It's no secret the 2020 college football season has been turned on its head, knocked over, and then flung around.
So what's left at this point? Quite a bit actually.
The FBS dominoes began falling when the Big Ten announced that they are going to play a conference only schedule. The Pac-12 and later, the Southeastern Conference followed suit with an in-conference only schedule. A number of FCS conferences have completely canceled their seasons.
For them, it makes sense. For the Big XII and the Group of Five conferences, not so much.
The Big XII has yet to tip their hand, but due to their ten member setup, a ten game (9 + 1 OOC) is very possible, expanding up to three out of conference games.
While formal announcements are still pending, Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference are planning on a traditional eight game conference schedule and then as many out of conference games as these schools choose to schedule up to the usual twelve games. The Group of Five schools need those extra games to try and salvage the financial damage that has come from the loss of the high payout home games the power conferences schedule.
The ACC is the wild card. They announced that they will have one out of conference game in their schedule, but it has to be played in-state or at home. This potentially complicates potential ACC/Big XII matchups, but there are regional G5 opponents that both of these power conferences can utilize. A major reason for the ACC having the extra game on their schedule is contractual media inventory for their conference network.
Originally, the UCF Knights were scheduled to host North Carolina to kick off the season as well as a road tilt at Georgia Tech. When the ACC's announcement first came out, the expectation was that Georgia Tech would play Georgia and North Carolina would play their Chick-fil-A kickoff game against Auburn. UCF was out of luck.
Then came the SEC's announcement of an in-conference schedule only. The ACC was not expecting their four annual rivalry games to be nixed. Now what?
This opens the door for UCF to maybe salvage at least one of these games. Assuming the ACC keeps their out-of-conference game on their schedule, Georgia Tech is the easier situation to figure out since UCF was supposed to play in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets are a rebuilding program after posting a conference worst 3-9 record last year. Do they play UCF, a top 25 caliber program that would be well favored to win, do they play a weaker team on their schedule that they should defeat, like FCS Gardner-Webb, or do they look for a completely different opponent?
The best answer to that question is a matter of perspective. As a rebuilding program, do you take the strongest opponent that offers a low chance of winning or do you take the morale booster win that can offer a chance for player development? In UCF's shoes, I'd obviously take the first option. UCF is a strong program looking for P5 opponents to help elevate their brand. In Georgia Tech's shoes, I'd choose the second option because the expectations are much lower and the team needs that development and morale.
North Carolina is a trickier situation. The game against the Tar Heels was scheduled to be played in Orlando. That’s obviously not happening. Does UCF and North Carolina find a fair way to switch the game to Chapel Hill? Switching one of the home games between Orlando and Chapel Hill is anything but an equitable trade. Like Georgia Tech, UNC is operating on the strong side of the negotiating table. An ideal situation for all parties would be to push the Georgia Tech and North Carolina games back to a later year.
While UCF’s home game against MEAC member Florida A&M was lost when the conference canceled their football season, the Knights still have a home game scheduled with Florida International. All signs point to that game still happening as it has been reported that FIU is still interested in playing UCF.
On average, UCF banks somewhere in the range of $1.5 to $2 million per home game. That’s with a stadium full of stands. The deal UCF and Florida Atlantic had with each other for 2017-18 paid each team $150k. It’s a safe assumption UCF and FIU have a similar payout for their two game series in 2020 and 2022. Let’s assume $200k on the high side. If UCF can get 25% attendance, that is an estimated $400k in revenue, which would yield a $200k profit. That money is much needed.
It is possible that UCF athletic director Danny White is trying to fill out the home slate as much as possible to salvage as much revenue as possible. Florida Atlantic lost their road game at Minnesota when the Big Ten went in-conference only and a home game versus Stony Brook of the FCS Colonial Athletic Association, which canceled football. There is availability there, which would be an inexpensive opponent that fills a big need. This isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly a case of making lemonade out of lemons.
Along those lines, the extra home games are good for the AAC’s media deal since the home game’s media package is the one that gets used. This would give UCF more opportunity on the ESPN family as the new AAC media deal went into effect back on July 1st.
The postseason is also changing. The Redbox Bowl, a bowl that matches up the Big Ten and PAC-12 conferences, was the first bowl to cancel their 2020 edition. It is expected that other postseason games will cancel their games. Depending on how many bowls cancel their games and how the College Football Playoff changes their selection methodology, these factors can also play a role in how UCF’s schedule shapes up.
Of course, this is all under the assumption that the college football season even happens at all. There are no guarantees.