College football teams will have more flexibility in crafting schedules that give them a chance at bowl eligibility in the 2020-2021 season, no matter how many games they ultimately get to play.

college football bowl eligibility
FBS teams may schedule a second FCS opponent as they chase bowl eligibility in the 2020-2021 season. (Image: Charles Fox/Philadelphia Inquirer)

The NCAA’s Division 1 Council announced Wednesday that it will grant a blanket waiver to all FBS teams, allowing them to count two games against FCS opponents toward bowl eligibility.

Second FCS Opponent Adds Scheduling Flexibility

Typically, FBS teams may only count one win against an FCS foe toward their bowl eligibility requirements. Teams must post a .500 record to become bowl eligible.

With a few notable exceptions, FCS teams are weaker than their FBS counterparts, and top schools often schedule at least one FCS team to pad their record and serve as a glorified scrimmage. For middle-of-the-road teams, this game adds what could be a much-needed win to establish a .500 record.

The one-year rule also lowers the requirements for picking those FCS opponents. Previously, FBS teams could only count games against FCS schools that averaged at least 90% of the maximum number of allowed football scholarships over the past two years. The NCAA is lowering that requirement to 80% this year. Typically, schools from the Ivy League, Pioneer Football League, and Northeast Conference fail to qualify as eligible opponents under this rule.

If the college football season goes forward in the fall of 2020, many teams may have to deal with scheduling issues. Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 have announced that they will play conference-only schedules in order to reduce travel and ensure that COVID-19 safety standards are uniformly applied.

That decision impacts other schools that had scheduled non-conference games against teams in those leagues. Further schedule changes seem almost inevitable as schools and conferences grapple with the pandemic. The new NCAA rules could mitigate that issue by providing a wider range of potential opponents with whom to schedule games.

Bowl Eligibility Rules Account for Shorter Season

The NCAA didn’t pass the rule to ensure teams could get to 11 or 12 games. While teams typically see six wins as a magic number for bowl eligibility, in reality, only a .500 record matters, no matter how many games a team plays.

“In a season that’s scheduled for only 10 games, 5-5 is already bowl-eligible by NCAA rules,” Football Bowl Association executive director Nick Carparelli told ESPN.

Whether the NCAA will hold a college football season in any recognizable form this year is still up for debate. The other Power Five conferences have yet to make decisions about the fall, and the changing dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic could wreck any plans that are put into place. Some officials have suggested the possibility of a spring football season, though top prospects would be unlikely to risk injury so close to the NFL draft.

FanDuel Sportsbook lists Clemson (+250) as the favorite to win the National Championship in the 2020-2021 season, ahead of Ohio State (+280) and Alabama (+600).

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