So, we’re two weeks into the college football season. We have an AP Top 25 poll, it’s official. As things stand three of the five power conferences are playing football, the PAC-12 has opted out, and the Big Ten is confusing and upsetting as many people as possible. The Sunbelt owns the Big 12 now, and we’re just gonna have to get used to Coastal Carolina driving around in a King Ranch F-150.
That’s not to say that every game has gone off without a hitch. Teams have had to play down entire position groups, games have been postponed just before kickoff, and the social distancing of fans at some universities (coughing Florida State) left a lot to be desired.
One of the games postponed on Saturday was Virginia-Virginia Tech, pushed back due to “covid-19 issues” within VT’s athletic department. Things don’t sound great in Blacksburg, with football related activities cancelled for a few days. Head Coach Justin Fuentes had this to say,
“I don’t know if we could, to be honest with you,” Fuente said. “I don’t know if we’d have made it. I figured someone would ask me if we could play today in this deal, and I’m going to tell you I don’t know the answer to that.”
Lost in the whirlwind of game day was Virginia Tech releasing a document that contains our first look at what benchmarks the ACC is looking at when deciding whether or not to postpone the season. While the conference has maintained that they will monitor the situation and make adjustments going forward, they had been remarkably coy about what benchmarks may lead to those adjustments. For the first time, we’ve got something concrete.
Finally got some info on ACC considerations to postpone games and potentially the season pic.twitter.com/jcrXS7BTYc— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) September 12, 2020
Some of the considerations being monitored are pretty banal. I think we largely would have assumed the ACC would postpone the season if fewer than eight teams in its (temporarily expanded) membership are unable to play.
Another no-brainer is that the ACC is going to ask state and local public health officials for input, since the ACC has to work with those same officials to be able to have games. An inability to travel to games without spreading Covid-19 also seems obvious. On a human level, you do not want to be the leaders that started a virus hotspot to show, say, Duke vs. NC State. You’d have to take that one to the grave to live it down.
What’s more interesting to me is the revelation that the ACC intends to postpone the season if the Big 12 or SEC also delay (which would result in a cancellation of the CFB playoffs). The structure of college football has been called a house of cards before, but I’ve never seen it so openly tenuous.
Two other things caught my eye in the document. One is that “campus disruptions” that impacted games or practices could postpone the season. “Campus disruptions” is a pretty vague phrase, and I wonder what anxieties the ACC has euphemized.
The other consideration is extremely concrete. Teams must have seven varsity offensive linemen dressed and ready to play, as well as “an adequate number” of other players, or a game will be postponed.
Singling out offensive linemen makes sense. It’s an incredibly difficult position to pick up, with a notoriously steep learning curve. It takes years of training to develop a competent offensive lineman, and the skill set doesn’t translate to other positions. Yes, you can put tight ends at tackle, but you probably don’t have a complete offensive line worth of tight ends sitting around. You don’t want to play that game. Your QB definitely doesn’t either.
I’m a little surprised defensive linemen weren’t singled out as well. On the one hand, defense has long been more hybrid than offense, where rigid rules delineate job responsibilities between offensive linemen and skill players. Teams have been using linebackers as pseudo-DEs since at least the 1980’s. With that said, you do not want to do that at nose tackle. The hybridization only goes so far and linebackers are smaller than ever.
What does this mean for next week? Well, hopefully, nothing. But it does give an idea of what’s in play and what’s at stake. Each game week we get this season could be our last.