Big Ten Conference

Oregon vs. Ohio State is officially cancelled... so, now what?

Oregon vs. Ohio State is officially cancelled... so, now what?

Let’s be honest with ourselves here, who the heck wants to watch Alabama absolutely demolish and embarrass some lower-tier, non power-5 school in non-conference play anyway?

Nobody except those in Tuscaloosa. Got it. What the people want is Oregon vs. Ohio State; Washington vs. Michigan; Oregon vs. LSU. Those type of games. Games that will actually draw eyes and ratings. Games that will benefit teams in the long run rather than a “cupcake” non-conference schedule. Games that mean something.

On Thursday, Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported that the Big Ten conference is cancelling all non-conference play due to the coronavirus pandemic and will stick to a conference-opponent schedule this upcoming season.

The Big 10 made the announcement official later Thursday afternoon.

Still, no news yet what the Pac-12 conference will decide, but all signs point to following in these footsteps.

[Listen and download for free 'Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football].

So…. Now what?

Oregon was set to host North Dakota State and likely Hesiman candidate quarterback Trey Lance. Then, seven days later, Justin Fields and the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

Head coach Mario Cristobal has stated before how important it is to schedule big, meaningful games.

They want to play the best teams in the country all the time, and there is no way we're going to go away from that mentality to try to schedule down to appease—whatever, I guess I should stop there before I get in trouble, right? These guys deserve to find out how good they are by playing against the best, so we're going to continue doing that. — Mario Cristobal

After Texas A&M cancelled a home-and-home series with the Ducks for 2018 and 2019 seasons, Oregon’s rather “soft” non-conference schedule in 2018 of Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State (all at home too), was criticized all year long. Oregon turned that around immediately playing Auburn to open up the season in 2019 in a game that drew in 6.86 million viewers.

Games of that nature don’t just draw in eyes of viewers on television, but it puts the teams on national television which attracts recruits. If a head coach can promise national attention and relevance, that’s hard to pass up in the eyes of a young 17-year-old.

Now, let’s take a look at the very shaky, not-sure-what-it-will-look-like future of college football this season. We still aren’t sure what the season will look like, especially the postseason. Let’s say that all the division one schools go along with just conference opponents. This is bad news bears for the Pac-12.

Hear me out.

The Pac-12 hasn’t had a competing team in the College Football Playoff since 2015 when Oregon dismantled Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles in the CFB semifinal, but fell to Ohio State in the National Championship. The Washington Huskies were embarrassed by Alabama 24-7 in 2017.

Oregon’s 2020 Rose Bowl appearance and victory over Wisconsin was definitely nice, but it wasn't a playoff game.

So, postseason play is already a problem for the Pac-12. But, then there is the issue with late kickoff times, as well. Seven of Oregon’s nine Pac-12 conference games kickoff at 4 PM (PT) or later. Having one of the best Pac-12 team’s kickoff at 7:30 PM (or 10:30 PM on the East Coast) really hurts tv ratings and eyes across the country.

Having no non-conference schedule puts a lot more pressure on the Pac-12 during conference play.

Here’s a look at the non-conference marquee matchups slated in the future for Oregon:

2021 - at Ohio State

2022 - at Georgia

2023 - at Texas Tech

2024 - vs. Texas Tech; Boise State

2025 - vs. Oklahoma State; at Boise State

2026 - vs. Boise State; at Oklahoma State

2027 - at Baylor

2028 - vs. Baylor

2029 - at Michigan State

2030 - vs. Michigan State

It’s sad not just for Duck fans or Buckeye fans, but for college football as a whole. It would have been great to see Oregon’s defense, which is projected to be second in the nation, go up against Heisman candidate quarterback Justin Fields. We’ll just have to wait until 2021 (hopefully).

According to Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens, he and Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith have been in contact regarding the cancellation.

I appreciate Gene Smith reaching out to share the Big 10’s announcement. We agreed to have ongoing discussions about the options for rescheduling the Oregon home game in our series. — Rob Mullens

Perhaps because it was the Big 10 conference’s decision to cancel their non-conference schedule, maybe that gives Oregon some leeway in the future about rescheduling the game. Las Vegas anyone?

Ohio State’s future non-conference schedule includes a return trip to the West Coast in 2024 at Washington, so perhaps the two schools can play then? But that would also make Oregon’s 2024 non-conference opponents Texas Tech, Boise State and then Ohio State. Dang.

So, the Big Ten was the first power-5 conference to shut down non-conference play. What about the other conferences? Can you imagine the reaction if the SEC also cancelled games when football is such a prominent and important factor in SEC territory? If one conference cancels, shouldn’t they all? It is difficult to navigate these uncharted waters especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still among us. 

Only a matter of time. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and former Oregon Track & Field star and Olympian Galen Rupp].

Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes officially postponed

Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes officially postponed

One of the most anticipated matchups of the 2020 football season was scheduled to go down inside Autzen Stadium on September 12th.

Well, not anymore.

The Big 10 announced Thursday that they would focus on a conference-only schedule for select sports, including football. 

The Big Ten Conference announced today that if the Conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports. Details for these sports will be released at a later date, while decisions on sports not listed above will continue to be evaluated. By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the Conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic.
 
This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months between the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Directors of Athletics, Conference Office staff, and medical experts including the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

A new date for the Ducks-Buckeyes game is not immediately known. 

Oregon AD Rob Mullens has issued a statement, as well:

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the United States and has left the sports world in limbo. 

Now, Ohio State and the Big 10 can be added to the list.

College Football Insider Brett McMurphy reported Wednesday that Ohio State had paused all voluntary workouts after multiple student-athletes tested positive for the disease. The school would not release the number of positive tests, only stating that the pausing of workouts was a result of the latest round of testing.

As a precaution to help flatten the curve, some reported the Big 10 could play a conference only or regional only schedule. The same goes for the Pac-12, with USC head coach Clay Helton saying the conference is considering playing 11 conference games, eliminating all non-conference opponents.

That means Washington vs Michigan this season will be called off, as well.

Still, conferences sticking to a conference-only continue to have a big "IF." 

It was announced early Wednesday that the Ivy League has decided to cancel fall sports for the 2020 season. 

The Ivy League became to the first league to announce they would not play fall sports, and that is no small drop in the pond. 

The Ivy League was also the first league to cancel its basketball championship tournaments earlier this year, and shortly thereafter all the other leagues followed suit. 

It feels like more dominoes will continue to fall in the coming days and weeks.