2020 NCAA Division I FBS football season
|2020 NCAA Division I FBS season|
|Number of teams||127[a]|
|Duration||September 3, 2020 – December 19, 2020[b]|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Clemson|
|Duration||December 21, 2020 – January 11, 2021|
|AP Poll No. 1||Alabama|
|Coaches Poll No. 1||Alabama|
|Heisman Trophy||DeVonta Smith, Wide receiver, Alabama|
|College Football Playoff|
|2021 College Football Playoff National Championship|
|Site||Hard Rock Stadium|
Miami Gardens, Florida
|NCAA Division I FBS football seasons|
The 2020 NCAA Division I FBS football season was the 151st season of college football games in the United States. Organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at its highest level of competition, the Football Bowl Subdivision it began on September 3, 2020.
The season was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States; all of the Power Five conferences initially announced plans to play a fall football season beginning on August 29, but greatly reducing non-conference games to reduce the extent of interstate travel. The ACC, Big 12, and SEC, as well as several other Group of Five conferences, began their seasons in September (though with some conferences delaying their start, and all "Week 0" kickoff games were scratched due to the aforementioned restrictions on non-conference play), while independent Notre Dame agreed to play a full conference schedule with the ACC.
In August, the Big Ten, Pac-12, MAC, Mountain West, and several independents announced that they would delay their football seasons indefinitely due to concerns regarding the pandemic, targeting the possibility of playing in the spring of 2021 instead. By late September, however, the four conferences had reversed their decisions and announced plans to play shortened seasons.
Aside from all-star games, the postseason concluded on January 11, 2021, with the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida; this was the seventh season of the College Football Playoff championship system. Some postseason activities, including the final CFP rankings and the Heisman Trophy nominations, were delayed in order to provide flexibility for conferences to finish delayed seasons in mid-December. A number of bowl games were canceled due to recommendations by local health officials, or because they were unable to secure teams after multiple programs opted out of bowl games due to COVID-19 concerns. Additionally due to COVID-19, the Rose Bowl was played outside of Pasadena, California for the first time since 1942, while the New Mexico Bowl was played in Texas.
|School||Former conference||New conference||Notes|
|UConn Huskies||American Athletic Conference||Independent||UConn canceled their 2020 season|
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish||Independent||Atlantic Coast Conference||Conference member for 2020 only|
The following playing rule changes were approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel for 2020:
- Players ejected for targeting will now be considered "disqualified" and be permitted to remain in the bench area instead of returning to the locker room. Players ejected for other reasons (two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, fighting, contact with officials, etc.) will continue to return to the locker room.
- Restricting the number of players on a team wearing the same uniform number to two; such players still cannot be on the field at the same time and must play different positions.
- Including the number "0" as a legal uniform number.
- Extending the official's jurisdiction prior to kickoff from 60 to 90 minutes, requiring a coach from each team be on the field during warm-ups, and identifying each player by number.
- Defensive teams are allowed to briefly have twelve players on the field to anticipate the offensive formation, however having twelve (or more) players on the field at the snap is a live-ball five-yard penalty for illegal substitution. Previously this foul was a dead-ball foul, called if the defense had twelve (or more) players on the field for at least three seconds.
- Adopting as a guideline a maximum of 2 minutes for instant replay reviews. Exceptions will be allowed in "exceptionally complicated" or end-of-game situations.
- On personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties committed by the defense during a play that results in a touchdown or after a touchdown but before the try, the offense has the option to enforce the penalty on the try, the ensuing kickoff, or on the succeeding spot (if in overtime).
- If the game clock expires at the end of a half, replay determines that time was remaining, and the game situation calls for the clock to start on the referee's signal, the half ends unless the replay determines that the clock should have stopped with 3 or more seconds left.
- February 18 – The NCAA announced that it was considering a proposal that would allow student-athletes in all sports a one-time waiver to transfer to a new school without having to sit out a season. This would place all NCAA sports under the same transfer rules; currently, first-time transfers are only required to sit out a season in baseball, men's and women's basketball, football, and men's ice hockey. The existing criteria for the waiver would be extended to these five sports—namely, a player must receive a transfer release from his or her previous school, leave that school academically eligible, maintain academic progress at the new school, and not be under any disciplinary suspension.
- February 20 – Pitt's football program has been placed on three years' probation as part of a series of violations announced by the Division I Committee on Infractions, which also included violations from their men's basketball team and former head coach Kevin Stallings. The football infractions result from a scheme where non-coaching "quality control" staffers performed coaching duties. If people from outside the football program were present at practice, music would be played to alert the staffers to their presence so they could leave. Pat Narduzzi was present at a football practice these three staff members performed coaching duties and was ordered to be held out of practice for two days in August. The school received other sanctions.
- February 26 – The new LA Bowl was announced on February 26, matching the Mountain West's No. 1 team against the Pac-12's No. 5. Beginning in December, the game will be held at SoFi Stadium, the new 70,240-seat home of the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams in Inglewood, California. The LA Bowl is locked in at SoFi from 2020 to 2025.
- December 3 – The Knight Commission, a non-NCAA group backing college athletics reform whose membership includes many university presidents and former athletic directors, recommended that FBS football be separated from the NCAA, with FBS programs becoming part of a new body that would take over all roles that the NCAA now assumes with respect to that sport. All other sports at FBS schools would remain under NCAA governance, and the NCAA would continue to govern all lower levels of football, including FCS.
