The Pac-12 announced its decision to cancel the fall 2020 season on Tuesday, with hopes to play some semblance of college football in the spring. The news hits hard for players that were working to follow protocols and give themselves a chance to play, for coaches that had poured in hours of preparation to lead their teams and fans who have made college football the burning star around which everything else orbits in the fall.
But for right now, there are still college football conferences and teams working towards holding some variation of a season this fall. So should you, the Pac-12 fan, bail on college football entirely? We say no because the sport is too rich with intrigue and culture to ignore completely, even if your favorite school is on the sideline until 2021. We can't promise the kind of thrills that you get with #Pac12AfterDark and the mayhem that was UCLA-Washington State in 2019, but there are some unique ties that make adopting a new school more palatable than you might think.
247Sports' Bud Elliott brought this idea to the forefront on Twitter on Tuesday night, and the wide range of responses got us thinking about providing a fan service with the Pac-12 Fall 2020 Rooting Guide.
If you are a Big Ten or Pac-12 fan, which school are you adopting as your substitute team this year from the ACC, Big 12, or SEC?— Bud Elliott (@BudElliott3) August 12, 2020
We're playing the role of college football sommelier, offering suggestions to replace your order because we are very sorry to inform you that what was printed on the menu is no longer available.
The reasoning for the matches is as multi-faceted as college football itself, a sport that encompasses so many different styles and flavors it cannot be reduced to simple matches. We've also tried to spread the love around across the schools that are on pace to play this fall because it doesn't make for good content to just tell everyone to become an LSU fan, the ultimate fan experience.
|Suggestions: Syracuse, Texas Tech -- Every couple of years the Wildcats will cycle up and cause some trouble, particularly for Pac-12 title hopefuls, so let's line up with some teams that have similar chaos-wielding potential and history. Syracuse is a #Pac12AfterDark team that happens to play at Noon ET most of the time, so while the breakfast football will be unusual, the multiple overtimes and basketball scores will be familiar. That same thinking has us pointing to Texas Tech, a team that won't be contending for the Big 12 title but could keep a team from winning it with an upset win.|
|Suggestions: Memphis, Florida State -- This is such a specific path to follow for rooting interests, but why not follow the path of Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator at Arizona State for four years, and pick up rooting for his old team at Memphis and new team at Florida State. While you might have to get over some hurt feelings, cheering for Memphis also has the bonus of getting behind former Sun Devils quarterback Brady White, who is getting set to the take the AAC by storm in his sixth year of college football.|
|Suggestions: Virginia, TCU -- It should be easy to pick up either of these squads as the team identity comes from their defensive-minded coach. Virginia has a lot of reloading to do on offense at key positions after a breakthrough season -- a season that, unfortunately, could have been a template for the Bears in 2020 with Chase Garbers -- but they're going to be a tough out and turn every game into a fist fight. TCU also brings the pain and shared experience of the legendary 2018 Cheez-It Bowl, and Cal shares the academic reputation angle with Virginia.|
|Suggestions: West Virginia, Missouri -- A program in transition and still relatively new to its league, Colorado has seen success in the Pac-12 with its South Division title but still feels more closely tied to its own brand and identity than the league as a whole. That's also the case with Missouri, who has experienced more SEC success than the Buffs in the Pac-12, and West Virginia, who is one year ahead of the other two in the rebuilding process with Neal Brown. There's an island mentality when you've got a new coach and no natural or historic rivalries, so jump on board with these stocks on the rise to get ready for when year one-ish comes in the spring with Karl Dorrell.|
|Suggestions: Clemson, UCF -- The Ducks' rise in college football proved that you don't have to be a blue blood to become a modern power, and that kind of surge is what we saw from Clemson over the last decade and what UCF hopes to continue by carrying a 35-4 record since the start of 2017. Fans of Mario Cristobal's version of elite Oregon football will probably gravitate more towards to the Tigers, a team that will be leaning on the trenches and a deep defensive line to power its success in 2020.|
|Suggestions: Georgia Tech, Tennessee -- This is a play to the mentality of showing up year after year to battle a rival that has frequently had the upper hand. The Vols have lost 14 of the last 15 to Florida and Georgia Tech has beaten Georgia just three times since 2001. Like Oregon State, both teams are trending up and will be looking for steps forward, even if 2020 isn't the year they expect to take a big leap in their rivalries.|
|Suggestions: Wake Forest, Duke -- The connections are a little bit deeper than "private school" for Stanford fans to use as their access for entry, though they will require sharing some allegiance with schools that at times represent their opposition on the recruiting trail. Wake Forest and Duke, like Stanford, have been able to find conference success despite the recruiting hurdles they face with strict academic standards, sending players on to the NFL and changing the reputation for what kind of player suits up for their respective programs. The Cardinal have been at the top of the Pac-12 more consistently than the Deacs or the Blue Devils in the ACC, but fans who remember life on the way up can appreciate the signs of growth along the way.|
|Suggestions: Miami, Texas A&M -- No matter what, the conversation too frequently returns to the reasons why UCLA should be at the top of the conference. Eventually, the frustrations and explanations come when they fall short of expectations. That's what makes Miami and Texas A&M the brutally perfect fan experience. The Hurricanes are chasing ghosts of football's past and the Aggies are overflowing with resources and support compared to their success, while UCLA has a top-notch university, championship-winning athletic department and the recruiting base of the Los Angeles area as its built-in advantages.|
|Suggestions: Oklahoma, Florida -- So the fan experience of hoping to be "back" and reclaim former glory would align well with Texas but ... yeah, we know there's no chance a Trojans fan could bring themselves to throw horns anywhere but down after the Vince Young BCS National Championship Game. So instead we're going to point to the Longhorns' Red River rival in Oklahoma, who not only shares with USC the history of being one the sport's top programs through the 1970s, but an Air Raid offensive attack in the present that can scratch that itch for those looking forward to Year Two with Graham Harrell and Kedon Slovis. We're adding Florida to mix here as the other option for a conference-championship contender who, like USC, is looking to return national championship contender status.|
|Suggestions: Pitt, Kansas State -- The gritty identity of Utah football brings us to a couple of options that will want to turn every game into a rock fight. Last year, we saw the Utes go on a run of thumping their opponents and lighting up the scoreboard in a way that suggested a turn from that low-scoring, bar room brawl style, but that Tyler Huntley-led offensive explosion stands as an outlier compared to much of the Utah fan experience. Pitt and Kansas State want to play games on their terms, and if you get pulled in, they've got a chance to knock you out with strength that starts along the defensive line.|
|Suggestions: Tennessee, LSU -- The conversation starts with sail-gating and the nautical connection to the Vol Navy in Knoxville, with LSU joining the conversation for its own tailgating scene, albeit on dry land. Unfortunately, tailgating and loud stadiums do not appear to be in the mix for the fall, but the commitment required by fans to create that environment serves as common ground that can bring Husky fans down south for the fall.|
|Suggestions: Mississippi State, Texas Tech -- Look, I promise we're not just tying this all up exclusively with a Mike Leach ribbon, but you have to admit the man has a type. Pullman, Starkville and Lubbock are very different from one another, but the relationship those towns and their schools have to their states and the conferences they play in brings them together under one umbrella that makes the fan experience relatable.|