A report from CBS Sports describes the ACC, Big 12, and SEC are considering a “plus one” approach to 2020 football: each school would be permitted one non-conference game along with their conference schedule. As other conferences cancel non-conference competition entirely, like the Big Ten and Pac-12, and some FCS leagues are even cancelling fall football entirely, these three Power Five leagues may be all that’s left for inter-conference competition.
What would it look like? I took a dive into the schedules to see how things would shake out if ACC, Big 12, and SEC schools were left to schedule one game apiece against teams only from the other two leagues.
The easiest place to start are existing rivalry games already on the schedule, as those are sure to stay. Games like Kentucky vs. Louisville, Georgia Tech vs. Georgia, South Carolina vs. Clemson, and Florida vs. Florida State are protected under this model.
In addition, some games that fit these criteria are already scheduled. I think these would stick just to save the trouble of cancelling and finding a new opponent. These include Auburn vs. UNC, Texas vs. LSU, Mississippi State vs. NC State, Ole Miss vs. Baylor, Tennessee vs. Oklahoma, Vanderbilt vs. Kansas State, and Boston College vs. Kansas.
Existing matchups alone knock out more than half of the “plus one” matchups we’d need to put together. But here’s where the fun begins.
To figure out the rest of the scheduling, I’m going straight to rivalry games. Which rivalries can we renew? First and foremost is Pitt vs. West Virginia. While Pitt does have Notre Dame on the schedule (who could get special treatment here), in this hypothetical of only ACC/Big 12/SEC teams playing non-conference games, the Backyard Brawl returns. It hasn’t been played since 2011, West Virginia’s last season in the Big East, but it’s scheduled to return in 2022. Might as well bring it back early.
One other rivalry game that can make a comeback is Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech. These old Southwest Conference and Big 12 in-state rivals similarly haven’t squared off since 2011, the Aggies’ final season in the Big 12.
After scheduling these two rivalries, we’re left with a pool of six ACC teams and six opponents for them across the Big 12 and SEC. This precludes any more Big 12 vs. SEC matchups, such as a renewed fight for the Telephone Trophy between Iowa State and Missouri. But I think these six matchups would exciting. Here’s what I’ve got:
Alabama vs. Miami headlines the remaining games. These two well-known programs are set to kick off the 2021 season in Atlanta, but we get them going a year early here to give the people what they want. Another great matchup will be between Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech, two programs that could be dark horse conference champion competitors.
After that, I’ve got TCU vs. Syracuse, Arkansas vs. Wake Forest, Missouri vs. Virginia, and Iowa State vs. Duke. Some of these could get mixed up, but I’d love to see Syracuse’s offense go up against what could be a revamped Gary Patterson defense. I’m also lining up the Cyclones and Blue Devils for my own reasons, but I think that Duke could outperform expectations and David Cutcliffe and Matt Campbell lead their programs in very similar ways.
I’d be looking forward to most of these games – and at this point, I’m looking forward to any college football that we can enjoy this year in a safe and responsible way. Which matchups would you most like to see in a “plus one” season? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @spencerhughes.