At the time of writing this, we have little more than conjecture about the 2020 football season. What we do know is that the state of California announced it does not have plans for in-person college classes until 2021. Does this mean schools in California won’t play sports until then either? If California can’t play, does that mean the entire Pac-12 can’t play?
There are more questions than answers for now, and it will likely stay that way for awhile. But with the lack of other sports news, let’s ponder what the hypothetical Pac-12 cancellation would mean for Texas Tech’s football season. As it stands now, Arizona is scheduled to visit Lubbock on September 19. Who will Texas Tech play instead if Arizona doesn’t field a team this year?
Option 1: Texas A&M
In some ways this is a natural fit. In other ways, it seems impossible. The Aggies are slated to play Colorado in College Station on September 19. If Colorado doesn’t field a team, our former in-state rivals would be looking for a Power 5 replacement just like us. The programs and fan bases are familiar with each other and would love to see the rivalry renewed.
But there are two major problems. One school would need to give up a home game, which I don’t see happening. The other option is playing at a neutral site like Jerry World or the Alamodome. That could probably be arranged if all parties involved wanted it badly enough, which leads me to the second major problem.
Texas A&M does not want to play a Big 12 opponent. They have made that very clear. They believe there is no upside to it for them. I just don’t see the Aggies going for it, even in a pinch.
Option 2: BYU
BYU isn’t technically a Power 5 school since they’re independent, but they often get lumped into that conversation given the quality of their program. BYU was scheduled to play at Arizona State on September 19. Already planning on a road game, this would let Texas Tech keep its non-conference home game against a quality opponent and gives BYU a platform in the state of Texas which I’m sure they would appreciate.
Option 3: Hawaii
This is where some scheduling trickery could come into play. There is an NCAA rule that allows FBS teams that travel to Hawaii to add a 13th game to their schedule to recoup money from the traveling costs. Hawaii has Pac-12 opponents scheduled for September 19 as well as August 29, which is Week 0 before the first full weekend slate of college football. Both were road games for the Rainbow Warriors, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind hosting Texas Tech on August 29.
This would let Texas Tech be at the national forefront during Week 0, when the first glimpse of college football is available for sports hungry fans. It also opens up September 19 in Lubbock for Texas Tech to host what would become its 13th game on the schedule. This could be a Power 5 team looking for a landing spot from a Pac-12 non-conference game (see above) or a fourth Group of 5 team (see below).
Option 4: Wyoming or Utah State
Not only do both of these schools have road trips scheduled to Pac-12 venues on September 19, both also have a connection to Texas Tech that could make this more feasible than other options. Utah State is obviously head coach Matt Wells’ previous employer and alma mater. Perhaps Wells would like to throw them a bone and invite them to Lubbock. This helps Texas Tech fill its schedule and allows Utah State to keep a Power 5 game on the schedule which is very important to smaller programs.
Wyoming was scheduled to visit Lubbock this year until that game was ultimately pushed back to 2028. Texas Tech is scheduled to visit Wyoming in 2021, so why not move Wyoming back on the schedule and make it a true home-and-home in 2020 and 2021? This gives Texas Tech eight years to find a replacement opponent for Wyoming in 2028, which is plenty of time (especially compared to sorting out this year’s schedule amid a pandemic with mere months to prepare).
Option 5: Arizona and Arizona State leave the Pac-12
This is obviously outlandish, but what if Arizona and Arizona State decided to revolt? They’re obviously not bound by California law, and what if those schools would like to play football while the Pac-12 doesn’t? The state of Arizona has already announced pro sports can continue there later this month, so why wouldn’t collegiate athletics there follow suit?
If they say they’re going to play and the Pac-12 threatens them with expulsion, who cares? The Pac-12 grant of rights is almost up and is due for realignment within the next couple of years anyway. I’ve alluded to the Arizona schools being solid additions to the Big 12, so why not just accelerate that process?
It would be impossible to get Arizona and Arizona State a full 12-game schedule this season without their Pac-12 opponents, but Arizona could stay on Texas Tech’s schedule and other Big 12 schools could use these two to fill in their schedules if impacted by the Pac-12/state of California cancellations. It’s crazy, but these are crazy times we’re living in.
Who do you want Texas Tech to play if Arizona doesn’t come to town?