For the last few weeks, one of the bright spots for BYU football fans was the rumors that the Cougars might meet Alabama in September. That would’ve been a great opportunity for some national exposure against an elite opponent.

But, just like has happened so many times in 2020, those dreams were dashed Thursday when the SEC announced that it would follow the course set by the Big Ten and the Pac-12 and play a conference-only schedule.

“This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a press release. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”

Not only does that mean BYU won’t be facing Alabama, it also removes a sixth game from the 2020 schedule. The Cougars were slated to host Missouri in Provo on Oct. 10.

The decision isn’t particularly surprising, especially since all most all of the 11 states that are home to SEC schools have seen recent surges in COVID-19 cases. Texas and Florida have been hit particularly hard and it’s unclear what impact that will have over the next couple of months.

BYU continues to be in limbo as it tries to figure out what the 2020 season will look like.

The Cougars currently have games scheduled against Utah State (Oct. 2), Houston (Oct. 16), at Northern Illinois (Oct. 24), at Boise State (Nov. 6), San Diego State (Nov. 14) and North Alabama (Nov. 21).

At this point, however, all of those are up in the air as conferences like the Mountain West, the American Athletic Conference and the Big South will also have to make their own decisions regarding competition.

Other observers have brought up the possibility of BYU scheduling games with Big 12 opponents. The ACC is the only Power Five conference playing any non-conference games at all and each ACC school is only allowed one out of conference game.

That means the Big 12, which is the smallest of the Power Five conferences with only 10 teams, might be at a major competitive disadvantage unless it is able to add games from Group of Five conference or from independent programs like BYU.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Paul Finebaum Show Thursday that the league is still evaluating its options at this point.

“We’ll have a board meeting next Monday, which we do every two weeks,” Bowlsby said on the show after the SEC decision was announced. “And the board has everything in front of them that they need to consider schedule formats and some other things relative to the season. But whether or not they choose to act at this next meeting is not known at this point, that’s gonna be up to their discretion. They’re gonna have questions about the materials that are unanswered at the time of the meeting. So we’ll work our way through it. There’s a lot happening and we think that it’s important to get the regular season, conference-portion of our schedule absolutely right, and we’ll see what happens with the rest of it.”

The Cougar football team received a waiver from the NCAA to allow it to start practicing this week, so BYU coaches and players have been working to prepare to play.

Exactly who, where, when or how the Cougars will play, however, still remains up in the air at this point.

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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