College football, as an idyllic pastime or billion-dollar business or both, isn’t atop lists of pressing coronavirus concerns. Still, fall fragility from Pullman to Coral Gables is stressful for many nice Americans.
Indeed, college football in many parts of the country beckons as more important than ever as a diversion from that thing smothering us with importance.
So a lot of people in South Carolina were thrilled to see the ACC and SEC release reworked schedule models last week. And also distraught that among the casualties, evidently, is continuation of a South Carolina-Clemson rivalry uninterrupted since 1909.
No fan alive can remember a year without Gamecocks and Tigers tussling for braggin’ rights within a series that has survived two world wars and the invention of fast food, computers, the Super Bowl and iPhone upgrades.
Don’t give up hope just yet.
There are seven ways this thing could still happen into a 112th consecutive season, some of them conventional, some requiring predictable chaos. A few are just slightly better-than-nothing fallback options (which means they still stand up as appointment television).
In descending order of Palmetto State preference, all depending on participant safety and with each ideally tied to a charity drive harnessing the collective good will of both fan bases:
Filling a hole
No one wants to see COVID-19 force mass shakeups but Major League Baseball already has had to alter schedules, juggle matchups and change game locations. It’s more likely than not that college football has to do the same when many players on one team or an entire position group on another tests positive.
A rivalry game such as South Carolina-Clemson, Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Louisville-Kentucky is just a short bus ride away from filling a void.
Probable site: Clemson (Death Valley was the site of the originally scheduled Nov. 28 game)
Early Christmas present
Dec. 12 looms as an enticing open date, one week before the Dec. 19 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta and perhaps the ACC Championship Game, booked for Dec. 12 or Dec. 19 in Charlotte.
Of course, a Clemson team headed for an ACC Championship Game wouldn’t want to risk its best players. But a little wiggle room is saying there’s a “Dumb and Dumber” chance for some kind of action here.
Probable site: Clemson
The Consolation Bowl
Let’s say both Clemson and South Carolina fail to reach their respective conference championship games …
This, of course, would be a crushing blow to Clemson, a heavy favorite to not only get to Charlotte but beat Notre Dame (or North Carolina or Miami or some runner-up) and make the College Football Playoff for the sixth year in a row.
But nothing like taking your anger out on a rival when your early December calendar is clear, right?
Probable site: Clemson
Let’s just get it over with
Want to just make sure and get something in?
How about a preseason exhibition game later this month?
Sure, it would look similar to an NFL preseason game in which starters play one series. But running clocks, walk-ons, whatever … People would watch a TV show like that.
Probable site: Clemson (but this wouldn’t count as a real home game in the back-and-forth series arrangement and if schedules over the next several seasons are too tangled to give Clemson the 2021 game currently set for Columbia then maybe Clemson, to make up for the lost 2020 date, can get an extra Home Game To Be Named Later sometime in the 2030s)
Junior varsity game
It’s a great problem to have — for the sport and our great nation — if the grand college football designs of summer go as planned all fall.
Which leaves open the possibility of an old-school JV game sometime in late November. It wouldn’t count in the standings but check local listings for the SEC Network/ACC Network simulcast.
Possible neutral site: S.C. State, with proceeds going to help the idle Bulldogs program
The flag football champions from each school!
In an intramural showdown for the ages!
Any talk of major college varsity and intramural football requires reference to Dan Hawkins, the former Colorado head coach who went nuts in 2007 when a player’s parent complained that a two-week break wasn’t enough during off-season conditioning.
“It’s Division I football! It’s the Big 12!” Hawkins shouted while reacting on a radio show. “It ain’t intramurals! … Go play intramurals, brother!”
Possible neutral sites: Parade ground at The Citadel, Fluor Field in Greenville, on artificial turf aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant
Clowney vs. Watson
Video games are the next-best thing to reality. Since EA Sports discontinued its NCAA game in 2014 after the O’Bannon lawsuit, we might have to use the Madden NFL 21 game.
With former Clemson and South Carolina players at the controls.
How about Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Wilkins playing for the Tigers?
And Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw representing the Gamecocks?
Possible neutral site: Myrtle Beach Aquarium, Hilton Head’s Harbor Town Golf Links, Charleston’s Riley Park.
Then again, if we get Charleston RiverDogs’ co-owner and Director of Fun Bill Murray to serve as referee, maybe this one goes at the top of the list.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff