Roundtable: What is the biggest concern regarding the Pac-12 football season?
An eventful past few weeks that was full of news and rumors was finally settled after the Pac-12 CEO Group voted on Thursday, Sept. 24 to resume play and begin its conference football season on Nov. 6.
But a college football season, in the middle of a pandemic, does not come without a little bit of controversy. So what unanswered questions still remain regarding a Pac-12 football season? Our sports desk chimed in.
Jacob Mennuti - Seven games is not enough to get into the College Football Playoffs
I understand that the Pac-12 did not have much of a choice by only scheduling seven games. The conference basically shot itself in the foot by waiting so long to make a decision and had no other option than to cram in a reduced seven-game season before the final CFP committee meeting. But the major issue I have is that the entire season could prove to be a complete waste of time if a Pac-12 team is not given a legitimate chance at making the College Football Playoffs.
Seven games — especially in the Pac-12 where the competition is weaker than any other power five conference — is simply not enough to prove to the committee that you are one of the best four teams in the country. I honestly don’t see a scenario where a 7-0 Pac-12 team gets the nod over a one loss SEC, ACC or Big 12 team. There aren’t enough significant wins to go around in the Pac-12 while the rest of the conferences have plenty of opportunities to pick up a few significant wins to bolster its CFP resume.
So if seven games isn’t enough to make the College Football Playoffs and the conference was crunched on time, then why didn’t the Pac-12 make a better effort at getting the NCAA to extend the start date of bowl season to allow more time to play more games? Your guess is as good as mine.
Ari Koslow - Injuries
I am hopeful that this abbreviated Pac-12 season will go by smoothly, but my biggest concern would be injuries. We have seen what’s happened with the NFL after they didn’t have the proper off-season, which included seven different players tearing their ACL in Week Two. When you don’t have the proper time to prepare for the upcoming season in offseason training that you are usually accustomed to, it can lead to a lot more potential injuries.
These teams will have about a month from now heading into the season opener in early November. I haven’t seen too many major injuries so far in college football, but it is of course a different circumstance between the Pac-12 and the other conferences who started playing on time.
Ryan Wohl - Does the Pac-12 have a backup plan?
I believe that the biggest concern for a shortened, seven-game Pac-12 season is: what happens if a team cannot play a game due to its player’s testing positive for COVID-19? The way that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott organized this season was done very poorly by having all seven games in seven consecutive weeks. This hurts potential playoff teams when not having any flexibility when rescheduling potential games.
All of the other Power Five conferences started their seasons in a timely fashion and are able to reschedule games in future weeks if necessary. If we are being realistic, in the five years that the NCAA has introduced their new postseason format (where only four teams make the playoffs) zero teams from the Pac-12 have made it. The good news is there are inner rumblings that this could be Larry Scott’s last season in charge, which will only be beneficial to every school looking to get over the hump in the coming years.
Devin Homer - Is six weeks of preparation enough?
With the Pac 12 announcing when the season will start, that leaves six weeks until the first game. During June, there is usually general fitness and conditioning to build up the players cardio-respiratory system. In July, there are football related activities like plyometrics and speed training. To finish it off in August, training camp usually starts. During those months, California’s laws during the pandemic were too strict for teams to meet and have practices that will not allow their players to be prepared for camp. In 2011, the NFL offseason was shorter than usual because of the lockout. A study done by Emory University found that during that offseason soft tissue injuries jumped up 38% from the other years.
The three month usual offseason for college programs has been cut in half, there is no way the players' bodies will be ready for full practice. The teams need a good four weeks to prepare for full contact to make sure the players bodies are in top tier form. That brings up the question, what were the other motives for the season to start?
C.J. Lala - Short time to prepare for the season
The start date is about six weeks away, the lack of time that head coach Kevin Sumlin has to properly prepare his team is concerning. It was apparent throughout the first two weeks of the NFL season that the players were not in game-ready shape, as many of the players got injured. I think this will carry over to the Pac-12 season, as the teams have been working out during the offseason, but they were not tackling in practice.
This season will also be different from the past because Arizona will have to jump straight into conference play — instead of having the first two or three games be against weaker opponents, acting almost as a preseason. Another hurdle for the Wildcats to overcome is the loss of their star defensive players through the transfer portal. Coach Sumlin will have to increase the intensity of his practices by a lot to get his team ready for this season.
Jake Faigus - No schedule flexibility, CFP implications and unequal preparation time
There are a few concerns I have for the upcoming Pac-12 football season. The news of the Pac-12 starting its season on Nov. 6 was one of the few pieces of good news that 2020 has had to offer, but there are lingering questions and concerns surrounding the season still.
First, the coronavirus is still very present, and is still a concern for student-athletes participating in such a physical sport like football this year. To the Pac-12’s credit, they were the first conference to strike a deal to implement 15-minute COVID-19 tests across their campuses with the healthcare company, Quidel Corporation. With the implementation of these tests the conference will have uniform testing, and because of that could potentially catch outbreaks before they even start. Still, leaving no wiggle room for scheduling is very risky, especially with this virus.
Another concern comes in regards to the postseason. The postseason this year seems very up in the air, in general. The biggest question is if the Pac-12 will qualify for the College Football Playoff while only playing seven games as a conference. The favorite in the conference is Oregon, but will Oregon get a fair look if they win out?
The third biggest concern is preparation. How prepared will each team be? Certain teams have been able to practice with little to no restrictions like both Arizona and Arizona State. Other teams haven’t been able to practice much at all because of restrictions in place due to the pandemic. The different levels of preparation could grant certain teams a competitive advantage. Also, the different levels of preparation could relate to an increase in injuries this year. The concerns surrounding the Pac-12 coming back are warranted, but overall this is still good news for anyone in the conference.
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