Last week, the ACC was the first of the Power 5 conferences to announce not only what their 2020 season would look like, but also provided the matchups that fans could expect to see.
They just didn’t announce dates.
The reasoning for this wasn’t entirely clear until later, as the “10 +1” format the ACC adopted extended an olive branch of a hope that the SEC and Big 12 would work to keep some contests scheduled against old rivals like Georgia and Georgia Tech, and so on. The SEC wanted none of that, however, as they announced they were staying conference only, and not beginning play until September 26th. With that in mind, the ACC at least knew that their schools would be on their own for finding an opponent, and with camps now beginning, a schedule needed to be set.
So, on Thursday, the ACC put dates to the grid, giving us a reason to be excited... only to remember that there’s a pandemic happening and that the chance of this season actually being played this way feels next to impossible. However, that caveat is out there, so we will go ahead and assume that it will, in fact, happen this way.
In case you don’t want to try and pick out Carolina’s, here's the UNC Specific slate:
10/10-vs. Virginia Tech
10/24-vs. NC State
11/14-vs. Wake Forest
11/27-vs. Notre Dame (Friday game)
On first glance, the schedule appears to be the opposite of what the Tar Heels had to endure last season with a South Carolina, Miami, Wake Forest, App State, and Clemson opening gauntlet. Carolina will open the season in Chapel Hill against a Syracuse team that is rebuilding, to put it mildly, and then face in an-state opponent before taking a week off. This means that Mack Brown’s squad won’t leave Chapel Hill until October, when they take on a Boston College team that will be staring at a new coach and a transfer quarterback, but the Eagles will also be coming off a bye themselves.
The softer start should help the Tar Heels for their next stretch, which sees them playing three of four on the road, including a trip to Tallahassee after facing the perpetual thorn in their side, Virginia Tech. Then it’s the gauntlet of their rival in NC State, going up to Charlottesville, then going over to Durham before seeing Wake Forest for the second season in a row. They’ll then get to rest up for the one-two punch of Notre Dame and Miami to end the season.
Akil went over this slate last week in the article linked at the top, and as each game approaches we’ll break it down more, but here are your general impressions:
- Based on the fact that the Tar Heels avoid most of the top teams in the conference, there’s a real chance here for this squad to contend for the ACC Championship. Remember, there are no divisions this season and the top two teams will go to Charlotte, so this schedule sure looks like it sets up for a Championship showdown at the end.
- The open dates are obviously built in to give flexibility for instances where they have to push dates back due to health concerns. The ACC clearly isn’t going with a bubble plan and is hoping that reduced capacity in stadiums and the open dates will give them the room to pull this ambitious schedule off. The tell here is that each of Carolina’s opponents after the open date (BC and Notre Dame), have an open date themselves the week prior.
- With the non-conference game being on September 19th and only the second game of the season, plus the announcement that UConn is not doing football this season, it seems pretty safe to assume that hole will be filled up with a Charlotte or Elon type of opponent. The game itself may not happen in Chapel Hill depending on who they book, as there could be a real opportunity for Carolina to play in Charlotte, for example, and it would meet with the ACC guidelines.
- Even though it’s how the game happened for the longest time, it still seems odd to not see the season end with a game against NC State. It’ll be the first time the Wolfpack and Tar Heels don’t close the season since 2013. The October 24th date is reminiscent of when they used to play during the State Fair.
- With all of the conferences going into a “Conference Only” format, the next shoe to drop is going to be whether or not bowls happen, and the form of the college football playoffs. The bowl game is always that carrot for teams, and if there isn’t that reward of travel for teams, one also wonders how engaged everyone will really be unless they are a national contender.
We have a grid and we have dates, let’s hope we now will have some football! If you need help getting hype, check out the video from the team account: