huge season for his Wolverines. This would be a huge game for Michigan to get off to a good start in what could be a make-or-break season. It would also have been a huge game for Washington, who is playing under new head coach Jimmy Lake and with a new quarterback under center.
Losing this game also robs us from seeing some top prospects square off. For example, Washington edge rusher Joe Tryon will not get to prove himself against Michigan’s top tackle, Jalen Mayfield. Cornerback Elijah Molden will no longer be able to go up against the Wolverine receiving duo of Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell. Michigan vs. Washington would have been an exciting week one contest likely highlighted by defense. Instead, these two top 25 teams will have to log some difficult wins against their conference rivals in order to declare themselves as College Football Playoff contenders.
Appalachian State vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 19)
Appalachian State has been a powerhouse in the Group of 5, and 2020 will be no different. This could be another top 25 season for the Mountaineers. A win at on the road against a top power-5 team in the country could have been great for their ranking and their program. App State has a talented offense led by quarterback Zac Thomas and an underrated defense led by defensive back Shaun Jolly.
Wisconsin, however, is a very talented team as well. Led by quarterback Jack Coan, the Badgers would have had a great opportunity to bolster their playoff profile with a win against a top G-5 opponent. This game would have also benefitted the Badgers because, in the following weeks, they will be playing some of the best talent in the Big-10. This game would have been under-hyped, not for the talent, but simply because App State does not get the credit they deserve. The Mountaineers would have given the Badgers a great contest in Camp Randall Stadium.
USC vs. Alabama (Sept. 5)
The Trojans had a great opportunity to add a huge win to their resume in week one. USC would be a major test to the Crimson Tide, who underperformed last season. Now, sophomore sensation Kedon Slovis will not be able to go up against Patrick Surtain II, Dylan Moses, and the rest of the intimidating Alabama defense. Receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns will not get to face the defensive backs in Tuscaloosa. The Trojans’ top defenders, Jay Tufele, Palaie Gaoteote IV, and Isaiah Pola-Mao, will not be able to square up against Jaylen Waddle, Devante Smith, and the Crimson Tide offense.
The cancelation hurts Alabama as much as it hurts USC. Saban will be losing a big game on his schedule and his players will have less experience against top teams before key matchups against LSU, Georgia, and Auburn. The draft talent in this game was off the charts, so it is unfortunate that we won’t be able to watch some top players match up against one another. This game would have been a wild offensive slugfest in week one and would have had huge implications on the college football playoff. Both teams will now have to excel all season, and USC will likely have to finish undefeated in order to clinch a College Football Playoff bid.
Orgeon vs. Ohio State (Sept. 12)
A candidate for game of the year, it hurts to comprehend that we won’t watch Justin Fields lead the Buckeyes against Jevon Holland’s Duck defense. If both of these teams win their respective conferences, it is likely that they will both be fighting for a College Football Playoff spot. Ohio State would have had to face a huge test in week two. A game against a top 10 opponent would have been big for coach Ryan Day in evaluating his team’s talent at positions such as running back, where Trey Sermon and Master Teague III would be battling it out for the lead role.
Oregon needed this game as well, as a win against the best team in the Big-10 would have had major playoff implications. Barring any upset loss, Oregon would have been a near lock in the top 4. A game consisting of two top 10 powerhouses would have been huge for the sport of college football. The game would have been an exciting thriller, likely coming down to the wire. Now, Oregon and Ohio State will have to settle for their in-conference rivals, and we will be losing one of the most hyped up games in the past few years.