Simply put, the 2020 college football season will be unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented amount of change to the way the season will be played, bringing up the question of whether or not this year’s national champion should be viewed differently than any other champion from any other year. So, should there be an asterisk for this year’s college football national champion? The answer is no.
One reason why some may believe this year’s champion should have an asterisk is because two of the Power Five conferences, the Big Ten and Pac-12, have decided, for now, not to play this fall. This takes teams like Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Oregon and USC, among others, out of contention.
However, while a few teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 may have had a legitimate chance at the college football throne, there’s no guarantee that either conference would have made much noise in the College Football Playoff.
Neither the Big Ten or Pac-12 has won a playoff game since 2014, the first year of the playoff, when Ohio State beat Oregon in the national championship. Since then, both conferences have lost five playoff games, and while the ACC and SEC have made a playoff appearance each year, there have been two years that neither the Big Ten nor the Pac-12 made an appearance. The Pac-12 alone has not made an appearance since the 2016-17 season.
Even if the Big Ten and Pac-12 were playing, the national champion would still have likely come from one of the other three Power Five conferences (ACC, SEC, Big 12) that are playing. The SEC is widely believed to be the best conference in college football, and it has had more playoff teams (7) and playoff-era national champions (3) than any other conference. The ACC is just behind the SEC with six playoff teams and two national champions, and the Big 12 has sent Oklahoma to the playoff each of the last three seasons.
Another reason why some may believe this year’s champion should have an asterisk is because of star players opting out of the season. Aside from all the talented players in the Big Ten and Pac-12 who won’t be competing, other star Power Five players have opted out of the season, such as LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Miami defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau, Wake Forest wide receiver Sage Surratt and Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman.
Despite these players, among others, opting out, there will still be plenty of talent taking the field this fall. Plenty of five-star recruits and future NFL players are playing this year. It’s not like this year’s champion will have beaten high school JV teams to get to the top; the champion will have beaten elite competition.
With all the changes the pandemic has brought to the college football season, this year’s champion will have to work harder than ever for the crown. This year’s champion will have to weather the storm of change, win games in stadiums without fans, have discipline and work together as a team to stay locked in and keep everyone healthy. If any asterisk is given to this year’s champion, it should be to distinguish the champion for having worked harder and enduring more than any team in college football history.