In the wake of the Big Ten announcing plans to return to action this fall, attention naturally turned to the Pac-12, the lone remaining Power 5 conference that has decided to not play college football this fall.

Air quality and wildfires are some of the unique issues the West Coast is dealing with, especially California and Oregon. But California has some unique state health restrictions that Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News set out to explain.

There is some confusion in the Golden State because Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his news conference today that, “There is nothing in the state guidelines that denies the Pac-12 from having conference games” and he called any reporting to the contrary a “misrepresentation of the facts.”

The problem is with practice. Wilner then posed the following Q&A with an unnamed health department official:

“How can a football team practice without at least 22 players on the field?

The answer was this:

Teams can find work-arounds to 11-on-11 practices.

They can have walk-throughs, he suggested. They can practice against air. They can use Virtual Reality and tackle dummies. They can use mental exercises.

Those are all means by which teams can conduct a practice and prepare for a game, he said.

I responded that at some point during the season, during a game week, a football team needed 22 players on the field, offense against defense, 11 against 11, with some degree of contact.

The official responded that teams could prepare by playing five against five.

And that contact is allowed, just within the fixed group of players.

I repeated my opinion that the rules didn’t seem practical for a major college football team — that at some point, teams had to have 22 players on the field at once, with tackling.

Otherwise, I added, the players would not be properly prepared for the games.

The official added that it was less than ideal but not an obstacle that couldn’t be overcome.”