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College football independents face challenges as they scramble to fill schedules

Connecticut’s decision to forgo the 2020 football season altogether highlights the difficulties the few remaining Football Bowl Subdivision independents are encountering as they try to fill their schedules. With most power conferences playing league-only slates or opting for just one non-conference game, not to mention numerous FCS leagues also cancelling fall competition, unaffiliated programs are seeing their pool of potential opponents shrink.

Notre Dame, the highest profile of the group, solved the problem by affiliating, at least temporarily, with the ACC, its league home in other sports. Other FBS independents, however, could struggle to replace lost matchups beyond scheduling each other.

Here’s where the schedules for each of them stand.

Army

Gone from schedule: Bucknell, Oklahoma, Princeton, Connecticut.

Remaining: Rice, Miami (Ohio), Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Air Force, Tulane, Massachusetts, Navy.

Army is in better shape than some of its fellow independents. Its annual dates with academy rivals Air Force and Navy will, barring the cancellation of the entire season, go on. The Black Knights also had a date with UMass already on the docket.

MAKING PLANS: How each college football conference is handling its schedule

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BYU

Gone from schedule: Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State, Minnesota, Missouri, Stanford.

Remaining: Utah State, Houston, Northern Illinois, Boise State, San Diego State, North Alabama.

The early announcements by the Big Ten and Pac-12 wiped out the Cougars’ entire September schedule. Some theorized on social media that a Notre Dame-like arrangement with the Big 12 could be mutually beneficial, but there was little support for that from the conference.

Brigham Young wide receiver Keanu Hill dives for the end zone while being defended by Idaho State linebacker Oshea Trujillo during their 2019 game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. (Photo: Jeffrey Swinger, USA TODAY Sports)

Liberty

Gone from schedule: North Carolina A&T, Connecticut.

In doubt: Virginia Tech, Syracuse, North Carolina State.

Remaining: Western Kentucky, Florida International, Bowling Green, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Mississippi, Western Carolina, Massachusetts

Hypothetically, the Flames’ three scheduled ACC games could still take place. Realistically, it is unlikely that all three of them would retain Liberty as their lone non-conference opponent.

New Mexico State

Gone from schedule: UCLA, Texas Southern, Florida.

Remaining: Alabama-Birmingham, Akron, New Mexico, Texas-El Paso, Texas State, Hawaii, Fresno State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Massachusetts.

The Aggies’ slate is largely intact, though it is heavily reliant on Group of Five FBS conferences, the Mountain West in particular, retaining their non-conference opponents.

Massachusetts

Gone from schedule: Connecticut, Albany, Auburn.

Remaining: Troy, Appalachian State, New Mexico, Temple, Akron, Florida International, New Mexico State, Army, Liberty.

The Minutemen already had several fellow independents slated, but the loss of the date at Auburn is a big hit to the already challenged budget.

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