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Multiple universities and conferences had already canceled their spring football games as part of the wider, nationwide suspension of organized sports and athletics due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. On March 13, the NCAA announced a suspension of all Division I on-campus and off-campus recruiting until April 15. In regards to its impact on the regular season, NCAA president Mark Emmert stated on May 8 that individual decisions on fall semester sports would likely begin to appear as early as June or around July 4. He suggested that the operation of athletics programs would depend on students being present on-campus to a degree (but not necessarily "up and running in the full normal model"), explaining that "you have to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students", but that "this is going to be a very unusual school year, and we just have to make the best of it".
The NCAA Division I Council prohibited on-campus activities through May 31; on May 20, the Council voted to end the moratorium and allow voluntary on-campus activity in football and basketball to begin June 1, subject to new safety protocols. On June 17, the Division I Council approved a timetable for a season assumed to begin September 5, including beginning non-voluntary training activities on July 13.
On June 24, USA Today reported that at least 37 FBS schools had reported positive cases of COVID-19 among student-athletes or staff since practices resumed. Amidst a spike in cases in the Southern U.S. since late-June, several state governors, including Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Georgia's Brian Kemp, and South Carolina's Henry McMaster, have warned that football season could be threatened if cases do not subside in time.
On July 13, it was announced that the Patriot League would not be participating in a football season this year, however, the United States Military Academy as well as the Naval Academy were not included in the settlement as their school superintendent was in charge of making decisions regarding whether their athletic programs would have their seasons.
On July 16, the NCAA released a series of recommendations regarding protocols for fall sports, including that all participants in "high contact risk sports" be tested with results within 72 hours of play. President Emmert noted, however, that the guidelines presumed that the infection rate would be "manageable", and that "If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic." The American Athletic Conference announced the same day that it will adhere to this protocol; commissioner Mike Aresco stated that "with the proper quarantine and the proper canvassing of close contacts, we think at this point it would be safe to play games." On July 18, the SEC announced that it would still honor scholarships for players who opt out of the fall season due to safety concerns.
On July 28, by request of the Football Oversight Committee, the NCAA announced that it had issued a blanket waiver to allow any team to play in "Week 0", in order to allow for greater scheduling flexibility amid changing conditions.
On August 12, members of the NCAA Division I council met and discussed eligibility for student-athletes. They recommended to the Division I board that athletes should be granted an extension on their 5-year eligibility due to the pandemic.
In the event that conditions would not improve by the traditional timeframe of football season, the possibility of delaying the football season entirely to spring 2021 was suggested by several coaches. However, it was largely considered by them to be a last resort. Aresco commented that such a delay would likely require practices to be held over the winter indoors—environments that have been shown to exacerbate spread of COVID-19.
All of the Power Five conferences initially announced that they would go on with their season as scheduled, but with cuts to non-conference games in order to overcome logistical concerns and reduce interstate travel. The Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC were all limiting play to in-conference opponents only. The ACC and Big 12 would allow one non-conference game each, with the ACC restricting them to in-state opponents. The ACC also suspended the use of divisions, with the top two teams in conference play by winning percentage advancing to the ACC Championship Game.
The restrictions complicated matters for FBS independents; the first four games of the BYU Cougars were all against Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, while Notre Dame lost three of its marquee games of the season—including one against Wisconsin that was to be played at Lambeau Field, and traditional rivalry games against Stanford (not held for the first time since 1996) and USC (postponed for the first time since 1945 due to World War II). Notre Dame and Navy had also canceled a planned international game in Dublin, Ireland, and tentatively rescheduled it for Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Some FCS conferences (such as the Patriot League) have canceled or postponed the football season outright, affecting games against FBS opponents.
On July 29, the ACC announced that Notre Dame (which is an ACC member in all other sports outside of football and men's ice hockey, the latter a sport not sponsored by the ACC) would participate as a member of the conference for the 2020 season, being incorporated into its scheduling model (including 10 games against ACC opponents, expanding from six already scheduled) and being eligible to compete for the conference championship. Notre Dame pooled its media rights revenue from NBC with that of the ACC's other media rights, and was eligible to receive a share of the total revenue.
Among the Group of Five conferences, Conference USA announced on August 7 that it had approved an eight-game schedule with up to four non-conference games. The next day, however, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced the postponement of all fall sports for the 2020 season, including football. The conference stated that it would pursue attempts to play in spring 2021. With this decision, the MAC became the first FBS conference to cancel or postpone the football season. Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher stated that "there are simply too many unknowns to put our student-athletes into situations that are not clearly understood." The cancellation of non-conference games by the Power Five conferences—especially the Big Ten—was also expected to have a financial impact on its schools, with the Big Ten games alone expected to bring $11 million.
In the wake of the decision, ESPN reported on August 9 that the commissioners of the Power Five conferences had held an emergency meeting to discuss possible options for fall sports, amid the worsening state of the pandemic in the United States. On August 10, the Mountain West Conference (MWC) followed the MAC as the second Group of Five conference to postpone fall sports indefinitely. Despite the postponement, Air Force will still contest the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy games against Navy and Army.
On August 11, the Big Ten became the first Power Five conference to postpone fall sports, followed shortly thereafter by the Pac-12. The Nebraska Cornhuskers of the Big Ten disclosed an intent to attempt non-conference play in the fall, although the logistical aspects of such a move (including scheduling) and possible repercussions within the conference were unknown. Commissioner Kevin Warren confirmed that Nebraska could not do so as a member of the Big Ten. A major factor in the Big Ten's decision was cardiovascular complications from the virus, while the Pac-12 cited that rapid testing capabilities would be needed to resume play.
