Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Vincent Frank | Last updated 9/4/20
There’s seemingly some good news on the college football front with three of the Power Five conferences slated to start their seasons later this month.
A recent update includes the fact that the Pac-12 has come to an agreement with the medical community for rapid COVID-19 testing and results. That’s a game changer for the sport and the entire United States during this age of the pandemic.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is now adding more fodder to the belief that his conference will soon get on the field.
When the Pac-12 decided to cancel its fall college football season last month, there was no word on whether the season would be played at all. Meanwhile, the Big Ten has pointed to Thanksgiving weekend as a potential start time for its season.
With the SEC, ACC and Big 12 all slated to start their conference-only seasons later this month, there’s some major logistical concerns.
The Big 12 doesn’t yet intend on following the Big Ten and Pac-12 in postponing or canceling football and other fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tuesday afternoon, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported that the Big 12 was still leaning toward playing this fall ahead of a 6 pm ET call among conference presidents.
“The mindset is it’s too early,” a Big 12 source reportedly said. “Unless the medical folks flip the switch, [we’ll go].”
The Big 12, ACC, and SEC all continue to monitor developments as it concerns the uncontrolled virus outbreak. After the Big 12 canceled its virtual media day in late July, league commissioner Bob Bowlsby explained that a final decision on football and other fall sports would be made at a later time.
Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist who also serves as chair of the ACC’s medical advisory team, recently told Michael Smith of Sports Business Daily he believes football seasons can begin, as scheduled, this fall.
“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Dr. Wolfe said.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey tweeted on Monday that he intends to remain patient before making a call on fall seasons:
On Tuesday, the California State University system made a stunning announcement that all 23 campuses would be closed for the fall semester. In the announcement, CSU Chancellor Timothy White said the universities will have classes online rather than have students return to campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement was significant for college football in the state of California. Three of the six Mountain West Conference West Division teams are affected by it. Now the Pac-12 has responded with a statement of its own to address this situation.
“The Pac-12 and our member universities will make our own determinations on when our student-athletes can return to play and when and how campuses will reopen to students. These decisions will be based first and foremost on the health and well-being of all those connected to the Pac-12, and informed by the advice of public health and medical experts along with the state and local governmental orders. Every day we are learning new and important information that will inform our decisions, and we believe that there is great benefit to having as much relevant data as possible before making such decisions.”
It’s hard to argue with the logic behind this statement from the Pac-12. The most prudent thing to do, while there is still plenty of time, is to wait and see.
Everything in college basketball changes when conference play begins.
Those in power have done wonders to drum up interest in early-season action, with big name teams being featured in tournaments and showcases for the first few months of the season. But blowout wins over cupcake opponents and sloppy early-season play are littered throughout that part of the schedule.
Conference play brings rivalries, road games with student-sections, and a landslide of upsets. In short, it’s the reason we love college basketball. On top of that, succeeding in one of America’s toughest conferences is the best way to prove yourself before March Madness tips off.
With that in mind, here are the early favorites to win the six biggest conferences in college hoops.
ACC – Duke
The Blue Devils might be the boring and obvious pick, but at this point in the season, they are also the most qualified. Duke’s overtime home loss to Stephen F. Austin was a bad mishap, but it’s their only blemish so far. Aside from that slip-up, Duke has impressed with wins over Michigan State, Kansas, Georgetown and Miami.
The ACC’s other top contender, Louisville, lost at home to Florida State this weekend and only gets to play Duke once this season — a road game at Cameron Indoor. Advantage to the Blue Devils.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Big East – Butler
It’s always somewhat shocking to pencil anyone into a Big East title that is not Villanova, yet Butler’s play so far this season has been eye-popping enough to earn this level of respect. The Bulldogs have just one loss, by one point at 4th-ranked Baylor.
Head coach LaVall Jordan has Butler winning games on the defensive end of the floor. The Bulldogs rank fourth in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, thanks to top-ten performances in 3-point percentage allowed, effective field goal percentage allowed and defensive rebounding rate. Butler fights to get stops and follows them with rebounds.
