It’s now 99 days until Georgia Tech kicks off the 2020 season against Clemson on a Thursday night in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Well, at least that is what the schedule says should happen. What the college football season will look like this year is anybody’s guess. Scenarios have been discussed, contingency plans made, and opinions given with no real certainty as to which one will offer the safest course of action. Forgoing the season is a prospect no athletic department wants to face in terms of monetary loss. Having the season start on its appointed date still appears hopeful but player and fan safety are hurdles that must be overcome. Perhaps the season will play out with a compromise of the two extremes. What would the impact be on Georgia Tech and the ACC if a shortened or delayed season occurred?
If Tech were to play its full slate of games this Fall it would boast one of the toughest lineups in the country. While the Coastal Division may lack any heavy hitters, UNC could be positioned as a Top 25 team and permanent cross over, Clemson, is always a playoff contender. The non-conference schedule outside of FCS Gardner-Webb is brutal with a good UCF team, Notre Dame, and Georgia. One possibility that has been proposed though is to shorten the season to only conference opponents. It would mean Tech would see it’s most likely win off the schedule in Gardner-Webb, but could potentially save $350,000 in payout. Even in a rebuilding phase, wins against FCS schools wouldn’t outweigh the benefit of retaining some cash in the current financial crunch. UCF more than likely would be favored but it would be the next most probable win of the canceled games. It would also be the first time since 1924 that Clean Old-Fashioned Hate would not be played against Georgia. Overall, it would save Georgia Tech a decent amount of money and two probable losses while striking its easiest matchup.
What about Notre Dame you may ask? That is quite the conundrum when it comes to the ever Independent school. Not having a conference affiliation would seem to leave Notre Dame out in the cold with no one to play against. However, Notre Dame’s agreement to play so many ACC teams a year is a big part of the ACC’s TV deals. Six ACC teams are lined up to play the Fighting Irish this season. Georgia Tech attempted to use its pairing with Notre Dame this year to generate more cash by having the game played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Should fans be allowed to attend games by year’s end it would still be in a limited capacity. So while the ACC would likely leave the Notre Dame matchup intact, it might prompt the game to be moved back to Bobby Dodd Stadium as little to no ticket revenue would justify playing in Atlanta’s premier football cathedral.
Another idea that has been floated about is the potential for conferences to play without all its member institutions. Public colleges are still subject to the decisions of their elected officials within their states. Several states have started plans on getting the economy back up and running which would be to the benefit of schools located in them. However, some states have been harder hit in their more populace cities and thus are more hesitant to allow such large gatherings. The ACC spans a total of 10 states with varying views on how to proceed with daily life. If only 10 of the 14 schools were to participate what would become of the divisions? The ACC could do a one time retool of the divisions if one was missing more than the other or use a round-robin method. Trying to claim an ACC title from uneven schedules would leave an asterisk by whoever would come out on top. Georgia Tech is still in the early stages of a rebuild so not much advantage would be gained by a shuffling of divisions, but it could allow for matchups that haven’t been played in some time.
The absence of a college football season would be the doomsday scenario. It would leave many departments in financial shambles and cuts to other sports a certainty. Covid-19 has already disrupted what was once normal but the virus can rear its ugly head again later in the year. Starting up a season for it to only be canceled several weeks later would leave the eligibility of countless seniors in doubt. Georgia Tech itself has 21 seniors or redshirt seniors on the roster this season. If granted an extra year like their spring counterparts how would the scholarship situations be handled? Even if the schools were allowed extra space on the team Tech has a sizable underclassmen roster. Playing time would be scarce among the overcrowded positions and the schools would have a bigger expense in the wake of reduced cash flow.
The final scenario that has been discussed is a delayed season in the Spring. This could cause huge problems for programs with a lot of NFL caliber talent. It’s unlikely the NFL would modify its schedule to accommodate a delayed college season. Even now top talent forgoes bowl games to get an early start on preparing for the draft. Could star players skip a delayed season to not risk injury? It would be difficult to play a full season in Spring and then play a rookie season in the NFL by Fall. Georgia Tech might find a benefit to having this play out. What makes Tech’s schedule so difficult is facing several teams that continuously develop early-round draft picks. It’s possible in this instance that Clemson would face Tech without Trevor Lawrence or Travis Etienne. Imagine Georgia trying to replace its vaunted defense full of NFL potential midseason. The playing field would become more favorable to Tech as they currently don’t have any locks for the draft as of yet.
Whichever way the season unfolds it will be a welcome sight when college football begins again. Perhaps this will be a catalyst that will see new programs compete at the top while changing out some of the blue bloods. Feel free to comment and discuss any scenarios you think will most likely happen or would like to see.