A little more than a month after the Big Ten broke hearts throughout the Midwest by announcing that the league would not have a football season in 2020, the conference has reversed course. After watching the ACC and Big 12, among smaller conferences, successfully kick off the 2020 college football season, the Big Ten has decided that it too can stage games during the ongoing pandemic with proper precautions. The vote among the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors was unanimous, setting up Big Ten football to return on October 24.
With the season starting on October 24, there are eight Saturdays before the Big Ten Championship Game, which is scheduled for December 19. Each team will play eight games with no off-week, which could complicate things if any games can’t be played because of a COVID-19 outbreak within a team or on a Big Ten campus. In addition to the Big Ten Championship Game on December 19, that date will be used to give teams a ninth game to be played against a team from the opposite division.
The reason why the Big Ten has been able to reverse course is the implementation of a rapid testing program that will begin on September 30. Testing will be prior to every practice and game. Any player who tests positive will need to wait at least 21 days before returning to practice or play in games. If a team has a positivity rate higher than 5%, that team will have to stop all football operations for seven days.
If everything goes according to plan, Big Ten teams will have finished a nine-game schedule one day before the final College Football Playoff rankings are released. However, those are lofty expectations, even with a daily testing protocol in place. There have already been over half a dozen games postponed during the first three weeks of the season because of COVID-related concerns. It is far from certain that the college football season will be played to fruition. However, the Big Ten has officially joined the list of conferences that are going to try.