COLUMN: Still plenty of football yet to come

Do not worry, football fans, the season does not come to an end Feb. 7 when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host defending champion Kansas City in the Super Bowl.

In fact, it is far from over, as 310 schools and 35 conferences, including one in Michigan, are gearing up for their 2020 seasons.

That was not a typo. The 2020 seasons were moved to the spring for schools in the Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and the NAIA levels, and independent New Mexico State.

Playing college football in the spring is not a novel idea. Teams normally conduct spring football as they begin the preparation for the upcoming fall season. But, instead of having practices for a few weeks in March and hosting a spring game in early April, the games begin on Feb. 6 and in May.

I feel like I should be mad about this. But to be honest, I am looking forward to watching some college football this spring, even though I only watched a handful of games last fall. People are always complaining about not having anything to watch once the college bowl season has ended, the national championship game has been decided, and the National Football League has concluded its year with the Super Bowl.

Now they get a chance to watch roughly three months more of college football at a variety of levels. Perhaps that is why I am looking forward to watching games this season. I have become quite jaded when it comes to “big-time” college football. I know several years ago when photographer Amelio Rodriguez and I decided to take in a Western Michigan game against Toledo in Kalamazoo, we both came away from the game having had a positive experience.

There were 17 FCS teams that played at least one game last fall, but there are more than 100 FCS schools that will take the field in either February or March. The NCAA approved a 16-team playoff to conclude the season instead of the normal 24 teams. My money will be on North Dakota State to win another FCS title. I know the state of Michigan, along with myself, will have our eyes on the Bison and its quarterback, Trey Lance, who potentially could be drafted by the Detroit Lions to replace soon to be departed Matthew Stafford.

Michiganders will also be able to get out, hopefully, and watch competition in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association in Division III. Unfortunately, the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Association decided it would allow teams to play up to five games, but they would not count toward a season championship. So, basically, they are playing five glorified scrimmages.

As far as championships go, the FCS will have their title game May 15 in Frisco, Texas, while the NAIA will have their title game May 10 in Grambling, Louisiana. Unfortunately for the Division II and Division III teams, the NCAA decided to cancel their championship games.

Apparently, there is not enough money to be made from their postseason like there is for the Power 5 Conferences and the College Football Playoffs. I am sure none of you are shocked by that.

Regardless, I hope that we will get a chance to watch some of the games from these conferences. For many, these are the kids who are still playing the game for the love of it instead of using college football as a stepping stone into the NFL. Still, there are players who make their way onto the big stage from these schools. They usually stick out like a sore thumb, so watch carefully and partake in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this spring.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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