At this point, you’ve likely accepted the fact that the 2020 college football schedule will not go according to plan.
The Big Ten has already said they’ll be be playing conference games only, and the ACC is likely doing the same — they just haven’t announced it yet and are weighing various plans that account for both Notre Dame and maybe SEC rivals for the likes of Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville. In any case, that decision’s coming by late July.
While the Big Ten can just keep the schedule as-is, it seems like they’re entertaining ideas around a 10-game season, that may or may not include home-and-homes. Given the ACC’s situation with Notre Dame — and the Irish being S.O.L. if they’re not included in what the ACC does — things are not that easy for our conference. That’s made even more complicated by the SEC rivalry bit, which the SEC is also trying to juggle right now.
In a world where everything just works out, you fold the Irish into the ACC for the year and then just schedule accordingly. But because of how conference revenues work with regard to Notre Dame (they don’t have access to the football money pool, but we don’t have access to theirs, either), some financial arrangements need to be accounted for first.
We’re familiar with the complications having Notre Dame around can create, dating back to the Big East days. And while no one in charge over there seemed to understand how to deal with Notre Dame’s membership, Duke coach David Cutcliffe seems to have a pretty good command of the situation.
Does David Cutcliffe want Notre Dame to be a part of a conference-only schedule?— ️♈️ (@ADavidHaleJoint) July 10, 2020
“If they’re willing to share their money, sure. But you don’t get something for nothing."
Though there have been no considerations released directly by the league yet, one report from WRALSports’ Joe Giglio indicates a 10-game schedule featuring home-and-homes — so you’d only face five teams. The Irish would be included in that setup, but I’d assume the SEC rivals would not. Would also think that there’s more to that arrangement. Just don’t know exactly what.
This has already been a long-winded intro, so let’s just get to the point: What are the models the ACC is likely considering for the 2020 football season (assuming it happens, of course), and what should they ultimately adopt?
1. 10-game home-and-home
This would be the one mentioned above. Each team would face five others in the ACC (plus Notre Dame) twice. That’s not a pod situation, since it doesn’t seem like these opponents are all grouped together. At the same time, that would seem to make sense from a travel standpoint.
On one hand, this is a good way to get a season going, and it could lead to us avoiding Clemson. But on the other, playing just five teams total can backfire for both the Syracuse Orange and the rest of the league if the schedule is off from a competitive balance standpoint. That can also help the Orange if we’re playing the right teams, too. Will this be locally driven? I guess it really doesn’t matter that much once you’re leaving campus whether you’re traveling for an hour by plane or three hours. But it’s probably going to be part of the thought process.
2. Pods/Permanent Rivals
This blog has long been a proponent of realigning the ACC’s divisions in a unique way — potentially around either pods or a “permanent rivals” setup. A weird season allows us to give it a shot on a trial basis, albeit with some stipulations that probably include repeating opponents.
If we want to do pods, there’s an easy way to just create three groups of five and do eight games (two games against each opponent). Again, doesn’t really allow for the ACC-SEC games, though.
Regionally, you could lump things together like this:
- North: Syracuse, Boston College, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt
- Mid-Atlantic: Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
- South: NC State, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami
This not only keeps rivalries intact but reduces travel and is fairly balanced, competitively. NC State gets hosed a bit having to leave the other NC teams, but one of them has to get bounced South and it’s not going to be Duke or UNC given their rivalries with one another and UVA.
3. Schedule As-Is
Here, we just play the eight opponents we currently have set up on the schedule, and maybe find some sort of setup where those four SEC rival teams play those squads as a ninth game, and Notre Dame is a ninth game for some — but not all — of the rest of the teams. That’s probably not going to work, since there are 10 teams left, so maybe the Irish are playing 10 while everyone else plays nine?
This one uses a blend of conference play and non-conference dates to create a 9-game schedule for everyone — and Notre Dame — that also reduces travel by adding regional foes. So basically, the 15 teams in question work together to pick five games per team, and then they can get creative with the rest.
If Syracuse wants to fill the other spots with Buffalo, Colgate/Albany, West Virginia and someone else, cool. If FSU wants to add games against Florida, Florida A&M, FIU and FAU, that’s cool too. Notre Dame can toss on games with BYU, Army, perhaps Navy and Ball State.
Definitely the most complicated schedule, and the one that involves playing more teams. It’s probably the most regionally-focused one too, depending on who you face.
I’m sure there are other ideas out there. If you have any, have at it in the comments. I’m partial to the pods-type setup, but could be convinced of most of these if someone’s passionate about one or another.