The Big Ten and Pac-12 both canceled football season Tuesday — an almost-incomprehensible blow for their 26 FBS schools that will not play in 2020.
We’re going to miss both conferences dearly this season, if there is one. Nine teams in Sporting News’ preseason top 25 rankings were from either the Big Ten or Pac-12. The conferences will lose revenue, and so many exciting games are off the schedule now. The Big Noon Kickoffs and Pac-12 After Dark won’t be there, either.
What will we miss most about those conferences in 2020? Here are 10 things that come to mind:
Big Ten trophies
The Big Ten has the single-greatest collection of rivalry trophies in all of college football. It’s a never-ending state fair with the Floyd of Rosedale, Illibuck, Little Brown Jug and Paul Bunyan’s Axe, just to name a few. We love those trophies, and will miss them dearly in 2020.
Playing to win the game
The Sun Devils were on the upward spring with a 15-11 record the last two seasons under Herm Edwards. Perhaps they were ready to challenge USC and Utah for a Pac-12 South championship — maybe even a Rose Bowl run. Sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels was a part of that, and looked ready to lead Arizona State to heights missed since the Jake Plummer days.
Rowing the Boat
P.J. Fleck had Minnesota on the right track after an 11-win season, and it was OK to wonder out loud if the Gophers were ready to take down Wisconsin for a Big Ten West championship. The tenor of that changed a bit when star receiver Rashod Bateman opted out, but quarterback Tanner Morgan was one of the top returning quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Perhaps Fleck and Edwards could have squared off in that Rose Bowl. The news conferences — excuse us, Zoom conferences — would have been entertaining.
Big Ten-Pac 12 showdowns
The first two weeks of the season would have featured Michigan at Washington and Ohio State at Oregon: games that could have granted credibility-establishing wins for both sides. The Wolverines would have had a new starting quarterback — when will Dylan McCaffrey ever play? — against Washington coach Jimmy Lake in his debut. The showdown between the Ducks and Buckeyes would have been the first top-10 showdown of the season, and a huge piece of the College Football Playoff puzzle. We won’t get to see a defense that featured Kayvon Thibodeaux and Justin Flowe take on Ryan Day’s offensive machine in Autzen Stadium.
Clay Helton hot-seat talk
It has an annual tradition at USC since 2016. The Trojans were supposed to open with Alabama at Jerry World, but the tweaked Pac-12 schedule would have featured USC at UCLA in the opener, which would have been fantastic. Helton had a talented offense led by sophomore Kedon Slovis and Biletnikoff Award candidate Amon-Ra St. Brown. Seriously, we’re not going to hear “Fight On” all fall?
Scott Frost on the spot
Nebraska has made it clear it still wants to play, and that might lead to a — wait for it — frosty relationship with the Big Ten moving forward. Frost had a 9-15 record through two seasons with the Huskers, and the pressure was on to get the program back into the mix for a Big Ten West championship. It will be interesting to see where Nebraska goes from here, but it will have to wait to get back on the national stage.
White Out game
Fans weren’t going to attend anyway, but not having a “White Out” game — which is on the short list of greatest spectacles in college football — for the Ohio State game is a big miss. That is the game that has defined the season for both teams the last four years; the winner has gone on to win the Big Ten championship.
He was the only returning Heisman Trophy finalist from last season, and he presumably won’t get to come back for an encore with the Buckeyes. We believed all along that Fields would be even better in his second season in Day’s system. Ohio State had skill-position talent all over the place around him, including Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon and sophomore receiver Garrett Wilson, among others. The Buckeyes had a chance to be the highest-scoring team in the nation and were a sound bet to win a fourth straight Big Ten championship. That will take a long time for fans in Columbus to come to grips with what could have been.
That would have been our pick for the Pac-12 championship game, and it’s the game the conference needed to elevate it back to Playoff status. They were scheduled to play in the regular season, but imagine what could have been with both teams marching into the conference game with one-loss records. Perhaps the Pac-12 might have gotten a playoff spot this year.
We lose so many great rivalries, but this remains the best rivalry in college football. It doesn’t matter that it was supposed to be played on Oct. 24. Last week, we were talking about a spat on a Big Ten coaches call between Harbaugh and Day. We were wondering whether the Buckeyes really could put 100 on the Wolverines, and what it would mean for Harbaugh to drop to 0-6 in “The Game.” Or perhaps Michigan could have won at The Shoe for the first time since 2000. Either way, The Game — the one that drives the most headlines in the regular season and offense — will not be played. That still hurts the most.