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How the Pandemic Shaped CFB Season

What were the obvious affects of COVID-19 on the 2020 college football season?

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh
Pitt plays host to Virginia Tech in a mostly-empty Heinz Field.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Well, college football season is almost over after this weekend. Only a few make-up games and the post-season remains. That means it’s as good a time as any to look back and judge the impact the Novel Coronavirus pandemic has had on the 2020 college football season.


This impact was felt months ago, when the Big Ten canceled all games (at first) and the SEC declared that its teams would not play any non-conference opponents. For most ACC teams, it meant three fewer non-conference games and two more conference match-ups. For some, it meant replacing three easy games with one tough opponent like Notre Dame or Clemson. For example, Pitt lost games against Miami (OH), Marshall, Richmond, Duke, UNC and UVA, and replaced those with games against Austin Peay, Louisville, NC State, Boston College and Clemson. Except for Austin Peay, that is a serious upgrade. In general, 2020 ACC schedules became tougher because of the pandemic.


The NCAA was wise to allow players who were concerned for their personal safety to “opt-out” of the season. Of course, that change had an immediate impact on many teams, including Pitt. Jalen Twyman decided to sit out before the season began, and Paris Ford opted-out after playing about half a season. Pitt was hardly the only team to lose star players; Virginia Tech lost a projected NFL first-round cornerback in Caleb Farley, and Miami lost the services of defensive end Gregory Rousseau, just to name a couple.


Some schools allowed small numbers of fans, while others allowed none. Of course that affected ticket revenue, but it had to have an emotional impact on the players as well when they played in front of empty - or nearly empty - stadiums. Home field advantage? 2020 laughs at it!

Team Records.

From what I’ve seen, this is an impact that many fans don’t fully grasp. It’s really a side effect of canceling most of the non-conference games and playing 10 conference games, which guarantees somebody 10 conference losses. It also meant more games against Notre Dame, who played nine ACC teams and beat all of them. We already discussed how the pandemic season affected the Panthers’ schedule. How many of those displaced games would’ve been victories for Pitt, as opposed to NC State, BC, and Clemson, which were three Panther losses? Most teams could safely add two if not three to the win column if this had been a “normal” season.

Bottom Line.

2020 was - and still is - a unique football season. You cannot look at the results and be disappointed because Pitt “only” won six games. Rather, when we look at what this team - and other ACC teams - accomplished by simply playing, we all should be impressed.