BYU football takes another hit as SEC opts for conference-only schedule

(John Bazemore | AP file photo) In this Dec. 7, 2019 file photo, LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (22) carries during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta.

The powerhouse Southeastern Conference announced Thursday that it will play only league games in 2020, a pandemic-forced decision that pushes major college football closer to a siloed regular season in which none of the power conferences cross paths.

The news from the SEC, paired with the Atlantic Coast Conference’s announcement a day earlier that it would play a conference-plus-one schedule for the 2020 football season, in particular leaves BYU in an increasingly gaping lurch.

The Cougars already lost five games from their schedule after the Pac-12 and Big Ten opted for conference-only play. Now they have lost a sixth – against Missouri on Oct.10. In addition, with the 2020 schedule being torn to taters, BYU had hoped to set up a season-opening game against Alabama. That is off the table.

Now that the majority of the Power Five conferences have decided how to move forward and play through the pandemic, the Group of Five conferences are sure to follow. So could more destruction to BYU’s schedule.

The Group of Five includes the Mountain West, three teams from which were scheduled to play BYU this year: Utah State (Oct. 2), Boise State (Nov. 6) and San Diego State (Nov. 14). It also includes the Mid-America Conference, to which Northern Illinois, the Cougars’ Oct. 24 opponent, belongs. And it includes the American Athletic Conference, which counts Houston, BYU’s Oct. 16 foe, among its programs.

With the original start of fall camp right around the corner, those Group of Five decisions could come sooner than later. If all five decide to go conference-only, BYU would be left with just North Alabama (Nov. 21) from its original schedule.

The SEC's university presidents agreed on a 10-game schedule that eliminates all nonconference opponents and is set to begin Sept. 26. The SEC championship game, originally scheduled for Dec. 5, will be pushed back to Dec. 19.

Each SEC team will have a midseason off week and Dec. 12 will be an off week for the entire conference.

The ACC wanted to allow four of its schools to maintain in-state rivalry games with SEC schools, but now Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, Clemson-South Carolina and Kentucky-Louisville have been canceled. That puts all ACC nonconference games in doubt because the conference had stipulated it would only allow its schools to play in their home states against non-ACC teams.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have yet to reveal detailed schedules but both could come as soon as Friday. Big 12 officials were holding out hope its 10 members would be able to play nonconference games, but options are dwindling. The SEC's decision cancels LSU's home game against Texas and Tennessee's scheduled trip to Oklahoma in September.

Big 12 athletic directors are expected to meet Monday and could have a decision on their schedule then.

The delayed start for the Southeastern Conference is two weeks later than the ACC’s and creates 12 weeks to get in 10 games and determine participants for the league title game in Atlanta.