Publish date:

BYU and Coastal Carolina gear up for the ultimate 2020 game

The phrase has become so ubiquitous, so overdone that it's destined to become cliche. Years from now, when this is all over, we'll use "2020" as an adjective to describe events that were previously thought to be beyond belief or explanation. Future children, kids who aren't even born yet, will say "That's so 2020" or "This is peak 2020" without even fully understanding what it means.

In purely college football terms, it really doesn't get any more 2020 than the BYU-Coastal Carolina game on Saturday. Let us count the ways:

1. On the first Saturday in December -- normally conference championship Saturday, with just hours until the College Football Playoff field is announced -- College GameDay will be in Conway, S.C. The first trip ever to a Sun Belt site happens on the same Saturday where, over the past five years, GameDay visited:

2019: SEC Championship
2018: SEC Championship
2017: ACC Championship
2016: Big Ten Championship
2015: Big Ten Championship

2. This game didn't even formally exist until Thursday morning. Coastal Carolina was supposed to play 9-1 Liberty, but the Flames encountered covid issues and so Coastal hot-swapped Liberty for BYU.

3. This is a historically big game. 9-0 Coastal Carolina against 9-0 BYU is just the sixth meeting of undefeated teams in a regular season December game since 1939. The winner of the previous five all went on to win the national championship.

4. Okay, so BYU or Coastal isn't going to win the title or even make the Playoff, but there are real stakes at play for both teams. BYU, currently No. 13 in the CFP rankings, need to be No. 12 or better to achieve eligibility for an at-large berth in a New Year's Six game. Without the benefit of the Group of 5 automatic bid, reaching the Fiesta Bowl would be the most significant accomplishment this program can realistically achieve.

For No. 18 Coastal, a win over No. 13 BYU would allow the Chanticleers to firmly stake their claim as the top Group of 5 option should No. 7 Cincinnati falter at any point. And should that happen, this little program from Conway, S.C., could start planning the caravan to Atlanta and the Peach Bowl, where their likely opponent would be Georgia.

Can you imagine that? Coastal Carolina playing Georgia in the Peach Bowl? And getting there by winning the sixth December regular season game of unbeaten teams in college football history... with College GameDay on hand.... in a game that didn't exist on Wednesday.

That is just so 2020.

Here's everything else on the line in college football this weekend.

AMERICAN
Memphis (6-2, 4-2 AAC) at Tulane (5-5, 2-5 AAC) -- noon ET, ESPN+
No. 24 Tulsa (5-1, 5-0 AAC) at Navy (3-5, 3-3 AAC) -- 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Tulsa can clinch a berth in its first American Championship with a win over Navy. And considering the Golden Hurricane hosts No. 7 Cincinnati next week while Memphis closes with Tulane and Houston, Memphis could easily slide in and take Tulsa's spot if Philip Montgomery's team doesn't close the deal here.

ACC
Syracuse (1-9, 1-8 ACC) at No. 2 Notre Dame (9-0, 8-0 ACC) -- 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC
No. 3 Clemson (8-1, 7-1 ACC) at Virginia Tech (4-5, 4-4 ACC) -- 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
No. 10 Miami (7-1, 6-1 ACC) at Duke (2-7, 1-7 ACC) -- 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Thanks to the ACC's late change, Notre Dame has already clinched a spot in the title game. A win here and the Irish are probably good to reach the Playoff so long as they don't get blown out in the ACC Championship, but a win here turns Charlotte into a make-or-break trip.

Clemson clinches its sixth straight trip to Charlotte and eighth overall with a win over Virginia Tech, who at one time owned bragging rights for most ACC Championship appearances but has not bee since 2016.

Miami can reach the ACC Championship with wins over Duke and North Carolina plus a Clemson loss to Virginia Tech. If and when Clemson beats VT, the Hurricanes will be playing for the Orange Bowl.

BIG 12
No. 15 Oklahoma State (6-2, 5-2 Big 12) at TCU (4-4, 4-4 Big 12) -- noon ET, ESPN2
Texas (5-3, 4-3 Big 12) at Kansas State (4-5, 4-4 Big 12) -- noon ET, Fox
West Virginia (5-3, 4-3 Big 12) at No. 9 Iowa State (7-2, 7-1 Big 12) -- 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Baylor (2-5, 2-5 Big 12) at No. 11 Oklahoma (6-2, 5-2 Big 12) -- 8 p.m. ET, Fox

Iowa State's win over Texas last week lifted the Cyclones into the Big 12 Championship and dropped Texas out, but Saturday's Texas-Kansas State game could still go a long way toward determining who joins Iowa State in Arlington.

If form holds from here on out, Iowa State (8-1) would be in as the 1-seed and Oklahoma (7-2) would beat out Oklahoma State (7-2) for the second slot by virtue of their 41-13 Bedlam win late last month.

But if West Virginia manages to beat Iowa State, thinks could get real sticky, real fast.

If ISU, OU and OSU all finish 7-2, Big 12 tiebreaker would go to b1, a 3-way round-robin, which would be a wash since all three are 1-1 against the other two.

It would then go to b2, which would examine how ISU, OU and OSU fared against the fourth place team, then the fifth place team, and so on until a tie is broken.

