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College football FAQ: From schedules, to bets, to spring season

Less than a week before the originally scheduled start of the 2020 college football season, uncertainty still reigns after almost half of the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams postponed their fall schedules because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But don’t worry. We’re here to help clear up some of the confusion. Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions leading up to this unprecedented season.

Which conferences currently plan on playing football this fall?

Six of the 10 FBS conferences plan on playing a fall season, including three Power Five conferences: the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference (which includes Notre Dame this year) and Big 12.

The American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt and Conference USA also plan to play.

Which schools have postponed their season until the spring?

Fifty-four FBS programs will not play football this fall, including every school in the Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and Mid-American Conferences, as well as New Mexico State, Old Dominion, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

When will the first games be played?

Austin Peay and Central Arkansas are scheduled to play Saturday in a Football Championship Subdivision matchup in Montgomery, Alabama, in the only game in Week Zero.

The first FBS games are scheduled for Sept. 3, with South Alabama at Southern Mississippi and Central Arkansas at Alabama-Birmingham. Brigham Young is slated to play at Navy on Sept. 7 (Labor Day) and Miami (Florida) will host UAB on Sept. 10.

The ACC will start conference play Sept. 12, when there are 23 games on the board, including Clemson at Wake Forest and Duke at Notre Dame. The SEC and Big 12 will open league play Sept. 26.

Are the lines on games and futures odds up at Las Vegas sportsbooks?

Caesars Entertainment has posted lines on 11 SEC games, but college football futures remain off the board at the books, including Caesars.

“We want to put up the futures, but there’s so much uncertainty, if this player opts out or that player opts out. There’s just no hurry to do it,” Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “We just want to make sure the teams that are going to be in it are going to be in it and which players are going to play.”

Here are the lines on the SEC games: Sept. 26, Missouri-Alabama (-21½), Mississippi-Florida (-11), Arkansas-Georgia (-22), Kentucky-Auburn (-10½), Mississippi State-Louisiana State (-19), South Carolina-Tennessee (-3½), Vanderbilt-Texas A&M (-28½); Oct. 3, Auburn-Georgia (-9); Oct. 17, Georgia-Alabama (-7½); Nov. 7, Florida-Georgia (-1½); Nov. 28, Auburn-Alabama (-13).

Will my futures bets be action or refunded?

Rules vary by each book. But the general consensus from several Las Vegas bookmakers is that if a team plays in the fall, all futures bets are action on conference title, College Football Playoff and national championship odds, provided they crown a champion and have a four-team CFP. If a team isn’t playing in the fall, those bets will be refunded.

Likewise for Heisman Trophy futures. Salmons said if a player has opted out of the season or is on a team that isn’t playing in the fall, the bet will be refunded. Otherwise, it’s action.

“At this point in time, we’ll pay the winner and refund everyone else,” South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said of national title bets. “We think that’s the only fair way to do it.

“If you bet on Ohio State and they don’t play, that’s a refund. But if you bet on Alabama and they win the whole thing, you deserve to get paid. I just hope we get to the (national) championship game.”

Depending on house rules, conference title bets on the Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC could be action if a champion is crowned in the spring.

For instance, the Westgate wrote rules on its 2020 college football futures that the season must be completed by August 2021 for action.

“We will have to wait to make sure that any conference that cancels this season doesn’t play a spring schedule with a championship,” Salmons said.

Caesars was the only book to post 2020 season win totals. A request for comment wasn’t returned. But the general rule is that teams must play 12 scheduled games for action or the bets are refunded.

Will there be a College Football Playoff?

The answer appears to be yes. On Aug. 13, the CFP selection committee announced that it is preparing for the 2020-21 season.

“We don’t know right now what the season will bring, but as a committee, we are ready to use the protocol and the expertise of the 13 people who have been charged with selecting the teams,” CFP committee chairman Gary Barta said in a release. “The committee’s task is to rank the teams based on what happens on the field. If the board and management committee say we are having a CFP, we will be ready.”

The final CFP rankings of the 2020 season are scheduled to be released Dec. 20. The 2021 CFP is slated for Jan. 1 with national semifinal games in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The 2021 CFP national championship is scheduled for Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Will a Heisman Trophy be awarded in 2020?

It’s unclear.

“Essentially, at this point in time, no decisions have been made,” Tim Henning, associate director at the Heisman Trophy Trust, told the Sporting News on Aug. 12. “The board has not made any decision in terms of what Heisman 2020 is going to look like.”

The official presentation of the Heisman is scheduled for Dec. 12, though Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, the only 2019 finalist for the award, won’t be present. Unless he’s able to transfer and play for another school this season. But that doesn’t appear to be possible.

Will players be allowed to transfer and play for other schools this season?

Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin thinks players whose conferences have decided to postpone fall sports should be free to transfer without penalty. But Kiffin said the SEC told him there would be no special waiver available for those players.

“It’s really unfortunate that the NCAA is not allowing them to transfer and be eligible immediately. We’re being told that won’t even go into a waiver process, so I feel really bad for those kids,” Kiffin said. “It’s not their fault. Why can’t they come play somewhere? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

The NCAA approved a blanket waiver Friday that will grant an extra year of eligibility to all fall sports athletes, including those who compete this fall.

How will the AP Top 25 poll be handled?

The Associated Press allowed voters to consider all teams for its preseason Top 25 poll, which came out Monday and included nine Pac-12 and Big Ten teams, including Ohio State at No. 2.

However, when the season starts, the Buckeyes and 53 other FBS teams no longer will be eligible for inclusion because they’ve postponed their seasons until the spring.

What would a spring football season look like?

Junior varsity games, according to Alabama coach Nick Saban, who said last week that spring football wouldn’t be appealing to pro prospects.

“I think one of the real consequences of this is, if you’re a junior or a senior and you have an NFL grade, are you going to play in the spring?” Saban said. “Or is that going to become sort of a JV season with a lot of these juniors and seniors opting out?”

Salmons can’t see a spring season taking place.

“If they think they’re going to play spring football, that’ll never happen,” he said. “What Saban said is the truth. All the good players going into the draft are not going to play, especially if they play in places that have real winter.”

Andrews also is skeptical of a spring season.

“If they had a spring schedule, I’m sure we would book the games,” he said. “But I think it would be a very poor product because most of the big players are not going to want to play. It would be like Division II or Division III.”

How much of a financial hit are sportsbooks expected to take this season?

Based on last year’s numbers from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the state’s books would lose about $50 million in profits if the entire college football season was canceled. But, with six conferences, including three of the Power Five, planning to play, books expect only a minor dip in betting handle this year.

“Losing the Big Ten is going to hurt,” Salmons said. “But if the SEC, ACC and Big 12 play, people are just going to move their money over there.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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