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Pac-12 football: Top five matchups lost to conference-only season

Pac-12 football: Top five matchups lost to conference-only season
The Pac-12’s conference-only schedule in all sports this fall ends historic football streaks and thwarts exciting matchups. (Photo: MGN Image)

SAN FRANCISCO (BVM) – The Pac-12 followed in the footsteps of the Big Ten last week when they voted to play a conference-only schedule in all sports this fall, including football.

A major factor in the delay to the fall season was concern for UCLA and USC with a record number of cases of COVID-19 being reported in Los Angeles County, according to ESPN. The decision came just hours before the Pac-12 announced that the conference’s commissioner, Larry Scott, tested positive for the coronavirus.

The latest setback to an unprecedented college football season ends historic streaks, thwarts exciting matchups and creates scheduling dilemmas for multiple programs. Let’s take a look at five of the most anticipated games lost to the conference-only season:

BYU vs. Utah, originally scheduled for Sept. 3

Coined the “Holy War,” this BYU-Utah football rivalry has had exactly 100 meetings. The rivalry’s nickname stems from the fact that BYU is owned and administered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while Utah is a public university owned and administered by the state.

Although the two schools disagree on when the first game was played, both teams played in the same conference from 1922 to 2010 and the Holy War often determined a conference champion. The Utes have won every matchup since they joined the Pac-12 in 2011, but the annual meeting ensures a sold-out crowd wherever the game is played. Utah owes seven of its 10 largest crowds before the expansion of Rice Eccles Stadium to the Holy War, while five of BYU’s 20 largest crowds came by way of the rivalry game. Fortunately, the Holy War has been scheduled through 2028. 

USC vs. Alabama, originally scheduled for Sept. 5 

Another highly-anticipated opener was slated to take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Crimson Tide and Trojans met in Jerry World back in 2016 when Jalen Hurts led a 52-6 whooping in his first collegiate start. 

But now there are new questions about Alabama’s next signal-caller, and even more intrigue. Mac Jones played well in place of the injured Tua Tagovailoa last season, but incoming freshman Bryce Young is a highly-decorated five-star recruit who was originally committed to, none other than, USC. Trojan fans will be happy to know their former prized commit won’t be able to torch them on opening weekend. With pressure on USC head coach Clay Helton to win now and the Crimson Tide’s perennial expectations, this matchup had the potential to be a classic. 

North Dakota State vs. Oregon, originally scheduled for Sept. 5 

If you don’t know the name Trey Lance by now, you’re welcome. The North Dakota State quarterback threw for 2,786 yards, rushed for another 1,100 and tallied 42 total touchdowns in 2019 and is one of the most promising NFL prospects in recent FCS history. 

The Bison (45-1 over the last three seasons, including three consecutive FCS national championships) have beaten five Power 5 teams since 2010, including Iowa, which was ranked No. 13 when the teams met in 2016. Oregon will be without first-round draft pick Justin Herbert under center, but the Ducks return back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher CJ Verdell. An opening-week date with the defending Rose Bowl champions could’ve thrust Lance into the spotlight, and propelled him into Heisman consideration. 

Ohio State vs. Oregon, originally scheduled for Sept. 12

This matchup likely would’ve been the first top 10 showdown of the 2020 season. Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day is a former Oregon assistant and is 16-1 since taking over for Urban Meyer. 

It’s no surprise that a meeting of two of the country’s top football programs comes with a ton of talent, but fans will miss out on a star-studded Saturday in Eugene, Ore. Heisman hopeful Justin Fields was slated to square off with Oregon defensive end and future first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. Cornerback Shaun Wade and offensive linemen Wyatt Davis and Penei Sewell will also be playing on Sundays down the line. This one had New Year’s Six bowl in September written all over it.

Notre Dame vs. USC, originally scheduled for Nov. 28 

For the first time since World War II, USC will not face Notre Dame. The Trojans and Irish have played each other every season since 1926, except during 1943-1945 due to the war. 

As is customary, this matchup was set to take place on the Saturday following Thanksgiving Day when the game is played in Los Angeles. The schools have won a combined 39 national championships, 14 Heisman Trophies and the game is regarded by many as the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is 7-3 against USC and the Irish have won three consecutive meetings. One of the greatest college football rivalries will take a one-year hiatus before another team captures the Jeweled Shillelagh in 2021.

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