FBS plans ensure final CFP rankings on Dec. 20

  • College football reporter
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2007
  • Graduate of Indiana University

Every FBS conference has a contingency plan for determining its winner this season in the event its conference championship game can’t be played during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, almost ensuring the College Football Playoff selection committee will determine its final ranking as planned on Dec. 20 without delay.

“The management committee decided earlier this month not to lengthen the regular season,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN on Saturday evening. “As folks know, many games have already been played and many others are on tap for the next three weekends. The selection committee will set the CFP pairings Dec. 20.”

The Pac-12 will hold its title game on Dec. 18, and the other Power 5 conference championship games are currently scheduled for Dec. 19. But as COVID-19 cases throughout the country escalate and games are canceled or postponed each week as a result, uncertainty continues to engulf the sport. ESPN.com reached out to the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and ACC for their postseason plans in case their respective title games are canceled, and one way or another, champions, or in some cases co-champions, will be named by Dec. 20.

In the SEC, the two divisional champions will be declared co-champions, and any team ranked in the top four of the final CFP rankings would automatically be placed in a playoff semifinal game.

In the Big 12, the team leading the regular-season conference standings, based on win percentage in conference games, would be declared the Big 12 champion for CFP purposes.

“I think all of us believed that completing the season on the same date made some sense,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN on Saturday. “While there are those that might have liked to have played longer, the available playing dates are not substantially available to make that real practical. Most of the championship games are scheduled on the 19th, and we haven’t gotten any indication we won’t play that day, but we obviously have contingency plans if we can’t.”

According to the Pac-12, “every effort will be made to reschedule the game, including establishing an alternative site, so that the champion will be declared prior to the College Football Playoff (CFP) selections.”

If the Pac-12 can’t play its title game before Dec. 20, and the conference has a team eligible for a semifinal, “then the highest ranked CFP eligible team shall be declared the PAC-12 Champion and the game will not be played.” If there isn’t a Pac-12 team eligible or ranked in the CFP, the conference champion will be the team with the highest winning percentage within the league, using any applicable tiebreakers.

The ACC has a similar policy to its Power 5 peers in that the conference champion will be the team that finishes the season with the highest winning percentage in conference games. If two (or more) teams have the same winning percentage, they will be declared co-champions.

If the Big Ten can’t play its title game, the two divisional champions will be declared co-champions and any teams ranked in the top four of the final CFP poll will automatically be placed in the playoff.

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