2020 College Football Scheduling for the ACC and SEC

2020 College Football Schedule

I don’t know about y’all, but man…I could use some good news these days. The constant barrage of pandemic numbers, conspiracy theories, increasingly divisive political banter, and arguments over the best approaches to the upcoming school year is enough to drive anyone crazy. Events long penciled in on our calendars have been cancelled one by one, and (yet again) we find ourselves having to break the news that another thing that everyone was looking forward to won’t be happening after all. Quite frankly, this year has been rough on us all. One glimmer of hope among all of the madness is that there may still be some sort of college football season.

The Big 10 and Pac-12 announced they were going only going to play in-conference games several weeks ago, and immediately fans were concerned abotu the status of traditional non-conference rivalries. We’ve been told that the ACC, Big 12, and SEC will be releasing their plans sometime in the coming week or so, but we should go ahead and prepare ourselves for a significantly modified schedule for our Gamecocks and Tigers. I posted on Twitter earlier that one of the more interesting scenarios I’ve heard recently revolved around a 9 game regular season*, with 8 in-conference games and a +1 for non-conference rivalry games. If the alternative to this was not having a season at all, I’d take this shortened schedule all day long. Making the assumption that the SEC and ACC retain their existing conference schedules versus moving to a pod-based approach, here’s what we could expect for our in-state teams:

For the Gamecocks schedule, the adjustments would be fairly straightforward – drop the games against Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, and Wofford. This would leave South Carolina with 4 home SEC games, 4 away SEC games, and the rivalry game at Clemson. The big downside here is that the Gamecocks had one of the toughest schedules slated for the 2020 season, and removing three presumptive victories would be a shot against their final win-loss record.

Modifying the Clemson schedule, on the other hand, isn’t quite so clear. Non-conference opponents Akron and the Citadel would clearly be on the chopping block, but what would be the third game dropped to bring it to 8 games since the remaining teams are in-conference? The Tigers are scheduled to play Notre Dame in South Bend this year, and that might be the obvious choice since the Irish are only partial members of the ACC. However, it’s difficult to see Clemson wanting to give up a game with this type of national exposure as well as the strength of schedule boost with playoff hopes once again on the table. You would think the ACC would fight for this game as well, since both Clemson and Notre Dame finished in the top 15 of the rankings in 2019.

Wait, isn’t there a law that says Clemson and South Carolina have to play each other every year?

Back in 2012, legislation was introduced by State Representative Nathan Ballentine amidst conference realignment that would have made it law that Clemson and South Carolina play each season. This was ultimately rejected, but it’s interesting to read the quotes in the linked article from each school’s athletic directors at the time:

I don’t anticipate that there would be any time in the future that Clemson and South Carolina would not be playing each other. It’s common law. I wouldn’t want to live in the state and do away with that series. I wouldn’t want to be the AD at South Carolina and say, ‘We’re not going to play Clemson.’ Traditionally, right now, it’s at the end of the season and I would be surprised if that ever changed,” Hyman said. “I think our fans prefer it at the end of the year in that traditional spot that we currently play.”
_ Eric Hyman, South Carolina Athletic Director

“Clemson would prefer to not have to legislate this issue as I cannot conceive of a realistic scenario that would prohibit Clemson and South Carolina from continuing our football series.
_ Terry Don Phillips, Clemson Athletic Director

You can also read current commentary from Rep. Ballentine on the matter over on his blog.

At any rate, we should know more about how the 2020 season will look from both the SEC and ACC before the end of the month. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to have some sense of normalcy this fall with the welcome distraction of college football, and that the longest continuous non-conference rivalry in college football will be played as scheduled.

*UPDATE – TigerNet is reporting that this may actually be a 10 conference game slate + 1 out of conference game, at least for the ACC. Zero complaints here.

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