No one knows if the 2020 college football season will start on time.
The Tennessee Vols could start their season on September 5 against UNC-Charlotte in front of a packed house at Neyland. Or the Vols could open the season with a limited amount of fans in the stadium. Or maybe there are no fans.
Or maybe they don’t start the season on September 5. Maybe the season gets pushed back.
The season kicking off in February, because of ongoing coronavirus related concerns, is an idea that’s been discussed by the NCAA coronavirus advisory panel.
ESPN’s Chris Fowler has also mentioned the season being pushed back as an option.
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) April 13, 2020
This is a worst-case scenario type situation, but it certainly appears it’s an idea that’s at least on the table.
And if the season were to get pushed back, I think it would indirectly benefit Tennessee.
If the season doesn’t end until May, it would mean that players eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft would have very little time to get ready for the 2021 NFL season.
I could see a situation where top draft prospects with very little to gain could opt to sit out the season.
Guys like LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. Maybe even Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman.
(In some cases, especially with Chase, players have more to lose by playing and risking injury.)
Of all the teams in the SEC East that could be competitive in 2020, the Vols are the program with the least amount of players that could potentially sit out a delayed-start season.
Offensive lineman Trey Smith certainly could, considering his health issues. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he played to raise his draft stock. After all, that’s the reason he elected to return to Tennessee.
But aside from Smith, there aren’t a lot of UT players that would benefit from not playing a winter/spring season.
It’s definitely possible that enough players from Florida and Georgia could sit out that it would significantly close the talent gap between them and Tennessee.
We’re all hoping college football season happens as planned. But if it doesn’t, it appears the Vols will be the biggest benefactor.
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