Predictions in the middle of a pandemic are worth as much as the amount of home runs I hit in the major leagues, or the number of Wimbledon titles I won, or the number of NBA Finals appearances I have made in my life. I have tried to severely limit the amount of predictions I make about college football in a pandemic.
What will the sport do? Will games be played? Will we have a College Football Playoff? Will we have bowl games? I have tried to steer clear of those predictions, and I emphasize — even now — that it helps no one to offer those big-picture predictions.
The reality on the ground changes very quickly. We also don’t know what’s coming this November through March, when the weather gets cold and we’re going to cough and sneeze a lot more, which creates a set of COVID-19 complications we don’t even know about just yet.
Predictions don’t help people on the really important topics… but I can make a small exception for a less severe, less overwhelming, less traumatic topic: whether the Atlantic Coast Conference will use a conference-only adjusted schedule for 2020 or a mixture of league and nonleague games.
I think it’s pretty safe to say at this point that the ACC will not use the conference-only model put forth by the Big Ten (10 games) and the Pac-12 (whose number of games hasn’t been announced yet).
Why project such confidence that the ACC won’t seek a conference-only game schedule?
Emerson (whose piece I am quoting because I subscribe to The Athletic) quoted Peach Bowl executive director Gary Stokan on a lot of topics. The bottom line is that the Peach Bowl’s three Atlanta games in early September — involving the Big 12, ACC, and SEC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — are extremely important to Stokan. He is working like heck to save all three games:
“We hope to get back in the office Aug. 3, if we get some good news that the ACC, SEC and Big 12 are going to play conference plus-one or conference plus-two,” Stokan told reporters.
Of particular note is Stokan’s backup plan in case the Georgia-Virginia game in Atlanta can’t go through as scheduled. Stokan has floated the possibility of West Virginia — from the Big 12 — replacing Georgia of the SEC as an opponent for Virginia of the ACC.
Georgia-Virginia is currently scheduled for Labor Day night, September 7. West Virginia, currently scheduled to play Florida State in Atlanta on Sept. 5, could save that game by moving to Sept. 7 if other intervening events make Georgia-Virginia unplayable. That would obviously cause a complication for Florida State.
Notre Dame could be the Seminoles’ Week 1 opponent if the Irish are up for it.
If the Peach Bowl is fighting this hard for the early-season Atlanta games, this creates a situation in which ACC teams are most likely to ATTEMPT to play two nonconference games.
Emphasize the word ATTEMPT, because we don’t know if the games will actually be played. On paper, though, the idea that the ACC would use an eight-plus-two plan — eight league games plus two nonconference games — seems to be the most likely approach at this point. The ACC and SEC both want to save their rivalry games. If they want to save the Atlanta games as well, that would point toward a two-nonconference-game solution.
Who knows what will happen in the coming weeks? No one should assume anything. Yet, if you asked me what the ACC is likely to do in terms of its adjusted pandemic schedule, eight plus two — eight ACC games, two non-cons — is the best answer I can offer right now.