Following the decisions, the ACC, Big 12, and SEC all issued statements affirming their intent to play as scheduled in the fall. The Big Ten's decision became politicized, with President Donald Trump having criticized closures of university campuses, and having pushed in particular for the Big Ten to play in the fall. After the decision to postpone the season, the Big Ten formed a taskforce to investigate options for a return to play.
On September 16, the Big Ten approved an eight-game conference season that would begin October 24, and conclude on December 19 with cross-division matchups between each seed (with the game between the top seeds played as the Big Ten Championship Game). The conference is instituting a daily antigen testing protocol beginning September 30; PCR tests will be used to confirm positives found via antigen testing. Players who test positive on both tests will be removed from play for at least 21 days and undergo cardiac tests during this period, and will have to be cleared by a cardiologist before they can return to play. Positivity rates among participating teams and the local population will also be a factor: teams with a positivity rate above 5% or a population positivity rate above 7% will be required to halt all activity for seven days.
In response to the Big Ten's reversal, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott stated that the conference was awaiting authorization by health officials in California and Oregon to resume full-contact practices, and that it was also monitoring the air quality impact of ongoing wildfires in the western United States. The conference secured a provider for rapid testing earlier in the month. On September 24, the Pac-12 officially announced that it would allow football, basketball, and winter sports seasons to resume, with plans to play a seven-game conference season beginning on November 6, and concluding with the Pac-12 Championship Game on December 18.
The same day, the Mountain West announced that it too had approved an eight-game conference season beginning October 24. The next day, the MAC unanimously approved a six-game season beginning in November.
On November 19, the Pac-12 lifted a restriction on non-conference home games.
Impact on the postseason
On July 15, the Rose Parade was canceled due to the pandemic. The same day, the NCAA announced that FBS teams would be permitted to count two wins against FCS teams, instead of the usual one, towards bowl eligibility. The NCAA later waived bowl eligibility requirements for the 2020–21 bowl season.
On August 5, the College Football Playoff (CFP) announced that it would delay the announcement of its final rankings and matchups for the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl from December 6 to December 20, in order to accommodate conferences that had delayed their championship games to mid-December. The CFP announced that it would still go on as scheduled, with only the teams playing in the fall being eligible for consideration in its rankings.
The voting deadline for the Heisman Trophy was similarly pushed back to December 21, with the presentation likewise scheduled for January 5, 2021. On November 14, the in-person presentation was canceled (its previous site, the PlayStation Theater in New York City, had also closed at the beginning of the year). The presentation was moved to ESPN's studio in Bristol, Connecticut, scheduled as a television-only event with finalists and past winners appearing via remote interviews.
Several bowl games were canceled due to the pandemic, while others, including the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl, were restricted to being played behind closed doors without fans due to local health orders. On December 19, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association announced that the Rose Bowl would be re-located to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (typically the host of the Cotton Bowl Classic), citing rising cases in the state of California, and state health officials denying a request to allow at least the family members of players to attend. The Tournament of Roses Association stated that it was unclear whether they will still be allowed to refer to the game as the "Rose Bowl", as doing so will require permission from the city of Pasadena under their Master License Agreement.
Several players from the Pac-12 announced a unity group titled #WeAreUnited to negotiate with the conference and league with specific demands in regards to the 2020 football season. Including some players willing to boycott if their ultimatum was not satisfied. Players from the Big Ten, created a similar unity which calls for increase in testing and safety protocols.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence sparked a trend on Twitter with the hashtag, #WeWantToPlay, on August 9. Other players such as Justin Fields (Ohio State), Najee Harris (Alabama), and Chuba Hubbard (Oklahoma State), help contribute to make the hashtag No. 1 in the United States on Twitter. President Donald Trump shared Lawrence's tweet, stating "The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled." as well using the #WeWantToPlay hashtag. Later #WeAreUnited and #WeWantToPlay merged with players across the Power 5, with the goal of creating a union. Nick Saban joins other coaches, Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day, by joining the movement, by stating players will be safer from the virus together as a team than at home.
Eight Nebraska players sued the Big Ten in late-August 2020, claiming that the conference's council did not actually vote on postponing the football season.
Teams opting out
- The newly independent UConn Huskies announced that they would opt out of the 2020 season.
- The Old Dominion Monarchs of Conference USA announced that they would opt out of the 2020 season.
- Independent New Mexico State Aggies announced that they would opt out of playing fall football and try to play in spring 2021.
- Independent UMass Minutemen initially announced that they would opt of playing fall football and hoped to construct a season in spring 2021, but the university reversed the decision in late September and announced its intention to play beginning in mid-October.
Some teams announced that they tentatively planned to allow spectators at their games at a percentage of normal capacity, such as the Texas Longhorns (Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium was already to have slightly reduced capacity this season due to renovations) and the North Carolina Tar Heels. All events held in the state of New York, as well as all Big Ten and Pac-12 games, were played behind closed doors. The Big Ten and Pac-12 bans applied even if spectators were otherwise allowed under local health orders.
The Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen's home games were closed to the public, with attendance limited to their cadets and midshipmen respectively. On October 23, it was announced that the Army–Navy Game would be re-located from Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field to Michie Stadium—the Black Knights' home stadium at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point—citing Pennsylvania state restrictions on gatherings that would prevent the cadets and midshipmen from attending. As with their home games, attendance was limited to the academies' student bodies. It marked the first Army–Navy Game not played at a neutral site since 1943.