Here's a chart explaining how all three championship contenders fared against teams with a shot of finishing in third place. (We're assuming West Virginia beats Iowa State but loses to Oklahoma because a 3-way tie becomes impossible otherwise.)

vs. Texas

vs. WVU

vs. K-State

Iowa State

W

L

W

Oklahoma

W

W

L

Oklahoma State

L

L

L

If Texas wins up in third place, Oklahoma State is out. If West Virginia winds up in third place, Iowa State is out by virtue of a 24-21 loss to Oklahoma State in October. If Kansas State finishes third, Oklahoma again beats Oklahoma State thanks to their head-to-head win.

BIG TEN
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) at Michigan State (2-3) -- noon ET, ABC

What a strange, strange season it's been in the Big Ten. Northwestern (5-1) clinched the Big Ten West the moment Minnesota canceled Saturday's game, and Ohio State needs both Saturday's game and next week's against Michigan to be played in order to achieve eligibility for the East title, even though they hold head-to-head over second-place Indiana. Unless the Big Ten changes its rule, which they should.

CONFERENCE USA
Rice (1-2, 1-2 C-USA) at No. 21 Marshall (7-0, 4-0 C-USA) -- noon ET, ESPN+
UAB (4-3, 2-1 C-USA) at Middle Tennessee (3-6, 2-4 C-USA) -- 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, ESPN3

Speaking of strange, East leader Marshall has played one C-USA game since Oct. 24, and West leader UAB hasn't played at all since Oct. 31.

They're both scheduled to take the field this weekend [knock on wood] and both can clinch division crowns with wins on Saturday... err, Saturday and Sunday.

MAC
Eastern Michigan (0-4) at Western Michigan (4-0) -- 2 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Ball State (3-1) at Central Michigan (3-1) -- 2 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Buffalo (4-0) at Ohio (2-1) -- 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

After running over previously undefeated Kent State last week, Buffalo can clinch the MAC East with a win over Ohio. It'd be the Bulls' second trip to Detroit in three years.

In the West, Ball State-CMU is the hinge game. Central Michigan, who lost to Western Michigan 52-44 on Nov. 18, can clinch the division for WMU with a win plus a WMU victory over EMU.

If Ball State wins, the Cardinals will advance to a winner-take-all MAC West Championship no matter what happens in the EMU-WMU game next Saturday in Muncie.

MOUNTAIN WEST
San Jose State (4-0) at Hawaii (3-3) -- 3 p.m. ET
Fresno State (3-1) at Nevada (5-1) -- 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1

The race for the Mountain West championship has taken a backseat to whether there will even be a Mountain West championship to win.

Last Saturday, the showdown of undefeated San Jose State and Boise State was canceled just before kickoff.

This week the SJSU-Hawaii game was moved from San Jose to Honolulu after Santa Clara County booted the Spartans, and the Boise State-UNLV game was canceled due rises covid cases in the general area of both schools, not due to any cases within either program.

Nevada is, in theory, scheduled to visit San Jose State next week, so Jay Norvell's team can still win their way into the title game -- assuming it happens.

Pac-12
Stanford (1-2) at No. 22 Washington (3-0) -- 4 p.m. ET, Fox
No. 23 Oregon (3-1) at Cal (0-3) -- 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Colorado (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12) at Arizona (0-3) -- 7 p.m. ET, FS1
Washington State (1-1) at No. 20 USC (3-0) -- 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday, FS1

Washington and Oregon are heading toward a Pac-12 North title game next week in Eugene, so long as the Ducks take care of business against winless Cal. If Washington wins and Oregon and Wazzu lose, the Huskies will clinch the North on Sunday night.

In the South, it's entirely possible both USC and Colorado finish undefeated and in a constitutional crisis since last Saturday's game was canceled. The Pac-12 would never cancel the USC-UCLA game to play USC-Colorado on Dec. 12 instead, would they?

SEC
No. 5 Texas A&M (6-1) at Auburn (5-3) -- noon ET, ESPN
No. 6 Florida (7-1) at Tennessee (2-5) -- 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Vanderbilt (0-8) at No. 8 Georgia -- 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network
No. 1 Alabama (8-0) at LSU (3-4) -- 8 p.m. ET, CBS

The standings are cut-and-dry in each division.

Alabama and Florida can clinch their respective divisions with wins this Saturday or next Saturday, thanks to head-to-head wins over Texas A&M and Georgia. The Aggies and Bulldogs need the Tide and Gators to lose this and next week to sneak in and steal the title and a trip to Atlanta.

The question then becomes this. If Alabama and Florida win this weekend, does the SEC copy the ACC and give both teams Dec. 12 off rather than play meaningless games against Arkansas (Alabama) and LSU (Florida)?

Certainly there's value to be gained in delivering as many games to its TV partners as possible, but does that outweigh the risk of a season-shaking upset that would ruin the league's chances of placing two teams in the Playoff and/or giving Alabama the chance to play a de facto home game in the Sugar Bowl?

Greg Sankey's comments tell us it probably won't happen, but the conference should at least think about it.

SUN BELT

As covered above, the Sun Belt matchup of Louisiana-Lafayette at Coastal Carolina has already been set.