Yesterday afternoon the ACC revealed their plans for the 2020 fall sports season. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to the guidelines that are in place for each sport, but the overall theme is that every sport will play a modified schedule of sorts in order to cut down on competition outside of the conference because of COVID-19. The most notable sport discussed, of course, is football.
The plan for football for the 2020 season is to have every member team plus Notre Dame play a 10+1 schedule, meaning that every game will be played within the conference except one non-conference game. The amount of home games and away games will be split, so UNC will play five home games, five away games, and because of how the rules are set the non-conference game will either be played in Kenan Stadium or another location within the state of North Carolina. Another part of the announcement laid out a plan to have just one division, so there will be no Coastal and Atlantic divisions this season. Finally, as implied above, Notre Dame will be eligible to play for the ACC championship for the first time ever.
Along with the announcement of schedule formats and guidelines, the ACC also announced each team’s opponents for the 2020 season. Here are UNC’s opponents minus the unknown non-conference game:
- NC State
- Notre Dame
- Virginia Tech
- Wake Forest
- Boston College
- Florida State
At first glance, this schedule is unique in a number of ways. UNC will play each in-state ACC opponent for the second year in a row, which will give the Heels a good opportunity to take another crack at sweeping the “state championship”. Another opponent to note on the schedule is Syracuse, who will be traveling to Chapel Hill for the first time since 2003. According to GoHeels.com writer Pat James, the two teams weren’t scheduled to face off until 2023 prior to this schedule change. Notre Dame will also face off against the Tar Heels earlier than planned, which will now set the two teams off to play each other in three consecutive seasons starting this year. Finally, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, two ACC coastal division foes, were completely omitted from Carolina’s schedule.
The biggest takeaway from UNC’s schedule is that it they will have some unexpected challenges to face. Now that there will only be one division, this tougher version of Carolina’s schedule suddenly means a bit more than usual when it comes to their hopes of winning the ACC title. Having to deal with Notre Dame as a conference game is sub-optimal considering the fact that the Irish only lost two games last season, with both of those games being against top-15 opponents. Wake Forest also gave UNC a hard time last year, beating the Heels 18-24 behind strong performances from Jamie Newman and Sage Surratt. Aside from those two teams, there’s not a whole lot to see here, as the only two opponents that weren’t in the original schedule are Syracuse and Florida State.
To discuss the elephant in the room, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are going to make getting to the ACC Championship game quite a bit tougher than expected. Outside of their game against Clemson and a sleeping dragon UNC team (who are ranked 17th in the preseason polls), there isn’t a great deal of challenge in their schedule. The preseason #11 Irish are certified New Year’s Six bowl challengers, and their addition to the conference in this unique season give them a solid chance to make school history and win their first ever conference championship in football. The team to beat is still Clemson in the ACC, so it can’t be understated that even for Notre Dame it will be an uphill battle to earn the right to hoist the championship trophy in Charlotte.
All and all, UNC’s schedule should be a fun, challenging, and unique opportunity for this team to show what they’re made of in the second year of the Return of the Mack era. It is worth noting that no dates for any of the matchups have been announced, and everything is subject to change if the ACC deems it necessary based on any information they receive from the ACC Medical Advisory Group. As of right now the regular season will start the week of September 7-12. It’s exciting to now know who the Heels will face, and even more exciting that we are close to a month from finally having sports back (hopefully).
What are your thoughts about UNC’s schedule? Do you think they have what it takes to make it to the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, or is it too early in the “rebuild” process? Let us know this and any other hot takes you may have in the comments below.