Big 12 sets college football schedule with nine conference games, one non-conference

The Big 12 will play 10 football games during the coming season should teams be able to compete amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the conference’s Board of Directors announced Monday night.

With the Big 12 now complete, every conference in the Power Five has agreed to schedules that lean heavily toward conference games, with all but two eliminating non-conference play altogether. 

The Big 12 will play nine conference contests and joins the ACC in adding one non-conference game. While the ACC is restricting its non-conference games to in-state schools, the Big 12 says its schools must play their non-conference games at home. The Big 12 said conference play will likely start “sometime between mid- to late-September” and that the league expects non-conference games to be staged prior to those.  

“I would like to salute the work of our university presidents and chancellors, athletics directors, coaches, medical advisors and administrators who have worked tirelessly and collaboratively during these extraordinary times,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in the conference’s statement. 

“We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward. However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Big 12 finally made its decision on a planned start to the football season.

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The Big Ten was the first to drop non-conference games from the regular-season schedule, doing so on July 9, citing the benefits of scheduling flexibility, the mitigation of risk that comes with travel and the ability to share testing protocols with fellow conference members. The Pac-12 followed a day later.

For all five leagues, their plans to play come under the caveat that the season can be played this fall. 

Adding the Big 12 into the same group ensures this coming season will be different than any other in the modern history of the sport, hearkening instead to previous eras where national schedules were less common and most teams, even those at the very top of the sport, played primarily within their geographic footprint.

As with the other conferences, not playing non-conference games eliminates a number of high-profile matchups in September featuring members of the Big 12, including games between West Virginia and Florida State, Baylor and Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and Texas and LSU.

The latter two matchups, pitting teams set for the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, promised to play a profound role in the projected chase for the national championship. A year ago, LSU’s win in September against Texas helped propel the Tigers to an unbeaten season.

Overall, marquee non-conference games can often play a significant role in determining the makeup of the College Football Playoff.

The executive director of the playoff, Bill Hancock, said in July that the selection committee will use the same protocols to determine the national semifinals and New Year’s Six bowls even in the face of a different sort of regular season — one that would feature only conference games and likely a smaller number of games than during a traditional year.

“This is why the committee has 13 football experts,” Hancock said. “Their duty, their task, is to select the best four teams based on the play on the field and the schedules the conferences establish.” 

Contributing: Dan Wolken

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