Championship Week

On Stub Hub (an online ticket broker), tickets for Saturday’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte start at $1,350. (SEC title game tickets start at $324. We haven’t checked, but it must be due to attendance restrictions in North Carolina). Seat Geek (another ticket site) notes “Typically, ACC Football Championship tickets can be found for as low as $80.00, with an average price of $123.00.”

Only in the year of COVID-19 are ACC title game tickets worth 10 times the average value and more than the SEC title tilt.

We think another factor is in play as well. This will be the first time (only time??) Notre Dame will play for a conference championship. This may be a truly once in a lifetime viewing opportunity, unless something happens in the future that causes the Irish to join the ACC (or another league) for football (or another pandemic happens – but let’s hope and pray that is not the case).

An argument can be made that Notre Dame should not have been allowed to participate until they committed to being full football members. What good does it do for the ACC member schools to allow this exception? It is arguably even keeping UNC out of the game.

There is an easy answer for why. $$$$$. With Notre Dame at 10-0 and Clemson at 9-1, this is a marquee matchup that no other league (not even the SEC) can match. And a Clemson victory (more on that later) would all but assure the ACC two teams in the Championship Playoff. $$$$$. And in a year where COVID has RAVAGED school athletic budgets, anything that makes money will quickly be approved by the member schools.

Shoot, the ACC told Clemson and Notre Dame to take off this last weekend to rest up for the big game. Told the Miami Hurricanes that they had no chance of getting in the title game no matter what happened. (Turns out that wasn’t a problem after the whuppinnnnn Carolina put on them last Saturday. 554 yards rushing — an NCAA record. Almost 800 yards total offense. Wow). 

The only monkey in the wrench here is what happens if Notre Dame wins? Obviously 10-0 Notre Dame gets in the playoff. But 8-2 Clemson? We know what Dabo thinks about this (and we always know what Dabo thinks), but what would the committee do? Odds are Clemson would get in, but depending on what happens in the other games this weekend, anything is possible. Texas A&M anyone??

What do we think happens? Well let’s set up the dartboard one more time before bowl season and look at this week’s games:

CLEMSON VS. NOTRE DAME: A rematch of arguably the best college football game of the season. About a month ago (Nov. 7 to be exact), the Irish beat the Tigers 47-40 in 2OT in South Bend. Clemson was without star QB Trevor Lawrence and had to rely on backup D.J. Uiagalelei. Notre Dame loaded up against the run (they held the Tigers to 34 yards rushing) and decided to take their chances with Uiagalelei beating them. D.J. almost made them pay, passing for 439 yards and 2 touchdowns. But in the end a -2 TO margin was enough to cost Clemson the win.

We don’t see Notre Dame having that luxury this time. With Lawrence behind center, we don’t see the Irish making the decision to put the game in his hands. So, this time they have to defend the pass. And this will open it up for Clemson RB Travis Etienne, who was a non-factor in the first game (he was held to 28 yards rushing). 

On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame had the advantage of playing against a Clemson D that was missing LB James Skalski, who should also be ready for the title game. Skalski has been nursing a groin injury and played only one series in the Tigers’ last game against Virginia Tech. We think he plays here.

So, with Lawrence and Skalski playing and the game in Charlotte instead of South Bend, we think this one is an easy call. We think there will be at least a two TD flip from the first game. The ACC will get two teams in the playoffs ($$$$$) as the Tigers win this one in revenge…Clemson 38, Notre Dame 28.

OTHER ACC GAMES THIS WEEKEND: In trying to get in a few more games this weekend, the ACC had scheduled games between Miami – Georgia Tech and Florida State – Wake Forest. There truly is no reason for these games to be played. As of the writing of this column (last Sunday night) the game between the Hurricanes and Yellow Jackets was cancelled. Maybe saner heads will prevail for the Wake FSU game as well. If not, it’s….Wake Forest 34, Florida State 21. 

OTHER MAJOR GAMES THIS WEEKEND:  Alabama over Florida, Ohio State over Northwestern, Oklahoma over Iowa State, Southern Cal over Washington, Coastal Carolina over Louisiana, Marshall over UAB, Georgia over Vandy, Texas A&M over Tennessee, Missouri over Mississippi State.

TOFF TOP TEN:   1.  Alabama, 2. Clemson, 3. Ohio State, 5. Texas A & M, 6. Florida, 7. Iowa State, 8. Oklahoma, 9. Northwestern, 10. Cincinnati. (This is based on the current Vegas odds to win the title).   

Southeast Sports Syndicate, 2020.