Postponed or canceled games
|Week 1||Louisiana-Monroe at Troy||December 17, 2020||Week 14|
|Jacksonville State at FIU||October 23, 2020||Week 8|
|Rice at Houston||Canceled|
|Week 2||Tulsa at Oklahoma State||September 19, 2020||Week 3|
|North Carolina State at Virginia Tech||September 26, 2020||Week 4|
|SMU at TCU||Canceled|
|FIU at No. 21 UCF||Canceled|
|Marshall at East Carolina||Canceled|
|Louisiana Tech at Baylor||Canceled|
|Week 3||Charlotte at North Carolina||Canceled|
|No. 21 BYU at No. 22 Army||Canceled|
|Houston at Memphis||December 12, 2020||Week 15|
|Houston at Baylor||Canceled|
|Florida Atlantic at Georgia Southern||December 5, 2020||Week 14|
|Central Arkansas at Arkansas State||October 10, 2020||Week 6|
|Week 4||No. 7 Notre Dame at Wake Forest||Canceled|
|Georgia State at Charlotte||Canceled|
|Tulsa at Arkansas State||Canceled|
|South Florida at Florida Atlantic||Canceled|
|North Texas at Houston||Canceled|
|Week 5||Rice at Marshall||December 5, 2020||Week 14|
|Troy at South Alabama||December 5, 2020||Week 14|
|Week 6||Florida Atlantic at Southern Miss||December 10, 2020||Week 15|
|UAB at Rice||December 12, 2020||Week 15|
|Week 7||No. 7 Oklahoma State at Baylor||December 12, 2020||Week 15|
|No. 8 Cincinnati at Tulsa||Canceled|
|LSU at No. 10 Florida||December 12, 2020||Week 15|
|Southern Miss at UTEP||Canceled|
|Vanderbilt at Missouri||November 28, 2020||Week 15|
|FIU at Charlotte||Canceled|
|Week 8||New Mexico at Colorado State||Canceled|
|Week 9||No. 19 Marshall at FIU||Canceled|
|No. 9 Wisconsin at Nebraska||Canceled|
|North Texas at UTEP||December 11, 2020||Week 15|
|Week 10||Purdue at No. 10 Wisconsin||Canceled|
|Air Force at Army||December 19, 2020||Week 16|
|Tulsa at Navy||December 5, 2020||Week 14|
|UTSA at Rice||Canceled|
|Charlotte at Middle Tennessee||Canceled|
|Arizona at Utah||Canceled|
|FIU at UTEP||Canceled|
|Louisiana Tech at North Texas||December 3, 2020||Week 14|
|Louisville at Virginia||November 14, 2020||Week 11|
|Washington at California||Canceled|
|Week 11||Air Force at Wyoming||Canceled|
|No. 1 Alabama at LSU||December 5, 2020||Week 14|
|No. 5 Texas A&M at Tennessee||December 19, 2020||Week 16|
|No. 12 Georgia at Missouri||December 12, 2020||Week 15|
|No. 24 Auburn at Mississippi State||December 12, 2020||Week 15|
|Memphis at Navy||November 28, 2020||Week 13|
|Louisiana–Monroe at Arkansas State||December 5, 2020||Week 15|
|No. 3 Ohio State at Maryland||Canceled|
|Rice at Louisiana Tech||Canceled|
|Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech||December 10, 2020||Week 15|
|No. 15 Coastal Carolina at Troy||December 12, 2020||Week 15|
|California at Arizona State||Canceled||As a make-up game, Cal and UCLA were rescheduled to play on November 15 at the Rose Bowl, for the 91st meeting in the California–UCLA football rivalry, not originally scheduled for the shortened Pac-12 season.|
|Utah at UCLA||Canceled|
|Gardner–Webb at Charlotte||Canceled|
|Week 12||UAB at UTEP||Canceled|
|Ohio at Miami (OH)||Canceled|
|Arizona State at Colorado||Canceled|
|Georgia Tech at No. 12 Miami (FL)||December 19, 2020||Week 16|
|Charlotte at No. 15 Marshall||Canceled|
|Ole Miss at No. 5 Texas A&M||Canceled|
|Louisiana–Monroe at Louisiana Tech||Canceled|
|Wake Forest at Duke||Canceled|
|Utah State at Wyoming||Canceled|
|Central Arkansas at No. 24 Louisiana||Canceled|
|Navy at South Florida||Canceled|
|Houston at SMU||Canceled|
|No. 22 Texas at Kansas||Canceled|
|UNLV at Colorado State||Canceled|
|Michigan State at Maryland||Canceled|
|Washington State at Stanford||Canceled|
|San Jose State at Fresno State||Canceled|
|No. 4 Clemson at Florida State||Canceled|
|Week 13||Utah at Arizona State||Canceled||Utah and Washington were subsequently scheduled to play on November 28 at Husky Stadium, not originally scheduled for the shortened Pac-12 season.|
|Washington at Washington State||Canceled|
|Louisiana Tech at FIU||Canceled|
|No. 25 Tulsa at Houston||Canceled|
|Minnesota at No. 16 Wisconsin||December 19, 2020||Week 16||Had the makeup game not occurred, this rivalry game would have been canceled for the first time since 1906.|
|Southern Miss at UAB||Canceled|
|No. 11 Oklahoma at West Virginia||Canceled|
|No. 7 Cincinnati at Temple||Canceled|
|Colorado State at Air Force||Canceled|
|San Diego State at Fresno State||Canceled||San Diego State and Colorado were subsequently scheduled to play an inter-conference game on November 28 at Folsom Field, not originally scheduled for either team.|
|Colorado at No. 18 USC||Canceled|
|No. 4 Ohio State at Illinois||Canceled|
|Florida Atlantic at Middle Tennessee||Canceled|
|Virginia at Florida State||Canceled|
|San Jose State at Boise State||Canceled|
|UTEP at Rice||Canceled|
|Western Kentucky at Charlotte||December 6, 2020||Week 14|
|Week 14||Southern Miss at UTEP||Canceled|
|No. 10 Miami (FL) at Wake Forest||Canceled||Miami (FL) and Duke were subsequently scheduled to play December 5 at Wallace Wade Stadium, it was not originally scheduled for either team.|
