Taking a closer look at Georgia Tech’s revised schedule

When the ACC released its revised schedule Thursday morning, Georgia Tech linebacker David Curry was walking to practice with his teammates. They responded excitedly, Curry said, and it’s easy to surmise why.

Having an actual set of games and dates to frame the season, which has been cast in uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, puts a different frame around the Yellow Jackets’ preparations.

“As a leader, I’ve been preparing myself for every team that we’re going to play, but now I know who we’re going to play (and when),” Curry said following Thursday’s preseason practice, the team’s second. “So now I can really dive in deeper into Florida State (for the season opener) and start learning more about them.”

The excitement undoubtedly was shared within the Tech fan base, with the Jackets’ 11-game schedule providing some tangible hope that a season is on the way.

The ACC moved to an 11-game schedule model last week because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, creating a format of 10 league games and one non-conference game. Notre Dame, a conference member for all sports but football and ice hockey, was included in the league schedule this season for a 15-team, one-division arrangement. The league’s championship game is scheduled to be played either Dec. 12 or 19.

In moving to the 11-game model, Tech had to pare down to one nonconference opponent, which was revealed Thursday to be Central Florida.

Tech was scheduled to play UCF and Gardner-Webb out of conference this season – along with rival Georgia, but that game was eliminated when the SEC elected to play a conference-only schedule. However, it was unclear if the Jackets would go with one or the other or switch to a new opponent altogether. The game follows the ACC’s parameter for nonconference games that they be played within the school’s state borders.

The Knights, who were ranked No. 21 in the preseason coaches poll also released Thursday, will play at Tech on Sept. 19 in the second game of the season. On paper, UCF is by far the strongest nonconference opponent that any ACC team has scheduled this season, with Clemson and North Carolina yet to determine their non-league opponents.

For only the second time since the start of the 1934 season, Tech will finish the regular season against an opponent other than Georgia. The Jackets will complete the regular season at N.C. State on Dec. 5. (The only other year since then that Tech didn’t end the regular season against the Bulldogs was 2001, when the Jackets played Florida State in a game that had been postponed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.)

The Saturday after Thanksgiving that traditionally is reserved for Tech-Georgia will be replaced this year by Tech-Duke. They’ll meet Nov. 28 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“I’m pretty upset,” linebacker Jerry Howard said. “It’s my senior year, I don’t get to play the rival game against Georgia, but I’m going to treat every other game like it’s the biggest game of my life and give 100 percent 100 percent of the time.”

Tech’s previously scheduled game at Syracuse was retained and will be played Sept. 26 in what will be the Jackets’ first-ever trip to that campus. In another notable date, the ACC scheduled Tech for a Friday night home game against Louisville on Oct. 24.

It will be Tech’s first Friday home game since 1958. Tech has long avoided Friday night home games out of deference to high-school football games in the state. The Jackets were to play UCF at Bobby Dodd Stadium on a Friday night (Sept. 18) before the schedule model was revamped. At the time that Tech was considering moving the UCF game to Friday, coach Geoff Collins surveyed several high-school coaches to get their feedback and approval.

The Notre Dame game that was scheduled for Nov. 14 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the start of Tech’s five-game series in the gleaming sports edifice, will be played Oct. 31 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Tech already had moved the game back to campus out of a desire to have more flexibility in a season in which the coronavirus pandemic seems poised to wreak havoc on the schedule, and in the process extended the MBS series to six games, starting in 2021.

On paper, Tech’s balance with its two open dates is among the more favorable in the league. The Jackets will play three games before their first open date, then four before their second, and then play four more games to finish the regular season. Four ACC teams play at least seven consecutive weeks and one, Virginia Tech, will play eight. Of all 15 teams, Wake Forest is the only other team that won’t play more than four consecutive games before an open date or the end of the season.

Georgia Tech (revised) 2020 football schedule

Sept. 12 at Florida State

Sept. 19 Central Florida

Sept. 26 at Syracuse

Oct. 9 Louisville (Fri.)

Oct. 17 Clemson

Oct. 24 at Boston College

Oct. 31 Notre Dame

Nov. 14 Pitt

Nov. 21 at Miami

Nov. 28 Duke

Dec. 5 at N.C. State