An annual source of great personal consternation, the ACC finally released the 2019 football schedule today. Whether its an intentional ploy to grab attention in a slow news cycle or sheer laziness, the conference still lags well behind the rest of the Power 5 in timeliness of a fairly simple task.
I’ll give them a pass one more time as this year’s release coincides with the launch of the new ACC Network, but I hope to write about the 2020 schedule sometime this year.
We already knew the non-conference schedule: a neutral-site opener with South Carolina in Charlotte August 31, the “non-conference” visit to Wake Forest on September 14— which moved to a Thursday night, 9/12, in Winston-Salem, the dangerous home date with Appalachian State on September 21, and the Mercer game on SoCon Challenge week in November.
With Labor Day coming early this year, the calendar allows for two bye weeks, or 14 weekends of regular-season football AND fewer days to wait until kickoff— which is always good news for football fans.
The Heels open conference play in their home opener on September 7th against Miami. This game is interesting for multiple reasons, including some Mack Brown/Manny Diaz bad blood. Game two in conference play is also a home date— the Heels host defending national champion Clemson on September 28.
Carolina evens it out with two road games in October, as visits to the Techs (Georgia Tech October 5 and Virginia Tech October 19th) sandwich a bye week. They then return home to host Duke on October 26th and presumptive Coastal favorite (?) Virginia on November 2nd.
The time-honored tradition of Carolina traveling to Pitt on a Thursday late in the season continues, as the Heels have 12 days to prepare for the defending Coastal champs in Heinz Field. On Thanksgiving weekend, the Heels travel to Raleigh to end the three-game losing streak to N.C. State.
The whole schedule is as follows:
8/31: South Carolina (Charlotte)
9/12: at Wake Forest (non-conference, again, I emphasize, because it is weird)
9/21: Appalachian State
10/5: at Georgia Tech
10/19: at Virginia Tech
11/14: at Pittsburgh
11/30: at N.C. State
The early slate is most definitely a whale, remarkably similar to the 2013 season when Carolina opened 1-5 and won six of its last seven. The Heels could very well be underdogs in each of the first five games. The Heels have to find a way to at least split the first four, because the Clemson machine rolls through town on the last Saturday of September and that does not appear to be a winnable game— though the rest are.
October lightens up a bit, if you believe that Georgia Tech’s transition to a modern scheme will be difficult, and that Virginia Tech is still bad. With a renewed emphasis on winning in the state of North Carolina, the home game against Duke becomes a must-win.
From a historical perspective, November looks pretty mild. The Heels have won 7 of 9 (and yes, zero of the last two) against Virginia, six in a row against Pitt, will beat Mercer, and owe State a tail-whuppin’.
On paper, the schedule does not seem to set up too favorably for Mack Brown’s return. If you think I’m wrong, let’s talk about it in the comments.