October 25, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

Well, We Have A Football Plan

After months of speculation and rumors, the ACC on Wednesday released its plan for football and other fall sports.

This is what the plan boils down to for the Virginia football team: Five ACC home games against Boston College, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, and N.C. State. Five ACC road games against Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. Plus one nonconference game that needs to be played at Scott Stadium or in the state of Virginia, and two bye weeks. That opponent does not need to be from the state of Virginia, though. Games are set to begin the week of Sept. 7-12, but there are no specific dates yet for UVa’s matchups. 

For the other ACC sports, games may begin Sept. 10, and the schedules carry various stipulations based on the sport.

The other big ACC football news Wednesday was Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley becoming the first of probably many other college football players to decide to skip the upcoming season. Farley, a junior, will prepare for next year’s NFL draft instead. He is projected to be a first-round pick. Farley was named first-team all-ACC in 2019 when he led the conference with 16 passes defended. He did not play against Virginia due to an injury. His mother died of breast cancer in 2018, heightening his awareness of health issues.

I’m thinking about how much to break down Virginia’s new schedule, because with the rising number of COVID-19 cases, it is obviously a huge question mark whether any of these games will actually get played. But it is fun to analyze the schedule, and I’m glad that the ACC at least put a plan out there. Will football actually happen? Who knows. But there is a plan now, something for fans to sort of look forward to. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I’m glad there is real information and guidance out there, and not just conjecture.

This was Virginia’s original 2020 schedule: Georgia in Atlanta (Monday, Sept. 7), vs. VMI, vs. UConn, at Clemson, vs. North Carolina, at Georgia Tech, at Old Dominion, vs. Miami, vs. Louisville, at Duke (Friday), vs. Pittsburgh, at Virginia Tech.

The Georgia game is the biggest casualty. That Chick-fil-A kickoff game against the Bulldogs would’ve been a great experience for the Wahoos. It would’ve been a great measuring-stick game for the program, and a fun one for fans. Technically, Georgia could come to Virginia and play, but that’s unlikely to happen. It seems as if the most likely scenario is that Virginia will face an in-state foe for the nonconference game. With VMI and ODU on the original schedule, one of those seems like the best bet. But maybe it will be a different regional school that would be OK with playing a game in Virginia.

These games remain the same on the schedule: at Clemson, vs. UNC, vs. Louisville, at Virginia Tech. UVa is still supposed to play Duke and Miami, but the venues have changed. Duke, which Virginia beat at home 48-14 last season, is scheduled to come to Charlottesville for the second straight season. And the Cavaliers, who lost at Miami last season 17-9, are scheduled to take on the Hurricanes in Florida for the second consecutive season. Division rivals Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech have been replaced by Boston College, Florida State, Wake Forest, and N.C. State. If the entire schedule is played out, Virginia will face 10 conference schools for the first time in history. For the crowd that complains about how bloated the ACC is, and the fact that UVa faces the Atlantic Division teams other than Louisville only once every six seasons, this schedule is actually pretty cool.

Georgia Tech is in rebuilding mode. Losing the Yellow Jackets from the schedule could potentially take away a win from the ‘Hoos, though admittedly, they gave UVa all it could handle at Scott Stadium in 2019. Wake Forest and Florida State, in its first season under coach Mike Norvell, are tougher opponents, in my opinion. Going to Miami again also isn’t fun and playing there instead of at home could swing that game to a loss. Facing Duke at home again doesn’t really give Virginia an advantage since the Wahoos have defeated the Blue Devils in five straight seasons anyway. But of course, how much will home-field advantage really help this year if there are no fans in the stands? But it isn’t always about the fans. It is about the way the field feels, the sight lines, and just the comfort of playing at home and not having to travel.

On the other hand, losing Pittsburgh from the schedule could potentially take a loss away from the ‘Hoos. Despite winning at Pitt last season, the Cavaliers have typically struggled against the Panthers, who have QB Kenny Pickett and lots of starters on defense returning. Plus, Boston College was nothing special last season and is in its first season under first-time head coach Jeff Hafley, and N.C. State went 4-8 last year, so those could be victories for Virginia. In the ACC, at a quick glance without doing a deep dive, I feel like UVa could record anywhere from four to six wins.

The other most interesting thing to come out of Wednesday’s announcement is that Notre Dame will play 10 ACC games as well and will be eligible for the ACC championship, which is set to be played Dec. 12 or 19 in Charlotte. It will pit the two teams with the highest winning percentages against ACC schools. All 15 teams (the 14 ACC football schools and Notre Dame) will evenly split TV revenue, including Notre Dame’s home games on NBC.

That’s a lot to digest for one evening. We are one step closer to football actually happening. There’s a plan in place. But there are no dates yet for specific games, and a long way to go before football is actually played. Until then, let’s hope the athletes and coaches, and everyone else involved in preparing for the season, stays healthy and safe. Let’s just see what happens.

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