SEC

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey poses in Birmingham, Alabama. There are 130 major college football teams, spread across 41 states and competing in 10 conferences, save for a handful of independents. The goal is to have all those teams start the upcoming season at the same time — whether that's around Labor Day as scheduled or later — and play the same number of games.

The waters of college football, and sports in general, have never been murkier.

Everybody was in agreement, until they weren’t.

Initial reports across college athletics and NCAA member institutions indicated that college football would only resume in the fall if and when college classes resumed at their respective universities.

It seemed an easy conclusion to make the statement in April: no college, no college football. Athletic directors and conference commissioners all voiced their approval and seemed to be in agreement.

Then, within hours, NCAA president Mark Emmert eased up on previous desires to open the season with a shotgun start. Instead, Emmert told ESPN the NCAA won’t mandate or oversee a uniform return to college sports across all of its member institutions.

 No one in current leadership has ever been through a worldwide pandemic; the Spanish flu pandemic that shuttered much of academia and collegiate athletics came and went in 1918-20, and 100 years would be an impressively long career.

I expect we will have college football, in some form, in the fall. Whether it is a 10-game schedule, a split fall-spring season, a spring season or no season at all, one thing is certain: there is a ton of uncertainty surrounding the 2020 football season.

But there is just too much money on the line.

So with a positive frame of mind, let’s look ahead to the 2020 Mississippi State slate. (We will delve into the Ole Miss one later).

While 2019 was a year marked by its unique set of circumstances, the 2020 season doesn’t necessarily line up more favorably for the Bulldogs schedule-wise.

MSU should be favored in all four of its non-conference games. The road trip to face N.C. State could be tricky, while Tulane has reached bowl games in back-to-back years, but neither should pose too much of a threat.

A Week 3 meeting with Arkansas will open Southeastern Conference play for the Bulldogs with the Razorbacks now under the leadership of former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman. New coach aside, Arkansas is a program in need of a four-to-five-year rebuild, and the Hogs shouldn’t be an issue in 2020.

October could prove as brutal as it did in 2019, when MSU lost three of the four games it played. Facing a four-game stretch between Oct. 3 and Oct. 31, the Bulldogs get a Texas A&M team that should be primed for a breakout season in Jimbo Fisher’s third year at home before heading to Alabama and LSU the ensuing two weeks. MSU will then close the month with a home contest against Auburn — a squad that should take a step back given what it loses defensively but welcomes deposed Arkansas head coach Chad Morris as its new offensive coordinator, hoping to spark a more efficient offense with former five-star recruit Bo Nix under center.

If MSU is to make a jump in 2020 under new coach Mike Leach, that likely comes down to the Nov. 7 and Nov. 14 meetings with Missouri and Kentucky. If the Bulldogs get past the Tigers at home, as they should, the road game at Kentucky likely decides whether MSU can win eight games for the third time since 2017.

If the Bulldogs fall in Lexington or against Missouri, another 6-6 season becomes a real possibility given Lane Kiffin will be taking over a flawed but talented roster at Ole Miss.

That all sounds fine and dandy right now, but we can only hope and wait for what this season may bring.

nContact Bill Burrus at 581-7237 or bburrus@gwcommonwealth.com.

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