With the news breaking Wednesday afternoon that the ACC will play an 11-game schedule that includes 10 conference games and 1 nonconference game, all eyes are now on the SEC as fans await the decision of the biggest conference brand in the sport.

The B1G and Pac 12 have already settled on conference-only schedules, and while there is certainly a ripple effect from their decision to abandon nonconference play, what the SEC decides will have an even larger impact on the sport this fall.

Should the SEC join the B1G and Pac 12 in adopting the conference-only model, the ACC and Big 12 would lose a collective 13 games this autumn.

The ACC’s decision to leave the door open to 1 conference game makes the SEC’s impending decision very interesting.

The ACC’s decision includes caveats. The ACC is only allowing nonconference games in the ACC school’s home state against programs whose conferences have virus protocols as demanding as the ACC. Those rules send a clear message that the ACC is actively attempting to save the 4 season-ending traditional rivalry games the league has with the SEC: Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Kentucky vs. Louisville and South Carolina vs. Clemson.

When the SEC brass met in Birmingham 3 weeks ago, they produced a number of contingency plans, and while all remain open for discussion, multiple sources told SDS that they would prefer 1 of 2 options, which SEC institution presidents will meet virtually to discuss Thursday morning.

Those options are:

  • A 10-game, conference-only slate
  • An 11-game schedule with 10 conference games and 1 nonconference game.

The virus will control when football begins, with the window for starting the season also open to discussion.

A source also told SDS that Florida and Georgia prefer the 10-game plus 1 nonconference plan. Both institutions are eager to preserve their in-state rivalry games against ACC foes FSU and Georgia Tech, respectively. While it is not clear if the SEC will make a decision Thursday, a source told SDS that Florida and Georgia will advocate for the 11-game option.

For the Gators, the FSU game has long been influential in recruiting cycles. While high-level analysts traditionally downplay the impact of a single game on recruiting, the winner of the Florida-Florida State game has, coincidentally or not, signed the higher-ranked recruiting class in the 247sports composite every season since 2005.

Given Florida’s 2-game winning streak over FSU under Dan Mullen, the Gators appear to have reversed a decade of futility against the Seminoles. Even though if it is played, the 2020 game will be played in Tallahassee, it has no secret that Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin would like to keep the Seminoles on the schedule and give the Gators a chance to win a 3rd rivalry game in a row.

For now, the league — and its millions of fans — remain in wait and see mode. But with two of the league’s traditional football powers behind the preservation of at least 1 nonconference game, there might be rivalry football at the end of the dark coronavirus tunnel in 2020.