First college football Top 25 is out, conferences announce season schedules

Justin Fields of the Ohio State Buckeyes prepares to pass against the Clemson Tigers.
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

There is not yet any guarantee that the 2020 college football season will happen due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. UConn, for example, has already cancelled its entire season. But there also isn’t any guarantee that it won’t happen. Thus optimism has to be the option for now, and it is the option FBS coaches have taken. The first coaches poll of the year was released on Thursday, and there were absolutely no surprises in the top two spots. In fact, the only surprise might be that Clemson and Ohio State did not sweep the first-place votes.

Preseason poll

*first-place votes in parentheses

1. Clemson (38)
2. Ohio State (17)
3. Alabama (4)
4. Georgia
5. LSU (6)
6. Oklahoma
7. Penn State
8. Florida
9. Oregon
10. Notre Dame
11. Auburn
12. Wisconsin
13. Texas A&M
14. Texas
15. Michigan
16. Oklahoma State
17. USC
18. Minnesota
19. North Carolina
20. Utah
21. UCF
22. Cincinnati
23. Iowa
24. Virginia Tech
25. Iowa State

Unsurprisingly, Clemson and Ohio State—who battled in in the semifinals of last season’s College Football Playoff—are the top two title favorites. The Tigers lead the way at +225, while the Buckeyes are next at +300. The third through fifth favorites also continue in the same order as the coaches poll (Alabama at +500, Georgia at +800, and defending champion LSU at +1000).

Not coincidentally, Clemson and Ohio State also boast the top two Heisman Trophy contenders. Trevor Lawrence of the Tigers is a +375 favorite, just ahead of Ohio State’s Justin Fields (+400).

Conference-only schedules

Fields and the Buckeyes will kick off their 2020 campaign on Thursday, Sept. 3 at Illinois and they have an earlier-than-usual showdown against Michigan on Oct. 24. Those were among the games that were announced when the Big Ten proposed its new season-long schedule on Wednesday.

That conference’s scheduling model has been dubbed Jenga 41, paying homage to the popular game that involves stacking wooden blocks on top of each other. The 41 references the fact that flexible scheduling is being used to the extent that 41 of the Big Ten’s 70 games could be eventually moved to a pair of bye weeks that are currently being allocated to all teams.

“Issuing a schedule does not guarantee competition this fall will occur in the Big Ten conference,” conference commissioner Kevin Warren said in an interview with Yahoo Sports. “We felt collectively that this was the next logical and methodical step forward in our process to be able to, at least, put some planning in place for our fall sports season. This is a day-to-day journey together. That’s the best way I can say it. I feel good today to proceed tomorrow. That’s how we’ll look at this. I have to evaluate every item on a daily basis.”

With a few exceptions, the Big Ten and all other FBS teams will play conference-only schedules this season in order to minimize travel. That means non-conference rival games like Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Notre Dame vs. USC, and Clemson vs. South Carolina, plus more unusual meetings such as Georgia vs. Virginia, Miami (FL) vs. Michigan State, Virginia Tech vs. Penn State, and Texas Tech vs. Arizona are cancelled.

Among the game lines that are currently available is Michigan vs. Ohio State, which has the Buckeyes as -11.5 favorites. Be sure to check out our weekly college football expert picks for every FBS game this year.

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