Because of coronavirus numbers in Southern California, the Rose Bowl will not be played in Pasadena. Instead, the first College Football Playoff semifinal will take place in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. No. 1 Alabama will face No. 4 Notre Dame in the relocated semifinal game, and No. 2 Clemson will play No. 3 Ohio State in New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl.
With most teams playing shortened schedules because of the pandemic, the NCAA waived the requirement that teams must win six games to qualify for a bowl, making all 127 FBS teams eligible. Some teams with losing records will play in the postseason, including Mississippi State, which will face No. 24 Tulsa in the Dec. 31 Armed Forces Bowl following a 3-7 regular season finish.
Among those teams that opted out, many coaches referenced the mental strain this season has placed on their players. The timing of most bowl games would also keep players away from their families during the holidays after spending months on campus adhering to strict guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus. Minnesota Coach P.J. Fleck said if his team participated in a bowl game, players would have to eat boxed meals in their rooms on Christmas because a large team dinner wouldn’t be allowed.
“You’re talking maybe 11 days, doing what? Sitting there doing nothing,” Fleck said a day before his team decided not to participate in a bowl. “... And then also have boxed lunches, boxed breakfasts, boxed dinners. And that’s going to be memorable? Nobody doesn’t want to play football. We want to play football. But there are a lot of other factors that come into play here.”
Some coaches have already said their players will go home for Christmas, but that also presents the concern that they will unknowingly contract the virus while at home and then spread it to others upon their return to campus.
The games will feel different, too, and not just because fan attendance will be either prohibited or severely curtailed. Rather than week-long trips with a full schedule of tourist activities, dinners and other events, teams participating in bowls will probably have shorter trips and spend most of their time in the hotels. Some teams will play bowl games not far from their campuses, including Georgia (Peach Bowl in Atlanta), Miami (Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando) and Wake Forest (Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte).
Long-distance travel, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend during the pandemic, will be unavoidable for some bowl games. BYU will travel nearly 2,500 miles to the Boca Raton Bowl in Florida, and Tulane’s campus in New Orleans is about 2,000 miles from Boise, where the Green Wave will play in the Idaho Potato Bowl.
All times Eastern
Myrtle Beach Bowl
Appalachian State vs. North Texas
2:30 p.m., ESPN
Idaho Potato Bowl
Tulane vs. Nevada
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Boca Raton Bowl
Central Florida vs. BYU
7 p.m., ESPN
New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia Southern
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis
7 p.m., ESPN
New Mexico Bowl
Houston vs. Hawaii
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Marshall vs. Buffalo
2:30 p.m., ESPN
Coastal Carolina vs. Liberty
First Responder Bowl
Texas San Antonio vs. Louisiana
3:30 p.m., ABC
Georgia State vs. Western Kentucky
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma State vs. Miami
5:30 p.m., ESPN
Texas vs. Colorado
9 p.m., ESPN
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Wake Forest vs. Wisconsin
Florida vs. Oklahoma
8 p.m., ESPN
Armed Forces Bowl
Tulsa vs. Mississippi State
San Jose State vs. Ball State
2 p.m., CBS
West Virginia vs. Army
4 p.m., ESPN
TCU vs. Arkansas
8 p.m., ESPN
Georgia vs. Cincinnati
Northwestern vs. Auburn
1 p.m., ABC
Rose Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal)
Alabama vs. Notre Dame
5 p.m., ESPN
Sugar Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal)
Clemson vs. Ohio State
8:45 p.m., ESPN
N.C. State vs. Kentucky
Ole Miss vs. Indiana
12:30 p.m., ABC
Iowa State vs. Oregon
4 p.m., ESPN
Texas A&M vs. UNC
8 p.m., ESPN
College Football Playoff championship game
8 p.m., ESPN
Frisco Bowl, Frisco, Tex. (American vs. Conference USA): SMU was scheduled to face Texas San Antonio on Dec. 19 in the first game on the bowl schedule but had to bow out because of its coronavirus situation. The game was later canceled, with the Roadrunners instead heading to the First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26.
LA Bowl, Inglewood, Calif. (Pac-12 vs. Mountain West): The inaugural edition of the game was to be played Dec. 30.
Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas (Pac-12 vs. SEC): ESPN, which owns and operates the bowl, announced its cancellation.
Redbox Bowl, Santa Clara, Calif. (Big Ten vs. Pac-12): The first game to be called off, in July. Organizers cited the pandemic but also the fact that the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers had not renewed the game’s contract to play at Levi’s Stadium. Left without a stadium amid a pandemic, the game was canceled.
Celebration Bowl, Atlanta (MEAC vs. SWAC): The bowl game between champions of historically Black colleges and university conferences was canceled in July after the MEAC announced it was canceling its football season.
Bahamas Bowl, Nassau (Conference USA vs. MAC): ESPN canceled this year’s version of college football’s most whimsical bowl game Oct. 2, citing pandemic travel restrictions.
Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu (Mountain West vs. AAC): ESPN canceled the Hawaii Bowl, in most years the lone sporting event played on Christmas Eve, on Oct. 2, citing pandemic travel restrictions.
Holiday Bowl, San Diego (Pac-12 vs. ACC): Bowl organizers canceled the game Oct. 22, citing the fact that fans would not be allowed to attend, blunting the game’s tourism impact on the San Diego area.
Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit (Big Ten vs. ACC/MAC): The NFL’s Detroit Lions, who operate the bowl, announced its cancellation Oct. 30. No reason was given.
