Photo courtesy of Arizona State athletics
Pac-12 football fans can say something that they haven’t been able to say in quite some time.
Football is officially back on the West Coast. We are now less than one month away from the Pac-12 teeing it off the week of Nov. 7. The league plans to play a 6-game season, with the conference championship game set to take place the weekend of Dec. 19.
The Pac-12 was the last Power 5 conference to commit to playing this fall. After releasing its schedule last Saturday, reality is finally starting to hit.
In a Wednesday Zoom conference, all 12 head coaches from the Pac-12 met with the media. During Pac-12 Media Day, the coaches discussed a number of topics. That includes how the season came to fruition, safety protocols, and much more as the Pac-12 gets ready for toe to meet leather in just four Saturdays.
Although some fans may be disappointed with the 6-game slate, many coaches expressed their excitement to even be playing football this fall.
“We’re very fortunate to have even six games,” said UCLA head coach Chip Kelly. “Any game is good; any football is good.”
Kelly mentioned that the Bruins have to be ready to play every week, and will have to hope for the best moving forward.
As far as the 6-game season goes, teams better hope they can get them all in. Kelly noted that there will likely be no rescheduled games.
“The way I understand it, if the games are cancelled, the games are cancelled,” he said. “You’re now playing a 5-game schedule.”
“We’re excited just to play,” added Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards. “Anytime something is taken away you enjoy, you realize the importance of it.”
College Football in 2020
As far as logistics goes, we asked Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith what he knew about travel for this upcoming season.
“I won’t be shocked if it’s different, but I haven’t heard anything,” Smith said. “The league is working through that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the travel parties are less. I would expect more distance on the plane.”
As far as protocols are concerned, the testing and practice number restrictions will be rigorous throughout the season. Kelly said that both the combination of the Pac-12 and Los Angeles County will require members of the Bruins to get tested a whopping 10 times per week.
Smith said the Beavers will practice from their typically 9:30-11:30 a.m. time slot. But some players will begin trickling in at 6:30 a.m. to begin daily testing three hours prior to practice.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep everyone safe,” Smith added.
Kelly said daily testing was key for the season to happen — something the league originally did not have access to. He agreed with the original decision to postpone the season, especially after Kelly and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19.
Many Pac-12 Schools have still been unable to practice as a full team. But they’re hopeful they may start on Friday.
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell described it as a “challenge”. Dorrell compared these past few weeks to light summer workouts.
“We’ve had to practice in small pods,” he said. “Just hoping for the best for Friday.”
Kelly and UCLA have been unable to rush the quarterback in practice, and could not get into the weight room until at least last week.
New Year, New Look
There are also plenty of changes in the Pac-12 schedule to go along with only six games. The 2020 season will feature something fans have never seen before – a 9 a.m. kickoff. Yes, that’s right. The Pac-12 will kickoff games this year at 9 a.m. PT.
“It’s great for the Pac-12,” said Washington’s first-year head coach Jimmy Lake.
Lake says it’ll be great to expand Pac-12 football, and can maybe help get the stigma away from East Coast bias toward the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and others.
Edwards said with the Sun Devils practicing in the morning, 9 a.m. games will be “business as usual” for Arizona State. Edwards joked how it won’t change his 4 a.m. wake-up call in his hotel room the morning of the game.
Pac In the Playoff
A big question this year facing the Pac-12, is should an undefeated champion be included in the College Football Playoff over a team that played more games. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham said that “It’s a matter of when, not if” about a potential playoff expansion.
“It’s on the horizon,” the 16th-year head coach added.
Lake also endorsed the idea of expanding the College Football Playoff. He stated that he and his son came up with an idea that they believe should be considered. The Huskies’ head coach wants all five Power 5 conference champions to get in, while then having an at-large such as for a Notre Dame like team as the No. 6 seed.
Under that formula, the top two teams would receive byes. The No. 3 seed would play the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 would play the No. 5.
“In my opinion, if you don’t win your conference, you don’t deserve to compete for a national championship,” Lake added.
This idea is certainly trying to allow the Pac-12 a better chance of making the College Football Playoff, as the conference has the most missed playoffs out of any Power 5 conference since the playoff debuted in 2014.
Ready, Set, Go!
The stage is now set for the Pac-12 to kick off a 6-game regular season starting Nov. 7 weekend. Smith said it’s “a concern to have to play six games in six weeks”, but expressed optimism it could get done.
“The great thing is everyone’s in the same situation,” Edwards said.
As toe prepares to meet leather out on the West Coast, all 12 Pac-12 coaches couldn’t stop grinning from excitement that they get to play football. Although unique, it should definitely be a fun 6-game sprint out west.