One region that should actually play NCAA Football in 2020

Where can the NCAA play football?

As some conferences are canceling games, there is one region of these United States that is in the best position to play college football this fall.  You guessed it – the Northeast.

As I am sure you’re aware, the Northeast has the least lingering effects of COVID entering fall 2020.  Also, it is the smallest geographic region, providing lessened risk exposure during travel between games.

In addition, playing games without fans in attendance wouldn’t affect the bottom-lines of many of the teams in the region as much as, shall we say, some of our more established Southern and Mid-Western brethren. 

If any region should be playing college football in 2020, it should be the Northeast with stringent testing, social distancing/team isolation, mini-bubbles, and minimal travel exposure. 

Besides, college football fans have to admit there are too many buy/cupcake/tune-up games or games in which the teams are just not evenly matched.  When you strip away the less than competitive games, we’re usually left with four or five games that matter for each team.

Theoretically, each team in low COVID transmission regions could play a small number of competitive or meaningful (rival/local) games.

Apart from this, a collaboration of safety protocols (as previously mentioned) will be needed. Also, voluntary and compensated participation by all involved. 

The proposal

If I were in charge of college sports (say as the Chancellor of College Sports – a totally made-up position) I would enact the following:

  • Each team in a low COVID transmission area could play a condensed, 5-game schedule among nearby teams and select rivals from other regions. (Conference play would be suspended nationwide but teams could and should play games against typical conference foes).
  • New Year’s 6 bowl games and the CFP will still be played at the end of the season. Not that there is any motivational need, but realistically these generate a ton of money. (More on that for the players later). 
  • Each team would only play every other Saturday in order to give 14 days between games for COVID detection. 
  • Team schedules will have to be approved by myself (as Chancellor of College Sports) with extreme preference given to local, competitive, and rivalry games. 
  • Stringent testing, social distancing/team isolation, mini-bubbles, and minimal travel exposure would have to be practiced by every team. 
  • Any player or coach could opt out of this season without penalty: financial, NCAA eligibility, scholarship, or otherwise. 
  • All players would immediately be allowed to profit from their names, images, and likenesses and each school will pay the players a small, even cut of the TV proceeds (this is an entirely separate matter, but if I am the chancellor I am throwing that in there). 

Schedule proposals

I have taken the liberty of creating a 5 game schedule for each of the 13 Northeast FBS teams with brief explanations below.  I have incorporated each team’s 2019 year-end Sagarin rating (think Football Power Rating for both FBS & FCS if you’re not familiar).  If this rating is not wholly predictive of the 2020 performance, it should be somewhat indicative. 

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1U BuffaloMACWestern NY75Regional game, 6 hr. drive
2TempleAACPhilly76Regional game
3PrincetonFCSNJ144Rivalry game, NJ state game
4MonmouthFCSNJ134NJ state game, 6th ranked 2020 FCS preseason team.
5MarylandB1GMD97Conference game, semi-rival
105 avg.
Rutgers Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

The Scarlet Knights get to play the battle of NJ against both Princeton and Monmouth in what should be competitive games.  The other local foes would be favored over RU, but I think that Coach Schiano, in his first year back, would have RU looking quite a bit better than 2019. 

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1TowsonFCSMD131MD state game
3UVAACCNorth VA34Rival
4NavyAACMD24Rival, MD state game
5RutgersB1GNJ135Conference game, semi-rival
75 avg.
Maryland Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

In this case, Maryland has several local rivals, so this was an easy slate to pick.  Towson is typically a solid FCS team and would be geeked out of their minds to come in and play UMD in a nationally televised game.  UVA is outside of the region and in a relatively higher COVID area, but the opportunity of rekindling this rivalry is worth taking extensive preventative measures for both teams.

Penn StateB1GCentral PA8
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
2MichiganB1GMI12Conference game, semi-rival, 6 hr. drive
3TempleAACPhilly76PA state game, little brother rival
4PittACCPitt62PA state game, rival
5Ohio StateB1GOhio2Conference game, semi-rival
35 avg.
Penn State Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

The Nittany Lions play a mix of local FBS teams and B1G foes.  The series between Penn State-Ohio State-Michigan is essentially the B1G championship, so it is worthwhile to extend the schedule outside of Penn State’s local area.  With that, Ann Arbor is a mere 6 hr. drive from State College, so the travel is not extensive. Navy isn’t really a rival per se but it was the other best team in the Northeast region last year and could be again in 2020. Pitt is the other team in the region that could lay claim to the best team title and should finish 2020 ranked much higher than 62. All this combines to give PSU (the best college football team in the Northeast) a very challenging 5 games.

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1Penn StateB1GCentral PA8PA state & rivalry game
2VillanovaFCSPhilly130Rival. In-City. 17th ranked preseason 2020 FCS Team
4BuffaloMACWest NY75Regional. 5.5 hr. drive
5PittACCPitt62PA state game
82 avg.
Temple Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Temple plays some nearby teams in what should be competitive games.  The Philly classic against Nova should be played every year as Nova is usually highly ranked in the FCS.  Temple and Buffalo have a lot in common in that they are both city programs and geographical outliers in their respective conferences. They are also fairly evenly matched and do have a bit of history against each other from their MAC days – plenty to build a rivalry on.

