The college football trend of scheduling non-conference games 10 to 12 years out is a fun, if-not ridiculous exercise.

Games are currently scheduled out as far as 2035. Who knows how strong Ohio State and Georgia will be in 2030 and 2031? Especially when considering that players who will be in those games are currently in elementary school.

The same is the case for the South Dakota State University and the University of Nebraska. The two teams were slated to play each other this year on Sept. 19 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. It was announced in 2017 that SDSU would play at Nebraska in 2020, 2024 and 2028. (That has since been altered to games in 2028 and 2030.)

But like so many other events in 2020, COVID-19 won’t let that happen. The Big Ten Conference’s announcement calling off non-conference games means SDSU won’t face the Huskers, just like a similar announcement in the Pac-12 won’t allow North Dakota State University to play at Oregon, a game that has also been years in the making.

Before we get too far, let’s state the obvious: losing a football game amid a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 130,000 people in this country, including more than 100 South Dakotans, is a sacrifice worth making.

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Nationally, these games between Football Bowl Subdivision teams and Football Championship Subdivision teams get used as a punching bag, because the power conference teams are looking for an easy win over a cupcake, and the small schools are generally there for a loss and a paycheck.

Plenty of national pundits got their shots in last week, saying that college football isn’t missing out on much between a game between South Dakota State and Nebraska. The games involving Notre Dame-Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, Ohio State-Oregon and Michigan-Washington stole a few more headlines.

But for people in this corner of South Dakota, where there are probably some shared or joint allegiances between the Huskers and the Jackrabbits, this is a game that gets the casual fans’ interest, much more so than SDSU’s other non-conference games against Butler or Tarleton State, or Nebraska playing Central Michigan or Cincinnati.

A crowd of 85,000 at Memorial Stadium is unlike any experience in FCS football, and for the nine Nebraska players on SDSU’s roster, they have been looking forward to a game against the Huskers to prove their might for years now. Cade Johnson, SDSU’s All-American wide receiver and the son of former Nebraska standout receiver Clester Johnson, is a native of Bellevue, Nebraska and tweeted last week that he had dreamed of playing in the same stadium his dad played.

“That game meant everything to me,” he tweeted.

It has not been a good few years for FBS games for SDSU, which also had to abandon the 2018 game against Iowa State when severe weather forced the contest to be stopped in the first quarter and was never resumed. This year, the University of South Dakota hopes to play at Iowa State, but officials have yet to weigh in on that Sept. 5 game.

Last week’s announcements may be the tip of the iceberg, at least for college sports this fall. Pro athletes know the risks of playing their sport and are being compensated to do so. The same is not true for unpaid college athletes, especially considering the COVID-19 case counts are rising in many states.

Right now, it’s hard to realistically envision schools outside the major Division I conferences, including SDSU and USD, conducting COVID-19 testing on a large-enough scale necessary to maintain the ability to play sports.

SDSU and USD and every other college sports program in the region would love to play their conference schedules and get some sort of sports season in this fall. We’ll see if that’s possible.

As for the Jackrabbits against Big Red, we’re going to have to wait until 2028 for that.