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Pac-12 sets football restart similarly to Southeastern Conference

Utah’s Julian Blackmon, left, and Francis Bernard, right, celebrate after a play against Arizona State during the first half on Oct. 19 in Salt Lake City. (AP file photo)

The Pac-12 set Sept. 26 as the start date Friday for its 10-game, conference-only football schedule, joining the Southeastern Conference in pushing back its season by three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pac-12 announced July 10 it would eliminate nonconference games to give its 12 member schools a better chance to manage complications and disruptions caused by the health crisis. The plan approved by university presidents adds an additional cross-divisional game to each team’s slate, creates two open dates and moves the conference championship game back two weeks from Dec. 4 to Dec. 18 or 19.

The title game, originally set to be played for the first time at the new NFL stadium in Las Vegas, will now be hosted by the division winner with the best record. The two-year deal with Las Vegas and the Pac-12 will instead begin in 2021, Commissioner Larry Scott said.

Each team will have one off week built into its schedule and the weekend of Dec. 12 all teams are scheduled off so it can be used for potential make-up games.

The conference also plans to start the season with a couple of rivalry games usually saved for the end: USC will play UCLA at the Rose Bowl and Arizona meets Arizona State on Sept. 26 — if they can play.

Oregon offensive lineman Shane Lemieux blocks against Stanford in Stanford, Calif., on Sept. 21. (AP file photo)

Asked if he believed a college football season will happen, Scott said: “I don’t know. I think we are all trying to take a step at a time. We are cautiously optimistic as we sit here today.”

Still to come is a reworked schedule from the Big Ten, which was the first major-college football conference to announce its teams would only play within the league, and a scheduling decision from the Big 12.

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