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USC's Clay Helton: Pac-12 Discussed 11-Game Conference-Only Schedule for 2020

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2020

FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, file photo, Southern California head coach Clay Helton, center, leads his players onto the field before the Holiday Bowl NCAA college football game against Iowa, in San Diego. Helton is 40-22 in four full seasons as USC coach. (AP Photo/Orlando Ramirez, File)
Orlando Ramirez/Associated Press

It is uncertain how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the college football season. Will the season start on time? Will fans be permitted in the stands? Will the season need to be halted at some point because of another outbreak of the coronavirus? 

That has schools and conferences putting contingency plans in place. And USC head coach Clay Helton said one of the contingencies being discussed was the Pac-12 having teams play an 11-game, conference-only schedule in 2020:

Stewart Mandel @slmandel

USC coach Clay Helton said an 11-game conference-only schedule has been discussed in Pac-12 meetings. "That’s been one of the many structures of our discussion depending on where we are 6-8 weeks from now."

That raises its own questions. Would the Pac-12 bother with a conference championship game in such a scenario? And if some conferences play this season and others don't—or don't play a full season—how will that affect the College Football Playoff?

Stanford head coach David Shaw was asked about that scenario:

Dennis Dodd @dennisdoddcbs

Asked what a legitimate playoff is if only half the conferences are playing, David Shaw said today: "That's the question isn't it?"

Josh Furlong @JFurKSL

David Shaw said if it just goes to conference play, how do you compare conference for a CFP Playoff — says you'd likely have to expand just to get teams in. But nobody knows how this will look.

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"There's a spirit of cooperation when it comes to college football in particular, a strong bias toward making sure we do this together," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told Andy Staples and Stewart Mandel of The Athletic. "We're all members of the College Football Playoff, and if we're going to have a Playoff at the end of the season, we need to have uniformity on how we have a season."

Going away from non-conference games would take some major matchups off the table. USC is scheduled to play Alabama and Notre Dame, for instance, two highlights from the Pac-12's non-conference slate. Other lost games would include Oregon vs. Ohio State, Washington vs. Michigan, Utah vs. BYU, California vs. TCU, Oregon State vs. Oklahoma State and Colorado vs. Texas A&M. 

Another uncertainty is how the different schools and conferences might differ in their approaches going forward amid the COVID-19 pandemic, or whether games will occur at all.

"Decisions about fans [attending are] really going to be made by public health officials," Scott said. "Decisions whether to play or not play are going to be made by universities, conferences and the NCAA. Those are two very different types of decisions."

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