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Big 12 Approves Schedule with Nine Conference Games, One Non-Conference Opponent

The Big 12 became the latest conference to approve a scheduling model for the 2020 college football season on Monday, adopting a plan in which teams will play nine conference games and one non-conference game.

The Big 12 will implement its usual nine-game, round-robin league schedule, while also allowing schools to play one non-conference game. (Image: Smiley N. Pool/Dallas Morning News)

The announcement means that all Power 5 conferences have now shared at least the outlines of their scheduling plans for the upcoming season.

Big 12 Keeps Round-Robin Conference Schedule

Big 12 schools will likely begin their conference play sometime in mid-to-late September. Schools expect to play their non-conference games before the league schedule begins. The Big 12 could hold its championship game as late as Dec. 19.

“We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”

Conferences and schools are anticipating having to deal with COVID-19 issues this fall, especially as they are unable to implement a bubble solution like the ones used by the NBA and NHL. That could mean teams will have to reschedule or cancel games. Most leagues have acknowledged the possibility that teams may play different numbers of games during the season.

Even if all teams do play uninterrupted by the coronavirus, schools from various conferences will play very different schedules. In the case of the Big 12, teams will play only 10 games, meaning a 5-5 record would be enough to achieve bowl eligibility.

There’s less clarity about what a shortened season could mean for a team’s national title hopes. While the College Football Playoff committee notes that there’s nothing new about teams playing slightly different numbers of games, it remains to be seen how the committee would evaluate an undefeated or one-loss team if that school canceled multiple games while other teams played a full complement of 11 or 12 contests.

BYU Still Looking for Conference Partner

One school that certainly lost out in the Big 12 scheduling decision is BYU. The Cougars play as an independent, which has decimated their schedule as schools have been shedding non-conference opponents.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, BYU has been considering joining a conference for a single season – much as Notre Dame did with the ACC – with the Big 12 being the most likely partner. But the Big 12 schedule didn’t include BYU, sticking with its 10-team configuration.

Oklahoma comes into the 2020 season as the +100 favorite to win the Big 12 Conference Championship, according to William Hill, ahead of Texas (+150) and Oklahoma State (+500).

College Football Conference Schedule Models

Conference Games Nonconference Games
ACC 10 1
Big 12 9 1
Big Ten ? 0
Pac-12 10 0
SEC 10 0
Sun Belt 8 4

The Big Ten announced it will play a conference-only schedule, but has yet to release details. The AAC, Conference USA, Mac, and Mountain West have yet to announce scheduling models.

Smaller conferences have begun announcing their scheduling plans as well. On Tuesday, the Sun Belt announced that it will schedule eight conference games and allow schools to play up to four non-conference games as well. The league will begin play during the first week in September.

“We believe this timetable will allow for the healthy integration of the entire campus community for each Sun Belt member,” the conference said in a statement.