|Florida State at Duke||Canceled|
|No. 14 Northwestern at Minnesota||Canceled|
|Kent State at Miami (OH)||Canceled|
|Maryland at Michigan||Canceled|
|Boise State at UNLV||Canceled|
|Liberty at No. 18 Coastal Carolina||Canceled||BYU, ranked No. 13 in this week's CFP rankings, took Liberty's place as Coastal Carolina's opponent.|
|Houston at SMU||Canceled|
|Vanderbilt at No. 8 Georgia||December 19, 2020||Week 16|
|FIU at Charlotte||Canceled||The Western Kentucky at Charlotte game originally scheduled for last week but canceled due to COVID-19 was rescheduled for Sunday of this week.|
|Buffalo at Ohio||Canceled|
|UAB at Middle Tennessee||Canceled|
|Week 15||No. 8 Cincinnati at No. 24 Tulsa||Canceled|
|Ole Miss at No. 5 Texas A&M||Canceled|
|Michigan at No. 4 Ohio State||Canceled||The Michigan–Ohio State rivalry game was not played for the first time since 1917.|
|Ohio at Kent State||Canceled|
|Charlotte at Marshall||Canceled|
|Purdue at No. 12 Indiana||Canceled|
|No. 11 Oklahoma at West Virginia||Canceled|
|Texas at Kansas||Canceled|
|Miami (OH) at Bowling Green||Canceled|
|Incarnate Word at Arkansas State||Canceled|
|Washington at Oregon||Canceled|
|Utah State at Colorado State||Canceled||This is the only game on this list not scrapped due to COVID-19. Instead, this ensued when the USU team would not travel to Fort Collins in protest of racially insensitive conditions on campus and on the football team.|
|California at Washington State||Canceled|
|Week 16||Georgia Tech at No. 18 Miami (FL)||Canceled|
|Arizona at California||Canceled|
|Louisiana-Monroe at Troy||Canceled|
|Vanderbilt at No. 8 Georgia||Canceled|
|Oregon at Colorado||Canceled||Oregon took Washington's place as USC's opponent in the Pac-12 Championship game.|
|Purdue at No. 11 Indiana||Canceled||The Old Oaken Bucket game was not played for the first time since 1919.|
|Michigan at No. 16 Iowa||Canceled|
|Michigan State at Maryland||Canceled|
|No. 19 Louisiana at No. 12 Coastal Carolina||Canceled||This game, the Sun Belt Conference Football Championship Game, was the only conference championship game to be canceled. The Sun Belt announced that both schools would be co-champions.|
|Florida State at Wake Forest||Canceled|
- The 2020 season was the first for South Alabama at Hancock Whitney Stadium replacing Ladd–Peebles Stadium. The team was scheduled to play its first game there on September 12 against Grambling State. The Senior Bowl postseason all-star game (which had been played at Ladd–Peebles) also moved to the new stadium for this season's edition in January 2021.
- The 2020 season was the last season for UAB at Legion Field before moving to Protective Stadium on the grounds of the Birmingham–Jefferson Convention Complex in 2021. The Blazers played their final game at Legion Field on October 23 against Louisiana.
- The 2020 season was the first for UNLV at Allegiant Stadium replacing Sam Boyd Stadium. The team was scheduled to play its first game there on August 29 against California.
- Georgia State renamed their stadium to Center Parc Stadium in a naming rights agreement with the Atlanta Postal Credit Union.
- UCF renamed their stadium to Bounce House. Their previous naming rights deal with Charter Spectrum expired after the 2019 season. A potential naming rights deal with RoofClaim.com was vetoed by the Florida Legislature.
All kickoff games were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The regular season was scheduled to begin on August 29 with various "Week 0" games, but all were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were two especially notable Week Zero games:
Originally, Marshall was set to play at East Carolina, to honor the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 people, including 37 from the Marshall University football team. The crash occurred as the Thundering Herd were returning from a game at East Carolina.
Additionally, the Emerald Isle Classic at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland was scheduled to occur during Week 0, featuring Navy versus Notre Dame. However, on June 2, 2020, the game was moved from Dublin to Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. Eventually, the game was canceled altogether. The game would have been be the first in the history of the Navy–Notre Dame football rivalry to be played at Navy's home stadium. The series will resume in 2021.
The majority of FBS teams were scheduled to open the season on Labor Day weekend. However, most conferences delayed the start of their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the ACC and Big 12 conferences are scheduled to begin play the weekend of September 12, while the SEC conference will begin conference-only play the weekend of September 26.
Four neutral-site "kickoff" games were scheduled to be held but were also canceled.
