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Mountain West votes to play college football this fall: Eight-game season starts Oct. 24

The Mountain West has approved a return to play plan that will see the league take the field for college football games beginning Oct. 24. It will play an eight-game, conference-only schedule with a league championship game on Dec. 19.

While the schedule structure mimics what the Big Ten approved for its return to play, the Mountain West’s decision comes on the heels of the Pac-12 approving a return to play on Thursday. The Pac-12 and Mountain West are comprised of teams from many of the same states.

Standing in the way of the Mountain West’s return to play was an agreed upon COVID-19 testing protocol. The plan from the conference’s medical advisory board includes COVID-19 testing three times a week, sources told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd.

The board was sifting through options, including whether to use three antigen tests per week or two antigen tests and one PCR test. Neither test is 100% effective, but the layering and frequency of tests is thought to make play safer for participants. It is not yet known what option the Mountain West has chosen.

Though the Mountain West has established a return to play plan, there is no certainty all 12 conference members will be able to proceed together, CBS Sports learned last week. Local health restrictions have impacted the three schools in California — Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State. San Diego State is likely in the best shape to proceed, sources told Dodd. Fresno State, on the other hand, has faced difficulty practicing because of local COVID-19 restrictions.

“I don’t think everybody has an illusion everybody is going to play the same amount of games,” said one Mountain West source.

With an eight-game schedule, the Mountain West will give its champion an opportunity to compete for a New Year’s Six bowl berth. The AAC has dominated those automatic New Year’s Six berths in the six-year history of the College Football Playoff.

The Big Ten has been able to return to play by moving toward to daily, point-of-care testing. The Pac-12 previously announced daily testing. Its presidents decided to proceed with a fall season earlier Thursday.

Daily testing significantly reduces the need for contact tracing — tracking down those who have been in contact with persons who have tested positive.

The Mountain West originally voted to postpone college football for the fall on Aug. 10.

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