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Georgia Tech could open season against Clemson again

Georgia Tech wide receiver Ahmarean Brown (10) catches a touchdown pass in the second half at Memorial Stadium on the Clemson University campus in Clemson, S.C. on Thursday, August 29, 2019. Clemson won 52-14 over the Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Georgia Tech wide receiver Ahmarean Brown (10) catches a touchdown pass in the second half at Memorial Stadium on the Clemson University campus in Clemson, S.C. on Thursday, August 29, 2019. Clemson won 52-14 over the Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech may open next season the way it did the 2019 season – against Clemson.

It’s a matter of logistics. While schedules are subject to change, all four of Tech’s non-conference games already are booked for other dates, removing that possibility for the opener. Beyond that, all six of the Yellow Jackets’ Coastal Division opponents have non-conference games scheduled for the first week, Sept. 5.

However, the two Atlantic Division opponents that the Jackets are scheduled to play this season – Syracuse and Clemson – also do not have games scheduled for the opening weekend, and both also have all four non-conference games lined up for other dates.

That means that, barring changes, the only two teams that the Jackets could play for their opener are either the Tigers or the Orange. Given the complexity of putting together a league schedule, it’s a near certainty that the ACC, in partnership with ESPN, has considered both options. It’s also true that scheduling is a fluid process and that non-conference games can be moved, but those two possibilities appear the most likely.

This fall, Clemson will play Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Tech-Syracuse game will be at Syracuse.

Tech deputy Mark Rountree, who oversees the team’s football scheduling, said that he did not know anything about the league’s plans for the opener. Unlike the advance notice the athletic department received for last year’s season opener – when the league picked the Tech-Clemson game to be the first game broadcast on the new ACC Network – Rountree said that there hasn’t been communication with the conference office.

“There’s been nothing sent to me or to Georgia Tech as far as our opening game for next year,” Rountree said.

If it were to be Tech-Clemson, it would mean the Tigers and Jackets would open the season against each other three times in four years. As part of its five-game series at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tech will play Clemson in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game Sept. 5, 2022 on Labor Day night. (The series begins this season with Notre Dame facing the Jackets on Nov. 14.)

Another Tech-Clemson opener has its appeal. The rivalry is one of the more traditional in the ACC, and the game can be cast as the league’s reigning powerhouse facing coach Geoff Collins’ emerging program. Collins’ first game coaching the Jackets was a 52-14 win for Clemson.

The visit to Syracuse, whenever it happens, will be Tech’s first game against the Orange since the Jackets’ 56-0 win at Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2013. The Jackets have played the Orange three times, never at Syracuse. The first two meetings were a neutral-site season opener in New Jersey in 2001 and a bowl game in Orlando, Fla., in 2004, both wins.

There is a third option that holds far less appeal. At last check, five ACC teams – Tech, Clemson, Syracuse, Louisville and N.C. State – didn’t have any of their four non-conference games scheduled for the first weekend. As long as that doesn’t change, that likely means that four of those teams will pair off for league games and the fifth will have an open date on the first weekend of the season. It’s an even less attractive option for this season, as the 2020 regular season will be 13 weeks, so whoever gets stuck without a partner in the opening weekend will then play 12 consecutive weeks.

Rountree said Monday that Tech has not had any discussions with its Week 2 opponent, Gardner-Webb, about moving up its game one week to remove the risk of being left out in the cold.

The conference schedule is expected to be released by the end of January.