By Riley Zayas
Thursday's announcement by the Southeastern Conference that its schools would play conference opponents only in the 2020 football season was one that many had expected and predicted, but prayed would not happen ... and one that has a significant effect on the Texas Longhorns' 2020 season.
The decision by the SEC, which is home to perennial powerhouses including Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU, means the Texas Longhorns will not be traveling east to face the defending national champions. The Tigers beat the Longhorns, 45-38, last year in Austin.
The decision is a huge blow to UT's strength of schedule, and also means Texas head coach Tom Herman will not be able to capitalize on having his team play a road game against a Power 5 opponent to open the season. If the game had been played, it would have likely given the Longhorns a chance to climb in the national rankings if Texas had come out on top.
Now, UT's non-conference schedule has been shortened to just two games, both of which will be played at home. The Horns are scheduled to open the season at home Sept. 5 against South Florida. With Sept. 12 now an open date, Texas will then host UTEP Sept. 19. Texas has about six weeks to find an opponent to fill the Sept. 12 date; otherwise it will be a bye.
Whether that happens remains to be seen. The Big 12, which cancelled its annual media days Thursday, is the only Power 5 conference that has not yet announced a plan to play a schedule that includes only games between conference opponents. Texas Tech President and Big 12 Board of Directors Vice Chairman Lawrence Schovanec was quoted saying, "We still have time," but a decision will need to be announced soon. Schovanec stressed the need for Big 12 schools to be "ready to pivot on a dime" should the situation call for it.