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Could we see the ACC Championship in January?

After just a few delays, the schedule has no room for error.

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Miami Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend the Virginia Tech Hokies are scheduled to host NC State to start their 2020 season. The game was originally planned for September 12th, but had to be moved back due to COVID issues at NC State. Now two weeks later, the ACC has seen three games in total postponed, with two of those featuring the Hokies.

VT vs. NC State, VT vs. UVA, and now Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest have all been moved from their original date. Typical college football seasons only allow for two open dates and the ACC/NCAA failed to adjust this year despite the current climate. So lets take a look at how schedules look for the five schools involved in delayed games so far:

  • Virginia Tech: After two delays, the Hokies will now play 11 weekends in a row through 12/12. The only potential flexibility would be in replacing the 11/7 contest against Liberty with an ACC game.
  • UVA: Open dates remain on 11/14 and 11/21, as Virginia has no non-conference games scheduled this year.
  • NC State: Open dates remain for 10/31 (although it would be a shortened week) and 12/12.
  • Notre Dame: The Irish are off now until 10/10 following the delay against Wake Forest, but once they restart there is no space in the schedule through 12/12.
  • Wake Forest: With their game against the Fighting Irish now scheduled for 12/12, Wake’s only open date is 10/10. However, with their next game coming against Campbell on 10/2, a future ACC match delay has no open spot.

So we have three ACC schools that can no longer work around delayed games easily. Notre Dame and Wake Forest have zero room once their ACC schedules resume, while the Hokies could in theory pay to get out of their Liberty contest if needed (and the league didn’t make other concessions).

Wake Forest vs. Notre Dame won’t be the last delayed ACC game. The 2020 schedule needed a lot more flexibility built in. Perhaps an 8 game schedule with four open dates would have proven more reasonable, but that’s in the past now. With the ACC Championship game now likely taking place 12/19, the conference has put itself and schools in a difficult spot.

As more delays happen and the 12/12 flex date is filled, can the ACC open up 12/19 for league play? And as a result, could we see the title match pushed into January? Students will be off campus during much of the December/January window and teams are use to playing bowl games during this window. However, we have no idea what the bowl schedule will look like this year between travel issues, fans in stadiums, how other conferences will play out, and the Big 10’s delayed start.

Or will the ACC have teams end the season with an uneven number of conference games played? If so, how will the top two teams be determined? Imagine a team that is undefeated in ACC play, but only managed seven or eight games by 12/19.

It’s late September and Virginia Tech has yet to play a single snap yet. Now we are expecting/hoping they can play 11 weeks in a row without another delay? Time for the ACC to open up 12/19 for ACC games (the TV partners will be happy) and shift the ACC Championship game to January 2nd or 9th. College football’s schedule needs space, including the eventual National Championship Playoffs.