Big Ten football will only play conference games in 2020


College football continued to be front and center in coronavirus news Thursday. The Big Ten formally announced plans (with the ACC hinting it would follow suit) to play only conference games this coming season. 

This on the heels of news Wednesday that the Ivy League put sports on hold until at least January. Clearly, “big time” football conferences are realizing that they probably can’t get teams ready to play by the end of August given current realities. But they aren’t ready to punt on playing in 2020 just yet. 


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Advantages of playing conference only in 2020:

  • Could helpfully delay the season for about a month
  • Allows for the possibility of more protectable “regional” bubbles
  • Sustains major TV contracts
  • Causes hope for eventual paid attendance
  • Can crown a champion
  • Season still ends before worst of winter hits

For conferences not ready to accept the spring alternative, going “conference only” is the best possible approach to saving the season. That said, the virus is still very contagious, with no signs yet of an imminent demise. Ohio State, the most influential Big Ten program, just had to shut down “voluntary” workouts because of an outbreak. Not too long ago, Clemson, the current ACC superpower, had to do the same thing. 

Teams that can’t practice because of covid won’t be able to play games either. Thursday’s decisions are sound initial strategy, but won’t be a solution unless more aggressive mitigation tactics take hold. 

Here’s a look at yesterday’s new case counts and “rates of transmission” for the 11 states housing Big Ten football teams. Remember that keeping the “Rt” number below 1.0 is the goal. That means the virus will stop spreading. A number of 1.0 or above means it will continue to spread. 

Ohio: 1,114 new cases, 1.13 Rt
We’ve previously discussed the dangers of Ohio becoming a new Midwest epicenter. Thursday was its second straight day over 1K, and third time in a week. Ohio had issues in prisons back in mid-April. This current surge is very much affecting the general populace in urban and rural areas alike. 

Illinois: 1,108 new cases, 1.01 Rt
Thursday was the first time in a month that Illinois had topped a thousand. There was an earlier outbreak from late April to late May. Its Rt number had dipped below the important 1.0 threshold a couple of days ago, but has snuck back to the wrong side since. Work to do.

Wisconsin: 754 new cases, 1.27 Rt
Thursday represented an all-time, one-day high for the Badger state. Rate of transmission has been an issue for awhile. Wisconsin led the nation earlier this week, and is still alarmingly contagious. A developing trouble spot. 

Pennsylvania: 717 new cases, 1.13 Rt
This state was much worse off earlier this year when it was part of the NYC epicenter that spread across the northeast. Numbers still worrisome. 

Iowa: 628 new cases, 1.13 Rt
Iowa has a much smaller population than Pennsylvania, so similar case counts and an identical Rt are bad signs. Fourth time over 500 this month. 

Maryland: 586 new cases, 1.03 Rt
There were hopes that the worst was way behind. An initial recovery from a spread down the Eastern seaboard earlier in the season has now been followed by a slight uptick in comparison. 

Minnesota: 574 new cases, 1.28 Rt
High rate of transmission, and 574 is a new one-day high since prior troubles appeared over in late-May and early-June. Another very high transmission rate. Clear that most of Big Ten country is currently trending in the wrong direction. 

Michigan: 512 new cases, 1.20 Rt
Made headlines back in April with an outbreak that was much worse than the current one. Explosive in-state dynamics make Michigan a potential powder keg. 

Indiana: 512 new cases, 1.21 Rt
Another state with some bad numbers in the rearview mirror, but can’t relax because of current contagiousness. 

New Jersey: 334 new cases, 1.03 Rt
Very good to see relatively low numbers after the disaster earlier this year. In 2020, New Jersey has reported about 178K total cases, and 15.5K fatalities. 

Nebraska: 198 new cases, 1.10 Rt

We’ll be sure to touch on all college and pro football areas of interest through our daily coverage this month. For daily information, click here for state counts at, and here for updates on rates of transmission

Other Covid News
*Nashville became the second team forced out of the “MLS is Back” tournament that just started Wednesday in Orlando. Its opening game vs. Chicago had originally been postponed. Additional positive tests made it impossible to play safely. 

Two games were played Thursday: Philadelphia 1, NYCFC 0; New England 1, Montreal 0.

Friday’s only game:

Seattle at San Jose (9 p.m., ESPN)
Three-way: Seattle plus 100, San Jose plus 252, draw plus 276
Goal Line: Seattle -0.5 goals (plus 101), San Jose plus 0.5 goals (-127)
Over Under: 3 goals (Over -103, Under -119) 

Under a “no news is good news” banner, there were no major reports of athletes testing positive or opting out of the NBA, WNBA, or MLB restarts. 

More Stories of Interest
*Nevada will shut down bars again to combat covid (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
*Melbourne, Australia locked down (BBC)
*Italian hospital covid free for first time in 137 days (NY Post)
*Ethical issues raised by NBA’s access to tests (NBC Sports)
*New Jersey halts bets on Ukrainian table tennis (ESPN)

VSiN Clips/Tweets on Betting Restarts
*Doug Kezirian of ESPN joins Pauly and Matt to talk about NBA Futures (Follow the Money)
*Michael Lombardi and Trey Burke discuss the San Francisco 49ers (Lombardi Line)


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