Orange Watch: Longtime rivals bookend ACC schedule for 2020 Syracuse football

Syracuse Pittsburgh Football
Syracuse plays against Pitt. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: The ACC released the 2020 conference football schedule last week, and as expected Syracuse opens with a conference game. What was not widely known, however, is the behind-the-scenes maneuvering orchestrated by the ACC to ensure its opening week TV lineup was just to its liking.

Year No. 2 of the ACC Network football season will open up with a Thursday night conference doubleheader on Sept. 3, allowing ESPN to select between Clemson at Georgia Tech or N.C. State at Louisville as either (or both) of its ESPN or ACC Network telecasts.

The next evening, Friday Sept. 4, the ACC Network will have Syracuse at Boston College, while the other two conference teams playing, North Carolina (Central Florida) and Wake Forest (Old Dominion) are on the road, not eligible for the ACC Network, but undoubtedly will be broadcast somewhere in the ESPN family.

Originally, Boston College was scheduled to open with FCS member Holy Cross, a Syracuse victim last season 41-3 in the Dome.

» Related: A letter regarding scheduling to Syracuse AD John Wildhack

However, the new order of opening new seasons with conference games in football and basketball to help increase the sorely needed number of eyeballs tuning into ACC Network programming, dictates the end of warming up to a regular season schedule with games against teams with inferior talent.

The result; B.C., with some backroom help, had its game against Holy Cross moved to an open date for both schools on Oct. 31, freeing up the first week of play for ACC Network programming.

Now the Orange initially prepare for the Eagles and new coach Jeff Hafley coming after one season at Ohio State and seven in the NFL before that, then face Power 5 foe Rutgers on the road (Sept. 12) with new (old) coach Greg Schiano, who’s last college position was also at Ohio State for three seasons after a two year stint in the NFL.

It won’t be until week three (Sept. 19), under the new permanent Dome roof, that the ‘Cuse will finally play what should be its opener, the FCS game against Colgate, but then it’s right back out on the road again at Western Michigan (Sept. 26) in the third game of a four-game home-and-home series (ends in 2023 in the Dome) against former Orange assistant Tim Lester’s program.

In a reversal of past seasons, three of the four October games are at home, with an open week built-in as well. The Orange host Louisville (Oct. 3) and Georgia Tech (Oct. 31) in ACC games, with Tech making its first-ever Dome appearance on Halloween (SU is 16-4 all-time on Halloween), and play at Clemson (Oct. 24) where Syracuse is winless. SU will also host Liberty (Oct. 17) to round out the non-conference slate.

The final month of the season is balanced with road games at Wake Forest (Nov. 7) and the season finale at Pittsburgh (Nov. 28) sandwiching home games against N.C. State (Nov. 14) and Florida State (Nov. 21). The game at Heinz Field, where SU has won only once (2001) in eight games, may determine final 2020 ACC bowl pecking order.

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 679 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.