How would a conference-only 2020 schedule affect Texas football?

17 Jul By

By Riley Zayas

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It had been expected, it had been anticipated, and it was finally announced this past week: football teams from some conferences will play conference games in 2020, while others already have cancelled the season entirely.

In the Big 12, Texas head coach Tom Herman and the Longhorns are competing in one of two Power 5 conferences that has yet to announce any changes or cancellations in to the 2020 football schedule (photo courtesy of texassports.com).

The Ivy League announced last Monday that sports would not be held in the fall, meaning football, volleyball and soccer, among others, are now officially off the the table for the conference. In addition, the Big 10, ACC and Pac-12 all announced that conference-only football schedules will be played, leading to the cancellations of marquee games such as Notre Dame-Stanford, and Alabama-USC. As it stands right now, much of the first week of the college football schedule already has been cancelled.

While Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told CBS Sports four days ago that "it's a little early to make a decision," the Big 12 and SEC are the only two Power 5 conferences remaining that have not announced a decision to follow along with the conference-only approach, meaning that for now, the Texas-LSU game remains scheduled.

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There are positives and negatives for Texas if the Big 12 follows in the footsteps of the conferences that have scraped their non-conference games.

One pertains to the incoming freshmen, including running back Bijan Robinson, quarterback Hudson Card and offensive lineman Jake Majors, players who the Texas coaches hoped could contribute in the upcoming season.

Majors, who enrolled early, is believed to have a legitimate chance to compete for the starting center job, and was scheduled to transition from guard to center over the course of the spring. With the cancellation of spring practice, however, Majors never got the chance to even practice once with the team. Considering the Horns lost center Zach Shackelford, and guard Parker Braun to graduation, Majors will be given a serious chance to make an immediate impact on the offensive line.

Non-conference games against opponents such as USF and UTEP, two of the three teams Texas was scheduled to face in non-conference play in 2020, sometimes present opportunities for the coaches to test their underclassmen against college competition. If Texas is thrown right into conference play, though, those chances to get on the field could be reduced, as conference play provides games in which teams will rely more on regulars because the result of each game counts in the critical conference standings.

In addition, Texas, which is adding 21 newcomers, would be "thrown into the fire," opening the season Oct. 3 at Kansas State, a team that nearly beat the Horns last year in Austin. Following that game would be the AT&T Red River Showdown in Dallas against Oklahoma. Starting the season after the point when teams typically have had two-plus months and three or four games to get acquainted and come together as a team would provide a great challenge for every team in college football, including the Longhorns.

Lastly, it begs the question, how would not playing the road game against LSU affect UT's strength of schedule? Losing that marquee matchup, the only one against a Power 5 opponent outside of the Big 12 could impact the Horns' standing when it comes to national rankings.

While a conference-only schedule might allow college football to be played this fall, which is what the majority wants, it could provide for huge challenges for coaching programs across the country, including Texas.

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Riley Zayas is a high school freshman and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kids reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports website.