Offensively, everything churns through senior guard Kamar Baldwin. His 14.7 point per game average doesn’t fully explain how capable he is of taking over a game in crunch time.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Big Ten – Michigan State
A few weeks ago, when Ohio State was 9-0 and ranked in the top three in the AP Poll, this answer would have been different. Back then, Michigan State was just 6-3 and clearly had some issues on the offensive end.
Since December 8, Ohio State has lost three of its last five games, while Michigan State has sparked a six-game winning streak. The Spartans are now two games ahead of the Buckeyes in the loss column in Big Ten play and sit a full 1.5 games ahead of the rest of the conference in the standings.
Make no mistake — the Big Ten is college basketball’s toughest conference and will be an absolute battle all season long. Even so, any team eager to compete for the title will need to go into the Breslin Center in East Lansing and win. With Tom Izzo on the sidelines and Cassius Winston patrolling the court for Sparty, that’s not likely to happen much, if at all, this season.
If the first six weeks of the college football season have taught fans anything, it’s this: Never turn off a Tennessee game.
The Volunteers remained America’s most interesting college football team, though not undefeated. Navy upset the playoff race and Charlie Strong had another bad, bad day.
Thoughts, takedowns and takeaways from Week 6:
1. If you were looking forward to a couple of months of talking about whether No. 6 Houston could or should be selected for the College Football Playoff, Navy just ruined it for you. The dream is not quite dead for the Cougars, but it is on life support.
2. Best-case scenario for Houston: 12-1 with an American Athletic Conference championship game victory against a USF team with only one loss coming in. Oklahoma wins the Big 12. Louisville, which plays at Houston in November, doesn’t lose another game. Could that resume be good enough to get Houston into the playoff if a bunch of Power Five conference teams finish the regular season with multiple losses.
3. The other big winner with Houston losing: No. 19 Boise State and Western Michigan. Both those unbeaten Broncos will be competing with the Cougars for the Group of Five’s automatic bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
4. Because this is college football, somewhere there is at least one Houston fan complaining that Tom Herman is all hype and just might not be the guy to get the Cougars over the top.
5. Speaking of Herman, let’s talk Texas.
6. Charlie Strong, a former defensive coordinator, took over those duties at Texas this week. TheLonghorns allowed 672 yards in a loss to Oklahoma , the third consecutive game of more than 500 and five yards shy of the most the Sooners have ever gained against Texas. So who gets replaced now?
7. At some point the negativity around a program can become so overwhelming, success seems impossible. Texas seems very close to reaching that point.
8. How will No. 9 Tennessee have anything left for No. 1 Alabama next week after emotional rallies against Florida, Georgia and now Texas A&M? The Vols couldn’t complete the deal against the Aggies.
9. Hard to see the Vols beating the Crimson Tide in Knoxville, but chances are decent it is an entertaining.
10. Alabama is so good it is driving fans of other teams a little crazy.
11. Texas A&M had been 5-0 each of the last three seasons, but couldn’t get to 6-0. The Aggies now have a week off before playing at Alabama with house money. Trevor Knight, who accounted for five touchdowns against the Vols, does have a history of success against the Crimson Tide.Small sample size, but still.
12. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he wasn’t trying to give Jabrill Peppers a chance to shine in his home state of New Jersey, but there was no doubt the prime-time blowout of Rutgers was the do-it-all star’s opportunity to get some Heisman Trophy traction.
Deep into Saturday night, Utah lost to Arizona when Arizona couldn’t throw the ball forward other than for one play in overtime. It was preceded by an equal parts stunning and bitter loss for Stanford at home to Oregon … a team the Cardinal tortured when the stakes were switched and one was the hunter and the other the hunted.
Stanford knocked Oregon out of the national championship game in 2012. Saturday night, Oregon returned the favor, pushing the Trees out of the College Football Playoff.
On a macro level, it means the Pac-12 is DOA when it comes to the CFB Playoff, which adds serious clarity to the race. The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and Notre Dame can exhale, knowing that the champ of one of the bloodiest conferences is not going to make the final four.
But wait … is that what we want?
Most with a trained or even untrained eye would admit the Pac-12 has risen to, if not the best conference top to bottom, the second best in the country. The overwhelming depth of it makes it, in a top-to-bottom context, as good as it gets.
So where are we at with this playoff thing if the Pac-12 team doesn’t make it? Are we bothered by a really good conference, maybe the best, having its champ squeezed out?
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