Pinstripe Bowl, the Bronx (ACC vs. Big Ten): Bowl organizers announced Nov. 27 that the game was canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”
Sun Bowl, El Paso (ACC vs. Pac-12): The country’s second-oldest bowl game, one that had been played every year since 1935, was canceled Dec. 1 amid skyrocketing coronavirus cases in the El Paso area.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Phoenix (Big 12 vs. Big Ten): The bowl game announced its cancellation Dec. 20, the same day most bowls announced their matchups. The organization said in a statement it was “forced to cancel,” citing the “unprecedented ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic.” Numerous teams opted out of consideration of bowl invitations, limiting the field of possible matchups.
Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. (SEC vs. AAC): The bowl game was canceled Dec. 20 because of “recent changes and a number of teams opting out of bowl season,” the organization said in a statement.
Military Bowl, Annapolis, Md. (ACC vs. American): Organizers of the bowl announced in a Dec. 21 statement that the game was canceled because there were not enough teams available to play. The day before, the event’s director, Steve Beck, tweeted that the bowl wanted Army to play in the game and was searching for an opponent.
Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. (Army vs. Pac-12): The bowl was canceled Dec. 20. The organization said in a statement that “the opting-out of possible teams created a lack of teams available to play in bowl games,” including the Independence Bowl.
Music City Bowl, Nashville (Missouri vs. Iowa): After a rise in coronavirus cases in Missouri’s football program, the team withdrew from the game against Iowa on Dec. 27 and the game was canceled.
Gasparilla Bowl, Tampa (South Carolina vs. UAB): South Carolina announced it was unable to play in the bowl game Dec. 22 because covid-19 and contact tracing had “taken a toll too high for us to overcome.” The event’s executive director, Scott Glaser, said, “We looked into a number of options for UAB, but ultimately could not identify any opportunities for them to play,” and ESPN canceled the event.
Texas Bowl, Houston (Arkansas vs. TCU): TCU withdrew from the event Tuesday citing a rise in coronavirus cases and injuries, which pushed the team below the Big 12’s minimum player threshold and prompted organizers to cancel the game.
Moved bowl games
Fenway Bowl, Boston (AAC vs. ACC): The bowl game at Fenway Park was scheduled to begin play this year but was called off. A game in Montgomery, Ala., has been scheduled as a replacement for 2020. The Montgomery Bowl was played Dec. 23.
New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque (American, Conference USA, Mountain West): This year’s New Mexico Bowl was played Dec. 24 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Tex.
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif. (College Football Playoff semifinal): The Tournament of Roses was twice denied appeals to the state of California to allow 400 to 500 spectators at the Jan. 1 game, which then was moved to the home of the Dallas Cowboys. It will remain in its midafternoon kickoff slot.
Teams that won’t be bowling
Arizona: The Wildcats, who have fired coach Kevin Sumlin, will not be playing a bowl game.
Boise State: After losing in the Mountain West championship game, the Broncos (5-2) opted out of a bowl game. Captains Khalil Shakir, Riley Whimpey and Avery Williams said in a joint statement, “This is about a team decision and what the team feels is best for everyone mentally, physically and emotionally.”
Boston College: The Eagles became the first team to announce they are foregoing a bowl game in 2020, with Athletic Director Patrick Kraft citing the “emotional, mental and physical grind” of playing amid a pandemic as a reason. Boston College finished the season 6-5 and probably was headed to either the Gasparilla Bowl or the Military Bowl.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets will not consider a bowl bid this season because of health and safety considerations, the program announced.
Kansas State: The Wildcats announced they will not play in a bowl game because the team’s coronavirus situation will not allow them to field enough players.
Louisville: Coach Scott Satterfield said the Cardinals will not play in a bowl game.
LSU: The Tigers announced a self-imposed bowl ban for 2020 to ward off future NCAA violations.
Maryland: The school informed the Big Ten that it would not accept a bowl invitation. The Terps canceled their final game of the season and paused team practices because of a coronavirus outbreak in the program.
Michigan State: The Spartans opted out of consideration for a bowl game, the program announced.
Minnesota: The Gophers announced they will not play in a bowl game.
Nebraska: The Huskers announced they will not play in a bowl game.
Penn State: Nittany Lions players led the decision, according to the school, after a 56-21 victory over Illinois and were supported by Coach James Franklin and Athletic Director Sandy Barbour.
Pittsburgh: One day after beating Georgia Tech in their season finale, the Panthers removed themselves from bowl consideration.
San Diego State: Coach Brady Hoke announced Dec. 16 that the Aztecs had withdrawn themselves from bowl consideration and concluded their season.
SMU: The Mustangs bowed out of the Frisco Bowl against Texas-San Antonio because of the team’s coronavirus situation. The game was later canceled (see above).
South Carolina: After accepting a bid to the Gasparilla Bowl, the Gamecocks announced Tuesday that they would not be playing in it because of the toll coronavirus and contact tracing has taken on the team.
Stanford: The Cardinal announced that its season would end after its Dec. 19 game against UCLA.
Tennessee: The Volunteers announced Dec. 21 that they had withdrawn from the Liberty Bowl because of positive coronavirus tests among players and staff, including Coach Jeremy Pruitt.
UCLA: The Bruins’ season ended with their regular season finale against Stanford, the school announced.
USC: Citing recommendation from the USC medical team and discussions with the Trojan football leadership, the school announced its decision to end the season with the game against Oregon.
Virginia: The Cavaliers announced they would be removing themselves from bowl consideration.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies’ players voted not to play in a bowl game, Coach Justin Fuente announced, ending the nation’s longest active bowl streak at 27.
Washington: The Huskies decided not to pursue a bowl bid because of “medical reasons,” the school announced.