Notre Dame, College Football Outlook And Surveys For 2020
The past month has offered a bleak outlook on the prospects of starting and/or finishing the 2020 college football season.
For Notre Dame alone, scheduled games with Wisconsin (Oct. 3), Stanford (Oct. 10) and USC (Nov. 28) already have been cancelled because of the Big Ten's and Pac 10’s decisions to play only conference games this season.
Fortunately, the combination of six ACC games in place, league commissioner John Swofford on record that the ACC “likely" will aid the Fighting Irish in the conference-only format, and the appeal to play Notre Dame — “our phone is ringing off the hook right now,” head coach Brian Kelly told ESPN’s “Get Up” this Wednesday — provides some optimism.
“That is probably the least of our concerns right now,” Kelly added in the same interview. “There’s plenty of games for us to play. We’d just like to play some.”
Therein lies the rub. How many games will be played? The most optimistic outlooks have the season probably starting later than the initial week of September, but is that only buying time to delay the perceived inevitable of cancellation?
I can’t help but chuckle and be somewhat bemused about current protocols on the Notre Dame campus such as “most elevators should be limited to two occupants per cab.” Yet having 22 football players in confined space on the practice field or actual games over several months while engaging in brutal physical contact is deemed doable, especially on an open campus with thousands of other students.
Among the most prominent voices and reporters in college football, there is plenty of skepticism:
ESPN’s Paul Finebaum on “Get Up” stated this week he sees about a 25 percent of the sport playing this year — “and that's based on maybe getting some good news in the next few weeks but I could not go any higher than that.”
SI.com’s Pat Forde stated, “Where it ends, we still don’t know. Perhaps in spring 2021. Perhaps there is no ending, because there is no beginning. The options are simultaneously dwindling and reducing in quality.”
The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel figuratively envisions a train wreck: “Imagine standing on a railway platform, watching two trains from opposite directions headed toward each other on the same track. Only instead of screeching toward each other at 270 mph, it’s going to take them two months to both reach the station. And the drivers have access to oodles and oodles of data telling them they’re headed toward a catastrophe. And yet they’re planning to keep at it and just hope for the best.
"That’s how it feels right now to be covering college football.”
Yahoo’s Pete Thamel was as blunt as they come: “Take a deep breath, and begin to get comfortable with the idea there’s virtually no chance of playing college football in any recognizable form this fall.
“Start digesting the notion that the next time we see a college football game could be in more than 13 months, as the sport remains the most unlikely of all the major sports to execute a successful return. Consider any semblance of college football prior to Week Zero of 2021 as a bonus, an improbable gift from the football gods.”
Stadium’s Brett McMurphy conducted an anonymous survey this month among the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision athletics directors, 115 of whom participated, on what is most likely to occur with the 2020 college football season.
Back in April in a similar survey, only one percent stated they didn’t envision a 2020 season occurring. Overall, the optimism remains in place among the ADs, as only seven percent this month (eight out of 115) believed there would be no college football.
However, 31 percent do believe the season could be moved to the spring, more than double the 14 percent in April. A delay to the fall season was expected by 73 percent, and 36 percent contended it would be conference games only.
Going against a herd mentality can be wise sometimes in selecting a football game. During the week of last season’s Notre Dame-Michigan matchup, I sensed immense overconfidence among Fighting Irish faithful, which made me unsettled.
Conversely, I felt extremely confident about Notre Dame playing well in the Camping World Bowl against Iowa State when popular opinion held that “Notre Dame doesn’t want to be in the third-rate bowl while this is the biggest post-season event in Cyclones football history.”
Dealing with the current dynamic is less predictable.
“No one — and I mean no one — has a clue right now what the college football season will look like,” one anonymous Power Five AD told McMurphy.
Perhaps that might be the most accurate summary of all.