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1ArmyIndDownstate NY108RIVAL
3Penn StateB1GCentral PA8Regional
4MarylandB1GMD97Rival, MD state game
5Notre DameInd/ACCIndiana11Rival, 10 hr. drive
50 avg.
Navy Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Navy has 5 true rivals, maybe more.  Notre Dame and Air Force are longer trips but, as Chancellor of College Sports, I would call upon the power of the US military to get our service academy football teams to the appropriate sites to play their games.  I’m sure they could get the job done. Penn State is not a true rival but, as mentioned, the 2 best teams in the Northeast region should play each other if at all possible.

ArmyIndDownstate NY108
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
3CuseACCUpstate NY65NY state game
4U AlbanyFCSUpstate NY139NY state game, 22nd ranked FCS Team
5BuffaloMACWest NY74NY state game. 5.5 hr. drive
66 avg.
Army Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Army gets a couple of NY state games here, but won’t be favored in any of their games except for U Albany.  That being said, Army will be amped for their rivalry games and I would not count them out for the NY state championship either.

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating
2LouisvilleACCKY48Rival, 6 hr. drive
4MarshallFCSWV84Rival, WV state game
5VA TechACCVA44Rival, 4.25 hr. drive
    67 avg. 
WVU Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

WVU is another team that has a lot of rivals, and many of them are at around the same level to make for competitive games.  Marshall and the state of WV would be out of their minds excited coming into Morgantown to play that in-state rivalry game (which also should also be played more often).  Louisville and VA Tech are out of the region but (again) these rivalries warrant extra precautions to be taken.  I would have loved for WVU to play Penn State, but there wasn’t room on either of their schedules.

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1Penn StateB1GPA8Rival, PA state game
3TempleAACPhilly76PA state game
4CuseACCUpstate NY65Rival, Conference game. 5.5 hr. drive
5BCACCBoston66Semi-rival, Conference game. 9 hr. drive.
54 avg.
Pitt Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Pitt has a fair number of rivals and has had a good series going with its fellow Northeast ACC compatriots, Cuse and BC, as of late.  It just made too much sense to keep them together even though the trip from Pitt to BC is the furthest distance among the Northeast teams.  Perhaps they could play at a neutral site or some big money donor will be willing to shell out for private flights.  Even if not, it is still a drive-able distance.

 CuseACCUpstate NY65 
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1U BuffaloMACWest NY75NY state game
2PittACCPitt62Rival, Conference game
3ArmyIndDownstate NY108NY state game
4BCACCBoston66Rival, Conference game. 4.75 hr. drive
5DartmouthFCSNH113Regional. #21 2020 FCS team. 4.75 hr. drive.
    85 avg. 
Cuse Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Cuse has a mix of its Northeast ACC and NY state foes. I added Dartmouth as they are a really solid FCS team and looked like they would continue the domination of the Ivy in 2020.  U Albany was the other choice here but they already had several games scheduled against Northeast FBS teams.

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1CuseACCUpstate NY65Rival, Conference game
2UMassIndMass232Rival, MA state game
3BuffaloMACWest NY75Regional, 7.5 hr. drive.
4PittACCBoston62Semi-rival, Conference game, 9 hr. drive
5Notre DameACC/IndIndiana11Rival
    89 avg. 
BC Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

BC continues on with the Northeast ACC contingent and its’ rivalry games.  I put Buffalo in here instead of more local teams like UConn, Harvard, etc. as they are just not quite ready for the BC smoke yet.  UMass isn’t either but it is an in-state rival and this is a game that I feel like the people in Mass would want to see (well those few that care about college football anyway). 

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1BCACCBoston66Rival, MA state game
3Holy CrossFCSMass176MA state game
4HarvardFCSConn171MA state game
    157 avg. 
UMass Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

UMass plays some rivals, MA state games, and dips down into Rhode Island.  This will be a really fun New England series for the Minutemen, and while they won’t likely be favored in any of these games, they should be competitive. 

#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1Sacred HeartFCSConn198CT state game
3YaleFCSConn120#15 ranked fcs school, CT state game
4Central CT StateFCSConn160#11 ranked fcs school, CT state game
    170 avg. 
UConn Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

On the other hand, UConn kind of gets the short end of the stick here in that they have a largely FCS slate, aside from UMass, but this slate will be fun as hell.  All these games will be competitive and they get to play essentially the CT state championship against some top-notch FCS teams.  What’s not to love?

 BuffaloMACWest NY75 
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1U AlbanyFCSUpstate NY139NY state game, #22 ranked FCS
2CuseACCUpstate NY65NY state game
3ArmyIndDownstate NY108NY state game
Buffalo Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Lastly, Buffalo is a bit of an anomaly in Western NY without a ton of rivals. However, they are building a solid program and provide a ton of depth in the region. The NY state and regional match-ups can help to build rivalries for the Bulls. As previously mentioned, Temple and Buffalo seem like they could be natural rivals.   

Should the NCAA decide against football in the Northeast, maybe the XFL can give us something?    

Listen to John Glowatz on the Big Northeast Podcast