- Texas Kickoff (NRG Stadium, Houston): Baylor vs. Ole Miss
- Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta):
- Advocare Classic (AT&T Stadium, Arlington): Alabama vs. USC
Regular season Top 10 matchups
Rankings reflect the AP Poll. Rankings for Week 13 and beyond listed College Football Playoff Rankings first and AP Poll second. Teams that failed to be a top 10 team for one poll or the other will be noted.
- Week 5
- Week 6
- Week 7
- Week 10
- Week 12
This section lists instances of unranked teams defeating ranked teams during the season.
During the regular season, 33 unranked teams defeated a ranked team. The highest-ranked teams that lost to an unranked opponent were No. 3 Oklahoma in week 4 and No. 5 North Carolina in week 7. Rankings are based on the AP Poll at the time the game was played.
|Week||Winning Team||Losing Team|
|Week 2||Louisiana||31||No. 23 Iowa State||14|
|Week 3||Marshall||17||No. 23 Appalachian State||7|
|Week 4||Kansas State||38||No. 3 Oklahoma||35|
|Mississippi State||44||No. 6 LSU||34|
|Week 5||TCU||33||No. 9 Texas||31|
|Tulsa||34||No. 11 UCF||26|
|Arkansas||21||No. 16 Mississippi State||14|
|Iowa State||37||No. 18 Oklahoma||30|
|NC State||30||No. 24 Pittsburgh||29|
|SMU||30||No. 25 Memphis||27|
|Week 6||Missouri||45||No. 17 LSU||41|
|Oklahoma (4OT)||53||No. 22 Texas||45|
|Week 7||Florida State||31||No. 5 North Carolina||28|
|South Carolina||30||No. 15 Auburn||22|
|Kentucky||34||No. 18 Tennessee||7|
|Coastal Carolina||30||No. 21 Louisiana||27|
|Week 8||Indiana (OT)||36||No. 8 Penn State||35|
|Wake Forest||23||No. 19 Virginia Tech||16|
|Week 9||Texas (OT)||41||No. 6 Oklahoma State||34|
|Michigan State||27||No. 13 Michigan||24|
|Virginia||44||No. 15 North Carolina||41|
|West Virginia||37||No. 16 Kansas State||10|
|Week 11||Tulsa||28||No. 19 SMU||24|
|Week 12||NC State||15||No. 21 Liberty||14|
|Week 13||Michigan State||29||No. 8 Northwestern||20|
|Oregon State||41||No. 15 Oregon||38|
|Week 14||TCU||29||No. 15 Oklahoma State||22|
|Rice||20||No. 21 Marshall||0|
|Stanford||31||No. 22 Washington||26|
|California||21||No. 23 Oregon||17|
|Week 15||LSU||37||No. 6 Florida||34|
|Utah||38||No. 21 Colorado||21|
|Week 16||Oregon||31||No. 13 USC||24|
During the bowl season, five unranked teams defeated a ranked team. Rankings in this section are based on the final CFP rankings released on December 20.
|Bowl||Winning Team||Losing Team|
|Cure Bowl||Liberty||37||No. 12 Coastal Carolina||34|
|Armed Forces Bowl||Mississippi State||28||No. 24 Tulsa||26|
|Arizona Bowl||Ball State||34||No. 22 San Jose State||16|
|Gator Bowl||Kentucky||23||No. 23 NC State||21|
|Outback Bowl||Ole Miss||26||No. 11 Indiana||20|
|Conference||Championship game||Overall Player of the Year/MVP||Offensive Player of the Year||Defensive Player of the Year||Coach of the Year|
|ACC||No. 3 Clemson (9–1) CFP||34–10||No. 2 Notre Dame (10–0) CFP||Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson||Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson||Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame||Brian Kelly, HC, Notre Dame|
|American||No. 9 Cincinnati (8–0)||27–24||No. 23 Tulsa (6–1)||N/A[i]||Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati||Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa||Luke Fickell, HC, Cincinnati|
|Big Ten||No. 4 Ohio State (5–0) CFP||22–10||No. 14 Northwestern (6–1)||N/A[i]||Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State||Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa||Tom Allen, HC, Indiana|
|Big 12||No. 10 Oklahoma (11–2)||27–21||No. 6 Iowa State (8–2)||N/A[i]||Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State||Mike Rose, LB, Iowa State||Matt Campbell, HC, Iowa State|
|C–USA||UAB (5–3)||22–13||Marshall (7–1)||Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas||Sincere McCormick, RB, UTSA||Tavante Beckett, LB, Marshall||Doc Holliday, HC, Marshall|
|MAC||Ball State (5–1)||38–28||Buffalo (5–0)||Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo||Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo||Troy Hairston, DL, Central Michigan
Brandon Martin, LB, Ball State
|Lance Leipold, HC, Buffalo|
|MWC||No. 24 San Jose State (6–0)||34–20||Boise State (5–1)||N/A[i]||Carson Strong, QB, Nevada||Cade Hall, DL, San Jose State||Brent Brennan, HC, San Jose State|
|Pac-12||Oregon (3–2)||31–24||No. 13 USC (5–0)||N/A[i]||Jarek Broussard, RB, Colorado||Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC||Karl Dorrell, HC, Colorado|
|SEC||No. 1 Alabama (10–0) CFP||52–46||No. 7 Florida (8–2)||N/A[i]||DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama||Patrick Surtain II, DB, Alabama||Nick Saban, HC, Alabama|
|Sun Belt||No. 12 Coastal Carolina (11–0)
No. 19 Louisiana (9–1)
|Canc.[ii]||N/A||Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina||Jonathan Adams, WR, Arkansas State||Tarron Jackson, DL, Coastal Carolina||Jamey Chadwell, HC, Coastal Carolina|
CFP College Football Playoff participant
- Not awarded by this conference.
