While the Big Ten continues to pick petals off a daisy — To play football in the fall? To not play football in the fall? — other college programs are already in a committed relationship with the impending season.

In fact, the first college football game of the season is Saturday night, an FCS matchup of Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas. FBS teams start playing Thursday, with teams from Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference in action before Power Five conferences SEC, ACC and Big 12 continue on without the Big Ten and Pac-12.

Whether those seasons progress without problems remains to be seen. Spikes in positive COVID-19 tests at some universities — including more than 500 among students, faculty and staff at Alabama — have raised concern. But at least they're not in the awkward position the Big Ten is in, having released a revised 10-game conference-only schedule Aug. 5 only to delay the season to spring 2021 less than a week later.

And then Friday, just more than two weeks after the cancellation, the conference was reportedly trying to walk that decision back, potentially starting the football season as early as Thanksgiving week, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Big Ten has faced significant pushback from players, coaches, parents and entire universities on its decision to postpone football. Programs at Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State have been the most vocal about their disappointment with the choice, with Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour even questioning whether the conference actually voted on delaying the season, or if Commissioner Kevin Warren and the presidents and chancellors just made the choice.

August has been a month of he said/she said in that way, with players speaking up about how they weren't involved enough in the decisionmaking and parents voicing their frustration at the lack of communication. A handful of Nebraska players even filed a lawsuit against the conference, trying to reverse the cancellation. There were reports of several conference schools trying to defy the Big Ten's orders and still play.

The Gophers, including coach P.J. Fleck and quarterback Tanner Morgan, have been only supportive and understanding of the Big Ten's call, saying it was difficult because everyone wants to play but that health and safety should come first.

Yahoo Sports and other outlets have reported that while starting in late November is an option, it is still not the first choice. Starting play sometime in winter, possibly January through March, in indoor facilities could be the more realistic option. The Journal Sentinel reported an eight-game season is most likely in either case, while other outlets have ventured that 10 games could still be the play.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the Journal Sentinel the conference has discussed several plans.

"No leader. Just multiple ideas," Smith said. "Working closely with our television partners."

Per an Associated Press report, any plan would need approval from university presidents and chancellors, and the Big Ten is still committed to playing only if certain coronavirus prevention standards, from transmission rates to testing capacity and accuracy, come to fruition in the 11 states housing all 14 member schools.

Coaches, though, are still eager to start the season as soon as possible, which will allow for minimal impact on the fall 2021 season.

Megan Ryan covers the Gophers and college football for the Star Tribune. • megan.ryan@startribune.com