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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted college football nearly every day this fall. Conferences have been moving their season to the spring, postponing games, or canceling the season. Numerous teams have had outbreaks in their programs, leading to limited practices and more injuries.
Now there’s a chance that the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl games will be delayed. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby revealed on Thursday during a radio interview that the CFP operations committee has already begun contingency plans.
Can It Go On As Scheduled?
One of the possibilities discussed is to go on as planned with the New Year’s six bowl games and playoff. Currently, the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) and the Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) are set as the semifinals on January 1, 2021. The College Football National Championship Game is scheduled for Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on January 11, 2021.
Bowlsby mentioned delaying the playoff so that every team has a chance to complete their season and conference championship. This could push the bowl games and playoffs back by one or two weeks. Bowlsby did not rule out playing the Championship Game in February if circumstances dictated.
Meanwhile, College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock insisted that conference commissioners want to play the games as scheduled. But already this week, the SEC had four games canceled while Wisconsin has played just one of three scheduled games in the Big Ten. In the SEC, playoff contender Florida has one game to make up while Alabama’s game against LSU likely won’t be played at all.
What Happens After Another Major Outbreak?
The interesting part for the committee will be what happens if a team playing in a conference title game on December 18-19 has an outbreak that week. Will the game be a no-contest? Will it be a forfeit? Will it be rescheduled for the next weekend, which is Christmas?
Any of those options provide headaches for not just the teams and conference in question, but the entire College Football Playoff. The bowl game structure includes 37 games this year, and the first one is scheduled for December 19, the same day as the Power Five conference title games.
The Bowl Games
The Frisco Bowl in Frisco, Texas, kicks off bowl season with at least one game scheduled every day from December 21-26 and December 28-January 2. The College Football Playoff Committee is scheduled to announce their first rankings on November 24 and their final rankings on December 20.
They will choose the four teams to play in the College Football Playoff and the teams that will play in the New Year's six bowl games. This year those games are currently scheduled for December 30, January 1, and January 2.
The first of those games is the Cotton Bowl Classic on December 30 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In addition to the semifinal games at the Rose and Sugar Bowl, the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Ga., is set for January 1. The Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ari. and the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla., are scheduled for January 2.
The committee and the conference commissioners will have their hands full rescheduling games with those bowls and city officials if the pandemic continues to impact college football over the next month.