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NCAA eases bowl eligibility rules for 2020 season

Good news for teams like Kentucky who will face a daunting schedule, especially if it’s conference-only.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

If there is a 2020 postseason for college football, it just got easier for teams to reach bowl eligibility...sort of.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that it approved a waiver request to allow FBS teams to count two wins against FCS opponents. The previous rule allowed FBS teams to count just one win over an FCS opponent for bowl eligibility. The adjustment will apply only to the 2020 season.

The problem with this is that Power 5 leagues are all trending toward conference-only schedules that won’t include FCS opponents. So for teams like Kentucky in the SEC that probably won’t play teams like EKU or Eastern Illinois, this adjustment doesn’t really do anything.

Perhaps smaller leagues will still play non-conference foes and make use of this adjustment, but it’s almost certainly not going to help any Power 5 programs.

Then again, now that everyone knows they can schedule two easy wins vs. FCS teams, perhaps leagues like the SEC will work harder to get some FCS opponents on the schedule.

To this point, only the Big Ten and Pac-12 have announced they’re going with conference-only schedules.

There is some more good news for teams like Kentucky looking to become bowl eligible amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Nick Carparelli, executive director of the Football Bowl Association, told ESPN that the bowl eligibility requirement of a .500 record will not change, even if the number of games played is reduced during the 2020 season.

“In a season that’s scheduled for only 10 games, 5-5 is already bowl-eligible by NCAA rules,” Carparelli said.

For teams like Kentucky, this is great news if there is a 2020 season. If the SEC goes with a conference-only schedule, just getting five wins is going to be tough, especially if opponents like Eastern Michigan and Kent State are replaced with matchups vs. LSU and Ole Miss.

Looking at the Wildcats’ current schedule, they should be favored in matchups with South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and maybe at Missouri.

Those matchups with Georgia, at Tennessee, at Florida and at Auburn are going to be very hard to win. And if two more SEC games are added, it looks like at least one of them will be a matchup Kentucky isn’t favored in like LSU and at Ole Miss, which are currently Kentucky’s 2021 and 2022 non-permanent cross-division matchups (more on those here).

As good of a team as Kentucky has going into the 2020 season, just getting to five wins is going to be a challenge, especially since 1-2 of those wins may have to come in a game the Cats aren’t favored in. Six wins would just about guarantee Kentucky has to win one game from the group of at Florida, at Auburn, at Tennessee, or vs. Georgia.

Even the most optimistic Kentucky fans won’t feel great about needing that just to get six wins. Hearing that a 5-5 record will get Kentucky in the bowl season is very good news.

Now, let’s all do our best to mask up and ensure there’s actually a season.