If all goes according to plan, it will be back to business as usual for the ACC in 2021.
The conference announced its schedule for the 2021 football season on Thursday morning. And with that announcement, the ACC confirmed it will go back to its normal eight-game league schedule with the 14 members spread across the Atlantic and Coastal divisions.
Notre Dame, after competing as a full ACC member amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, will return to its independent status while maintaining its five-game scheduling partnership with the ACC. With Notre Dame as a temporary 15th member, the ACC played without divisions for the 2020 season.
The divisions will return in 2021 and the ACC will play out the season as it was originally scheduled — six division games, one permanent cross-division opponent and a second opponent from the opposite division. This plan, of course, is “contingent on national, state and local health guidelines allowing such competition to occur.”
Because the conference is returning to its usual scheduling format, there will be repeat site games from 2019 and 2020 in 2021. The ACC title game will be held in Charlotte on Dec. 4 in a matchup of the Atlantic and Coastal winners.
Opening ACC weekend to span 5 days
The schedule kicks off with games stretched across a five-day span from Thursday, Sept. 2 to Monday, Sept. 6.
The first ACC team to take the field in 2021 will likely be NC State, which is set to host South Florida on Sept. 2. The first conference game of the year will either be that same Thursday night or the following day, Friday, Sept. 3, when Virginia Tech hosts North Carolina. Wake Forest will be in action that Friday night when it hosts Old Dominion.
Saturday features several marquee matchups with Clemson facing Georgia in the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte and Miami facing Alabama in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta.
Florida State and Notre Dame square off on Sunday, Sept. 5 in Tallahassee. In addition to Florida State, Notre Dame will also play Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech in 2021.
Week 1 will close with Louisville facing Ole Miss on Monday, Sept. 6 (Labor Day), also in Atlanta as part of the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff event.
Other notable non-conference games
In addition to the aforementioned Week 1 non-conference matchups, the ACC schedule offered several others worth noting.
Included is the Wake Forest vs. North Carolina game, which will once again be considered non-conference in accordance with the two-game agreement set up by the schools back in 2015 for the 2019 and 2021 seasons. UNC and Wake Forest have a rivalry that spans more than 100 years, but the ACC’s scheduling rotations cause the two schools to play on an infrequent basis.
The 2021 season will also mark the return of annual ACC vs. SEC rivalry games.
Week 2 (Sept. 11): NC State at Mississippi State, Pittsburgh at Tennessee, Syracuse vs. Rutgers, Virginia vs. Illinois
Week 3 (Sept. 18): Louisville vs. UCF (Friday), Duke vs. Northwestern, Miami vs. Michigan State, Virginia Tech at West Virginia
Week 4 (Sept. 25): Boston College vs. Missouri, Duke vs. Kansas
Week 8 (Oct. 23): Wake Forest at Army
Week 9 (Oct. 30): Virginia at BYU
Week 10 (Nov. 6): Wake Forest vs. North Carolina
Week 11 (Nov. 13): Clemson vs. UConn
Week 13 (Nov. 27): Clemson at South Carolina, Florida State at Florida, Georgia Tech vs. Georgia, Louisville vs. Kentucky
You can view the full ACC schedule here.
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