The 2020 college football season is going to be a strange ride, thanks to COVID-19.
There’s conference only schedules, shortened seasons, the Big 10 starting in October and the Pac-12 isn’t even playing (for now).
And it has the potential to get even weirder.
Simply getting the season started doesn’t mean the SEC has beat COVID-19 — the virus is going to be an issue all season long (as we’ve seen during practices and from other conferences that have already been forced to cancel various games due to an outbreak).
There’s a very strong possibility that a Tennessee game is canceled/postponed at some point this season. And even if a game isn’t canceled, it’s extremely likely that the Vols will have players out at various points during the season due to COVID-19 (either contracting the virus or contact tracing).
The big question, however, is how many players can be out for the Vols (or any other SEC program) and a game still happen.
Well, on Friday we received that answer from the SEC.
Teams in the SEC will be required to have 53 scholarship players available to compete. That must include at least seven offensive linemen, four defensive linemen and a quarterback.
News: SEC officially announces teams must have 53 scholarship players to compete this season.
Among the 53 active players on the roster, 7 offensive linemen (which includes one center), 1 quarterback and 4 defensive linemen must be available to play on Saturday.
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 18, 2020
Teams are permitted to carry up to 85 scholarship players, which means the most scholarship players an SEC team can have out and still play is 32.
I think this is totally fair. It would be unreasonable to expect a team to compete with less than 53 players.
Now, if a team is down 30 players and that includes several key contributors, you might see that number swell to over 32 (I’m sure contact tracing would be used in this instance) as an excuse to cancel a game.
If you’re Tennessee, would you really want to play Georgia without Henry To’o To’o and Eric Gray?
I didn’t think so.
Ultimately, no one knows what we’ll get this season.
I’d suggest hoping for the best while expecting the worst.
Featured image via Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports