The SEC took away the ACC’s plus-ones. The SEC is adopting a 10-game conference-only schedule, commencing – pause for effect – Sept. 26. This is two weeks later than the ACC plans to begin, and it’s even more in keeping with what we’ve been saying for a week now: The longer colleges can wait to start playing football, the better the chance college football will be played.
Six weeks ago, most everyone had it figured the other way: Sooner would surely be better. The virus, which has changed everything in our world, changed that, too. Its early-July spikes, especially in Southern states, made the heavy hitters in Southern-based football have a hard rethink. If the decision to play-or-not had to be made by July 31, with the expectation of Labor Day serving as the opening weekend, that decision would have had to have been: We’re not playing.
The ACC pushed the calendar back a week. The SEC shoved the ACC’s calendar in yonder trash can. “Here’s what we think of your plus-one,” the SEC essentially said. “It. Just. Means. Less!”
It’s kind of funny. It’s also kind of silly. But this is big-time college football, where playing to your constituency matters even more than it does in politics, which is, when you think about it, downright frightening.
The ACC will say that the only way to have an 11-game season is to start Sept. 12. The SEC just said, “We’d rather start two weeks later and stay at 10.” The best part of the SEC’s plan is that it gives that league another fortnight to monitor data before deciding if playing is, you know, do-able. In the less attractive sport of Conference Ego Gratification, it allows the SEC to say, “We’ll do as we please. We’re bigger than any Governor’s Cup.”
The upshot is that nobody’s schedule looks the same as it did … well, yesterday. The ACC took away Georgia’s opener against Virginia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The SEC took away Georgia’s regular-season finale against Tech. Now it’s conference-only for all the Power Five conferences except the Big 12, though it’s hard to imagine that last-to-declare league not doing the same unless it plans to enter a home-and-home agreement with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The ACC reset its conference championship for either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19. The SEC left no wiggle room. (At least not yet.) Its title tilt will be Dec. 19 here. From the SEC’s release: “The decision to limit competition to conference-only opponents and rescheduling the SEC championship game is based on the need for maximum flexibility in making any necessary scheduling adjustments while reacting to developments around the pandemic and continued advice from medical professionals.”
That makes sense. We’re all at the mercy of the virus. But the dueling announcements from the two conferences who have claimed the past five national championships underscored the inconvenient truth about college football. Even during a pandemic, there’s no such thing as common ground. There’s my side, and there’s your side. You can take your plus-one and pound sand.