The Atlantic Coast Conference, which just invested millions in a cable TV channel,
announced its football schedule via press release released the 2020 football schedule on Packer and Durham this morning— something the league had not declared its intent to do until this morning.
Drum-roll please, your 2020 Tar Heels schedule:
Sept. 4: at UCF
Sept. 12: Auburn (in Atlanta)
Sept. 19: James Madison
Sept. 26: Georgia Tech
Oct. 3: at Virginia
Oct. 10: Virginia Tech
Oct. 17: at Duke
Oct. 24: at Miami
Oct. 31: BYE
Nov. 7: Connecticut
Nov. 14: Pittsburgh
Nov. 21: at Boston College
Nov. 27: N.C. State
So, what do we need to know?
First and foremost, the opening stretch remains brutal. It wasn’t enough for the Tar Heels to have two top-25-caliber nonconference opponents to start the season, they decided to follow it up with FCS runner-up James Madison in the home opener in week 3. After that? Five straight Coastal games before a bye, meaning the Heels’ fate as a contender will be known before November.
The five ACC games in that stretch include three road games, the pivotal Virginia Tech game at home, and the Battle for the Victory Bell at Duke. While it mercifully starts with Georgia Tech, that’s a rough stretch with no downtime.
The bye will be welcome when the Heels arrive at it, but putting it ahead of the UConn game does nobody any favors. An extra week to prepare for the downside of the schedule is…meh. In a perfect world, the bye would’ve fallen pretty much any time in that opening five-game Coastal stretch.
The Heels close the season with a very northern feel— if someone were in a coma for the past 17 years, they might see the November slate and assume the Heels were in the Big East. The Heels need some revenge at home against Pitt, a November trip to Boston College doesn’t seem like the ideal timing for that road trip, and then we’re finally back in Chapel Hill on Black Friday for the State game.
All in all, the success (or lack thereof) of the Heels’ season will be dictated in the first eight weeks. The Heels, based on pretty much every national media outlet, will come into the season boasting a top-25 ranking and some Heisman hype behind Sam Howell and the offense.
Win a couple of high-profile nonconference games, then put the Coastal in a stranglehold? The Heels will have capitalized on 2019’s momentum in a big way.
Stumble out of the gates, rendering a top-25 start moot, then drop a competitive game or two in the division? The trajectory becomes one where the Heels are taking baby steps back to relevance, and doubt begins to creep in.
With basketball season in the tank, let’s fast forward to September!
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