The Big 10 Conference, which had previously postponed its football season due to coronavirus concerns back in August, changed course today, citing improved testing capabilities and a more optimistic outlook on the medical front.
According to ESPN, the conference’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to restart the season. Every Big 10 team will be involved in the abbreviated season, which will only include conference games.
Teams will soon start preparing for an eight-week conference season with eight games beginning the weekend of Oct. 24. The regular season will culminate with the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19. That same day will also feature an additional cross-division game for each school, with seeded teams in each division squaring off.
Perhaps even more importantly, the Big 10 season will conclude before the College Football Playoff’s Selection Day on Dec. 20. And it’s expected that the Big Ten teams will now be eligible for the postseason games.
Game attendance likely limited to families of players and staff
Although there will be football on the field, the Big 10 clearly won’t be operating with business as usual. Fans and typical crowds won’t be allowed inside the stadiums on game days. However, the conference is working on plans to allow families of players and staff to attend.
So Happy Valley won’t be completely happy.
But considering where the conference was a few weeks ago, football fans have to be excited about the most recent developments. Penn State head coach James Franklin certainly is.
“We are excited for our guys to have the opportunity to get back to action safely on the weekend of October 23-24,” Franklin wrote in a tweet, which was also posted on Onward State. “These last several months have been riddled with uncertainty for our student-athletes, but they have handled it with class and dignity.”
Franklin’s coaching rival, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, was also elated.
“Great news today. Over the past month, I could sense the anticipation from our players and coaches, and I’m thrilled on their behalf that they will have a chance to play a 2020 season. Stay positive. Test negative. Let’s play football,” he said in a prepared statement available via Bleacher Report.
Updated schedules, game lines for Penn State and more soon
Now that the Big 10 has solidified its return to the field, one of the next steps should include a formal schedule for each of the teams. And soon after that, betting lines and player specials will start appearing at Pennsylvania sportsbooks.
Completing the entire season will be a risky proposition, but with rigorous testing regimens (which are expected to include daily rapid-response tests and cardiac evaluations) and strict protocols, league officials are optimistic that the season can reach the finish line. Certainly, the NBA and NHL playoffs, which have largely progressed as planned, are providing a source of hope too.
And now, the Big 10, which watched on the sidelines while Power 5 rivals like the ACC, SEC and BIG 12 played last weekend, will join the fray.
In fact, some sportsbooks have already included the conference in futures bets for the 2021 National Championship.
Big Ten teams among contenders in National Championship futures
BetRivers/PlaySugarHouse and DraftKings PA have Clemson as the current favorite for college football’s National Championship at +200. But Ohio State is now close behind at +250. And Penn State (28-1) is on the board, along with Wisconsin, Michigan (both are +4000) and Minnesota too (+8000).
Things have changed quickly.
A fall that seemed rather sad for fans in State College, New Brunswick, New Jersey and every other Big 10 outpost in between has been totally transformed.
The sun is shining a little brighter. Each campus will have a little more activity, and certainly more excitement too.
Big 10 football is back.