College football games are happening, but the season doesn’t have quite the same feel to it.
Big Ten football is coming back on October 24. That’s what the decision-makers announced last Saturday when they released an eight-game schedule consisting of conference matchups. The season will take place until December 12 with a championship occurring the following weekend.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will take on Nebraska to kick off their weirdest season ever.
It was not long ago that the Big Ten cancelled first the non-conference games, then the entire season. The move was expected, in some circles, to set off a domino-like reaction where the rest of the Power 5 conferences closed shop until at least Spring 2021. Instead, only the Pac 12 followed suit, while other conferences chose to have a fall season.
After much discussion, and a petition from star OSU quarterback Justin Fields to boot, the Big 10 relented to allow athletes back on the field.
Make no mistake – the season is, and will continue to be, wonky.
Take the University of Cincinnati. UC flattened Austin Peay State University in their first game of the season last Saturday. The #14 Bearcats are expected to play four games until the Buckeyes return, as of now. That’s strange, to say the least.
Some athletes chose to forgo the 2020/21 college football season altogether by declaring for the NFL Draft, citing the unprecedented precariousness surrounding their season. On that list of players are three Miami (OH) players that otherwise could’ve chosen to represent the RedHawks this fall.
However, there’s now renewed optimism the RedHawks will have a fall season after all now that the Big Ten reversed its decision. A final call from the Mid-American Conference to determine its short-term fate is expected by next week.
And don’t’ forget: COVID-19 outbreaks can still threaten a team’s ability to have games (as Notre Dame experienced first-hand), stadiums won’t be packed to the brim with rowdy fans, and the hoopla that surrounds college towns on gamedays seems subdued.
For fans desperate to have college football return, will these shortened seasons be enough to satisfy the craving? Or will the 2020/21 season feel so increasingly odd and disruptive that everyone ultimately views these games as glorified exhibitions to be forgotten as quickly as possible?
The jury is still out.