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Thursday, September 3, 2020

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In less than 24 hours, there will be live college football.

With all due respect to Central Arkansas and Austin Peay, who played in a "Week 0" matchup last weekend, the sport continues at the FBS level this week as the Sun Belt, American, and Conference USA begin play. Power 5 play begins a week later with the ACC and Big 12, and the SEC, content to let the other conferences serve as cannon fodder to any potential setbacks, resumes play in what most would call Week 4 on the last Saturday in September.

To be frank, I was doubtful we'd get to this point. Once the Big Ten and Pac 12 announced the postponement of their seasons, I thought the other Power 5 leagues would follow suit. Even once none of the remaining three made the immediate move, I thought for sure that UNC, NC State, and Notre Dame going to online only instruction temporarily or permanently might force the ACC's hand. But while there's still a week plus until the remaining P5 leagues kick off, it seems to be full speed ahead.

It's not the choice I would make if I were in a vacuum the likes of which no actual decision maker enjoys. I certainly would have erred on the conservative side and been alongside the Big Ten and Pac 12 in postponing the season. But now that the toothpaste is out of the tube, I'm rooting for a successful season, if for only one reason: It means that this season took place safely.

Above all else, I'm rooting for safety. I would far rather be "wrong" and have the season go off without a hitch, because "right" means that players got infected, got sick, or even died as we put college football's "student athletes" into harm's way to financially prop up athletic departments and universities. Wrong means that the plans, protocols, and safety measures are working. Wrong means a path forward for college football, certainly, but maybe for us all.

But selfishly, as a fan, wrong could mean one more thing. If the six conferences that play find a successful way forward, the Big Ten, Pac 12, MAC, and Mountain West, who have been using "postponed" language with regards to their fall season, and some seem to be mulling tentative plans at a season that starts at the very end of 2020 or early 2021. Consider this: The Rose Bowl is locked in as a College Football Playoff semifinal site for this season. If their traditional conferences, the Big Ten and Pac 12, play in the spring, could the Granddaddy of 'em All have its cake and eat it too with a spring Rose Bowl? It would certainly be the best possible end to an unorthodox, bifurcated season.

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