- The Sun Belt Conference championship game was canceled, and both teams were declared co-champions.
The top 25 from the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls.
CFB Playoff final rankings
In December 2021, the College Football Playoff selection committee will announce its final team rankings for the year.
|Rank||Associated Press||Coaches' Poll|
|1||Alabama (13–0)||Alabama (13–0)|
|2||Ohio State (7–1)||Ohio State (7–1)|
|3||Clemson (10–2)||Clemson (10–2)|
|4||Texas A&M (9–1)||Texas A&M (9–1)|
|5||Notre Dame (10–2)||Notre Dame (10–2)|
|6||Oklahoma (9–2)||Oklahoma (9–2)|
|7||Georgia (8–2)||Georgia (8–2)|
|8||Cincinnati (9–1)||Cincinnati (9–1)|
|9||Iowa State (9–3)||Iowa State (9–3)|
|10||Northwestern (7–2)||Northwestern (7–2)|
|11||BYU (11–1)||BYU (11–1)|
|12||Indiana (6–2)||Florida (8–4)|
|13||Florida (8–4)||Indiana (6–2)|
|14||Coastal Carolina (11–1)||Coastal Carolina (11–1)|
|15||Louisiana (10–1)||Iowa (6–2)|
|16||Iowa (6–2)||Louisiana (10–1)|
|17||Liberty (10–1)||North Carolina (8–4)|
|18||North Carolina (8–4)||Liberty (10–1)|
|19||Texas (7–3)||Oklahoma State (8–3)|
|20||Oklahoma State (8–3)||Texas (7–3)|
|21||USC (5–1)||USC (5–1)|
|22||Miami (FL) (8–3)||Miami (FL) (8–3)|
|23||Ball State (7–1)||Ball State (7–1)|
|24||San Jose State (7–1)||San Jose State (7–1)|
|25||Buffalo (6–1)||Buffalo (6–1)|
The NCAA waived bowl eligibility requirements for the 2020–21 bowl season, intended "to allow as many student-athletes as possible the opportunity to participate in bowl games this year." On October 30, the postseason lineup of bowl games was announced; 37 bowls were scheduled, including the National Championship game. Subsequent cancellations resulted in a schedule of 33 games, as compared to 40 games contested during the prior bowl season. On December 20, after final CFP standings were released, an additional four games were left without teams available to play, leaving the count at 29. On December 22, the Gasparilla Bowl was canceled after the South Carolina team had an increase in COVID-19 cases. On December 27, the Music City Bowl was canceled due to Missouri's high positive COVID-19 numbers. On December 29, the Texas Bowl was canceled, due to TCU's COVID-19 issues.
2019–20 FBS bowl count 40 including the National Championship game Canceled, prior to team selections −9 Bahamas, Frisco, Hawaii, Holiday, Quick Lane, Redbox, Pinstripe, Sun, Las Vegas Canceled, due to lack of teams −4 Birmingham, Independence, Guaranteed Rate, Military Canceled, after team selections −3 Gasparilla Bowl, Music City, Texas New bowls debuting in 2020 +1 Myrtle Beach Bowl Debuts postponed to 2021 — Fenway Bowl, LA Bowl Substitute bowl for this season +1 Montgomery Bowl 2020–21 FBS bowl count 26
Awards and honors
The Heisman Trophy is given to the year's most outstanding player.
- DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
- Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
- AP Player of the Year: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- Lombardi Award (top player): Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
- Maxwell Award (top player): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- SN Player of the Year: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- Walter Camp Award (top player): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- Burlsworth Trophy (top player who began as walk-on): Jimmy Morrissey, C, Pittsburgh
- Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- Jon Cornish Trophy (top Canadian player): John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
- Campbell Trophy ("academic Heisman"): Brady White, QB, Memphis
- Wuerffel Trophy (humanitarian-athlete): Teton Saltes, OL, New Mexico
- Senior CLASS Award (senior student-athlete): Kekaula Kaniho, CB, Boise State
- Davey O'Brien Award: Mac Jones, Alabama
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (senior/4th year quarterback): Mac Jones, Alabama
- Manning Award: Mac Jones, Alabama
- Fred Biletnikoff Award: DeVonta Smith, Alabama
- Rimington Trophy (center): Landon Dickerson, Alabama
- Outland Trophy (interior lineman on either offense or defense): Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
- Joe Moore Award (offensive line): Alabama
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player): Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
- Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player): Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
- Lott Trophy (defensive impact): Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
- Dick Butkus Award (linebacker): Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
- Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end):
- Lou Groza Award (placekicker): Jose Borregales, Miami
- Ray Guy Award (punter): Pressley Harvin III, Georgia Tech
- Jet Award (return specialist): Avery Williams, Boise State
- Patrick Mannelly Award (long snapper): Thomas Fletcher, Alabama
- Peter Mortell Holder of the Year Award: Spencer Jones, Oklahoma
- AFCA Coach of the Year: Tom Allen, Indiana
- AP Coach of the Year: Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
- Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
- Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year: Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
- George Munger Award: Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
- Home Depot Coach of the Year: Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award: Nick Saban, Alabama
- Walter Camp Coach of the Year: Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
- AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year: Randy Bates, DC, Pittsburgh
- Broyles Award: Steve Sarkisian, OC, Alabama
Preseason and in-season
This is restricted to coaching changes taking place on or after May 1, 2020, and will also include any changes announced after a team's last regularly scheduled game but before its bowl game. For coaching changes that occurred earlier in 2020, see 2019 NCAA Division I FBS end-of-season coaching changes.
