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Virginia, ACC likely headed for a 10-plus-one football schedule

By Jerry Ratcliffe

ACC Commissioner John Swofford (Photo: The Atlantic Coast Conference)

A lot of looming questions about college football should be answered sometime this week when the ACC and SEC are hoping to announce a decision on what kind of a season fans can expect.

While rumors swirl nationally about postponing the season until spring, it appears that the ACC, SEC and Big 12 are pushing hard to have fall football, though the start of the season could be pushed back into later in September or to October.

Apparently, the ACC is looking at two models for its season. Originally, the ACC was looking at an 8-plus-one schedule, where every team in the league would play eight games against ACC opponents, plus one nonconference game.

However, in recent days, a more favored option has risen to prominence. The newest model is that each ACC team would play 10 conference games, plus one nonconference game.

Notre Dame, which is a “football partner” with the ACC, would be included in the mix and play 10 games against ACC teams (rather than the six they normally play). There would be no divisions this season. The top two teams with the best records would play for the ACC championship.

With this format, Notre Dame’s games would count in the ACC standings, but it is unclear whether the Irish could earn the ACC’s spot in the Orange Bowl. According to sources, the ACC’s presidents would have the final say on that issue.

The presidents and ACC commissioner John Swofford would also have to address more issues, should the plan to allow Notre Dame to play a 10-game league schedule be approved. One of those issues would be whether or not the Irish could play for the ACC Championship, and then there’s how revenue sharing would work because Notre Dame has its unique TV contract with NBC.

I would think that if the ACC is attempting to lure the Irish into the league as a full partner, they would allow Notre Dame to play for the league title this year and would approve a possible Orange Bowl spot.

The revenue shouldn’t be a big problem. Presently, when the Irish host an ACC team, Notre Dame keeps the revenue. When Notre Dame plays an ACC opponent on the road, the ACC keeps the money.

We are fairly confident that the ACC has fed all these scenarios into a computer to come up with a new 8-plus-one and 10-plus-one schedule. Certainly under either scenario, the ACC and SEC schools that are involved in longtime rivalries such as Clemson vs. South Carolina, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Florida State vs. Florida and Louisville vs. Kentucky, will make those games their plus-one’s.

The Virginia vs. Georgia game that was set to kick off the season on Labor Day evening on national television is essentially gone. It appears that Virginia vs. West Virginia would be the Cavaliers’ plus-one. Most likely, that game would still be played in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but not necessarily to open the season — although it could.

There is a lot up in the air at the moment, but it is likely that the ACC, SEC and Big 12 will work together to make things happen. Should those three leagues all play plus-one games, those contests will most likely be against Power Five schools from within those three conferences since the Big 10 and Pac-12 have already declared they will play conference-only games and no nonconference games.

When that happened, Notre Dame lost games against Southern Cal, Stanford and Wisconsin. Alabama also lost a game against Southern Cal.

Schedule-makers are already anticipating a matchup between Miami and Notre Dame, teams that haven’t played since 2017 when the No. 6 Hurricanes stunned the No. 3 Irish by a 41-8 score in Miami.

Last Friday, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich told the school’s board of trustees that the ACC should reach a decision on fall sports seasons by Aug. 5, which would be a little later than Swofford announced a couple of weeks ago. Swofford said a decision would be made by the end of this month.

Virginia would lose its previously scheduled four nonconference games against Georgia, UConn, VMI and Old Dominion.

According to reports, the SEC could play an 8-plus-one schedule while the Big 12 was considering a 9-plus-one, each less than a proposed ACC 10-plus-one.

Part of the reason the ACC is strongly favoring playing mostly conference games is because the league believes all of its football programs are on the same page in terms of testing for Covid-19 and undergoing similar procedures to limit the spread and containing players in a similar “bubble,” which would best assure the safety of their players throughout a season.


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