|Southern Miss||Jay Hopson||September 7, 2020||Resigned||Scotty Walden (Interim)|
|Scotty Walden (Interim)||October 27, 2020||Hired by Austin Peay||Tim Billings (Interim)|
|Utah State||Gary Andersen||November 7, 2020||Resigned||Frank Maile (Interim)|
|South Carolina||Will Muschamp||November 15, 2020||Fired||Mike Bobo (Interim)|
|Vanderbilt||Derek Mason||November 29, 2020||Fired||Todd Fitch (Interim)|
|Illinois||Lovie Smith||December 13, 2020||Fired||Rod Smith (Interim)|
|Auburn||Gus Malzahn||December 13, 2020||Fired||Kevin Steele (Interim)|
End of season
This list includes coaching changes announced during the season that did not take effect until the end of the season.
|Southern Miss||Tim Billings (Interim)||December 2, 2020||Permanent replacement||Will Hall|
|South Carolina||Mike Bobo (Interim)||December 6, 2020||Permanent replacement||Shane Beamer|
|South Alabama||Steve Campbell||December 6, 2020||Fired||Kane Wommack|
|Louisiana–Monroe||Matt Viator||December 7, 2020||Fired||Terry Bowden|
|Utah State||Frank Maile (Interim)||December 10, 2020||Permanent replacement||Blake Anderson|
|Arkansas State||Blake Anderson||December 10, 2020||Hired by Utah State||Butch Jones|
|Arizona||Kevin Sumlin||December 12, 2020||Fired||Jedd Fisch|
|Vanderbilt||Todd Fitch (Interim)||December 14, 2020||Permanent replacement||Clark Lea|
|Illinois||Rod Smith (Interim)||December 19, 2020||Permanent replacement||Bret Bielema|
|Auburn||Kevin Steele (Interim)||December 22, 2020||Permanent replacement||Bryan Harsin|
|Boise State||Bryan Harsin||December 22, 2020||Hired by Auburn||Andy Avalos|
|Texas||Tom Herman||January 2, 2021||Fired||Steve Sarkisian|
|Marshall||Doc Holliday||January 4, 2021||Contract not renewed||Charles Huff|
|Tennessee||Jeremy Pruitt||January 18, 2021||Fired||Josh Heupel|
|UCF||Josh Heupel||January 27, 2021||Hired by Tennessee||Gus Malzahn|
|Kansas||Les Miles||March 8, 2021||Mutually agreed to part ways||Lance Leipold|
|Buffalo||Lance Leipold||April 30, 2021||Hired by Kansas||Maurice Linguist|
Television viewers and ratings
Most-watched regular season games
|Rank||Date||Matchup||Network||Viewers (millions)||TV Rating||Significance|
|1||November 7, 7:30 p.m.||No. 1 Clemson||40||No. 4 Notre Dame||47||NBC, USA||10.07||5.4||Primetime game|
|2||October 17, 8:00 p.m.||No. 3 Georgia||24||No. 2 Alabama||41||CBS||9.61||5.3||Rivalry|
|3||November 28, 3:30 p.m.||No. 22 Auburn||13||No. 1 Alabama||42||6.66||3.6||Rivalry|
|4||October 31, 7:30 p.m.||No. 3 Ohio State||38||No. 18 Penn State||25||ABC||6.53||3.5||Rivalry/Saturday Night Football|
|5||November 21, 12:00 p.m.||No. 9 Indiana||35||No. 3 Ohio State||42||Fox||6.36||3.7||Big Noon Saturday|
|6||November 7, 3:30 p.m.||No. 8 Florida||44||No. 5 Georgia||28||CBS||6.34||3.5||Rivalry|
|7||October 24, 12:00 p.m.||Nebraska||17||No. 5 Ohio State||52||Fox||6.18||3.4||Big Noon Saturday|
|8||November 27, 3:30 p.m.||No. 2 Notre Dame||31||No. 19 North Carolina||17||ABC||6.07||3.5|
|9||October 10, 3:30 p.m.||No. 14 Tennessee||21||No. 3 Georgia||44||CBS||5.77||3.1||Rivalry|
|10||November 14, 3:30 p.m.||No. 2 Notre Dame||45||Boston College||31||ABC||5.14||3.0||Rivalry|
Conference championship games
#Rankings are from the CFP Rankings.
Most watched non-CFP bowl games
College Football Playoff
|Game||Date||Matchup||Network||Viewers (millions)||TV Rating||Location|
|Rose Bowl (semifinal)||January 1, 2021, 4:30 p.m.||No. 4 Notre Dame||14||No. 1 Alabama||31||ESPN||18.9||9.6||AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX|
|Sugar Bowl (semifinal)||January 1, 2021, 8:00 p.m.||No. 3 Ohio State||49||No. 2 Clemson||28||19.1||9.8||Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA|
|National Championship||January 11, 2021, 8:00 p.m.||No. 3 Ohio State||24||No. 1 Alabama||52||18.65||5.05||Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL|
- Of the 130 FBS programs: UConn, Old Dominion, and New Mexico State canceled their 2020 seasons due to COVID-19 concerns. New Mexico State later scheduled some games for the spring of 2021 against programs at other levels.
- End date does not include non-FBS games scheduled by New Mexico State for the spring of 2021.
- Bowl count includes the National Championship game.
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