Notre Dame’s Opponents: South Florida postponement a foreboding sign

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ESPN opened the season with a minute-long video thanking Notre Dame for arguably saving the college football season when it joined the ACC and thus kept a third Power Five conference on the field throughout the summer. There was a leap of logic to the bit, but the appreciation was well-placed.

It is increasingly possible the Irish will now also be responsible for the discovery of on-field community transmission between teams, a development that if realized would jeopardize this entire season.

That is not the case yet, as of early Thursday morning. South Florida has not announced any new coronavirus cases as a result of playing No. 7 Notre Dame (2-0, 1-0 ACC) on Saturday, but the Bulls (1-1) are worried enough to have not only paused football activities but to also have postponed their game at Florida Atlantic this weekend.

“Given the outbreak among team members of our most recent opponent and subsequent contact tracing within our team, postponement of this Saturday’s game at FAU is the right thing to do,” South Florida athletic director Michael Kelly said in a statement.

The key note there is that the Bulls did not announce any new positive tests after their entire roster tested negative both before and after playing the Irish. Team-wide Wednesday testing could change that, at which point football will have its first case of on-field community transmission between teams. Working around that to mitigate the spread of coronavirus between programs may not be tenable, at which point college and conference administrators will once again have to decide how much risk they are willing to tolerate.

South Florida may have postponed the game due to a lack of practice this week, a shortcoming tied to the uncertainty of awaiting further testing results. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has said he would have trouble preparing his team to play if it lost multiple early-week practices. But if it turns out South Florida’s concern is not merely contact tracing and a lack of practices, but also positive tests courtesy of the Irish on Saturday, all aspects of this held-together-by-tape season will need to be reevaluated.

That does not mean it will be canceled — the momentum is strong enough to outright doubt that — but the thanks offered to Notre Dame will have been premature, at the least.


Duke (0-2, 0-2 ACC): The Blue Devils gifted a 26-6 victory to Boston College, turning over the ball five times, turning what should have been a close game into a bit of a snooze. They will have a chance to get on the right track in Virginia’s season opener (4 ET; ACCN) as a 5-point underdog with a combined point total over/under of 46. Intriguingly, Duke opened as a 9-point underdog, suggesting sharp minds think the Blue Devils have a decent chance, particularly given they have played two more games this season than the Cavaliers.

South Florida (1-1): See above.

Wake Forest (0-2, 0-2): The Demon Deacons lost a shootout with North Carolina State, 45-42, in no small part because they gave up 270 rushing yards on 5.5 yards per carry. You can be forgiven for wondering what Notre Dame and its three-headed ground game could have done against that defense this weekend. Hopefully, come Dec. 12, Kyren Williams & Co. will get that chance.

Florida State (0-1, 0-1): The Seminoles had an off week, giving them time to watch now-No. 12 Miami win in primetime last weekend, setting up a week of “Is the U Back?” talk before Florida State heads to South Beach (7:30 ET; ABC) as an 11-point underdog with a 54-point over/under. Given the Seminoles’ continued offensive line issues, it is hard to believe they can do much better than a 32-21 loss.

Louisville (1-1, 0-1): That primetime Hurricanes victory came at the expense of the Cardinals, 47-34. Louisville’s offense was humming, with quarterback Micale Cunningham throwing for 307 yards and three touchdowns while the team rushed for 209 yards, but its defense repeatedly left Miami receivers uncovered, giving up touchdowns of 75, 75 and 47 yards in the second half alone.

That debacle has left the Cardinals as field-goal underdogs at Pittsburgh this weekend (12 ET; ACCN), with a 55-point over/under calling for a 29-26 conclusion.

Pittsburgh (2-0, 1-0): Speaking of the Panthers, they lucked into recovering two of their three fumbles, those bounces of an oblong ball helping Pittsburgh top Syracuse 21-10. Some might credit the Panthers for giving up only 171 yards, but that is more a reflection of the Orange ineptitude than anything else.

Georgia Tech (1-1, 1-0): The Yellow Jackets’ momentum came to a screeching halt in the second quarter against Central Florida, giving up 21 points in the frame before giving up another 21 in the fourth quarter in a 49-21 loss. Georgia Tech remains a deeply-flawed team as it begins its second year removed from the triple-option, but then again, those flaws were not deep enough to stop the Yellow Jackets from beating Florida State in their opener.

Nor should those flaws be deep enough to prevent Georgia Tech from beating Syracuse (12 ET) by more than a touchdown.

Clemson (2-0, 1-0): The Tigers had The Citadel down 49-0 at halftime and subsequently offered to shorten the third and fourth quarters. With only four games on its schedule this season, The Citadel declined that common courtesy and then held Clemson to a 0-0 tie in the second half. It may not be a moral victory, but it should be something for those players to hang their hats on in years to come.

The Tigers will score as many points this weekend as they did in that second half, with an off week on the schedule.

Phil Jurkovec
Former Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec made a strong impression in his debut at Boston College, leading the Eagles to an easy 26-6 win at Duke on Saturday. (Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports)

Boston College (1-0, 1-0): Former Irish quarterback Phil Jurkovec began his career as a starter with 300 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-23 passing, along with one interception, in the Eagles’ 26-6 win against Duke. As impressive as Jurkvoec’s stat line is, Boston College’s defense wreaking such havoc to force those five turnovers is an even more encouraging sign for head coach Jeff Hafley’s first year.

More havoc should be in store against Texas State (6 ET), with the Eagles 17.5-point favorites.

North Carolina (1-0, 1-0): The Tar Heels have been sitting at home since Charlotte had to cancel their game last weekend due to a single positive test led to enough contact tracing to rob the 49ers of an offensive line. North Carolina will continue to sit at home with an off week on the schedule.

Syracuse (0-2, 0-2): The Orange are bad. How bad are the Orange? Let me count the ways. In two weeks, Syracuse has gained a combined total of 373 yards. Of FBS teams with two games under their belts, only the woeful Middle Tennessee State is within 100 yards of that paltry number, at 425 yards. In fact, 16 teams with only one game in 2020 have outgained the Orange.

That misery continues against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

CURRENT ACC STANDINGS:
Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame, Pitt: 2-0, 1-0 ACC
Boston College, NC State, North Carolina: 1-0, 1-0
Georgia Tech: 1-1, 1-0
Virginia, Virginia Tech: 0-0
Louisville: 1-1, 0-1
Florida State: 0-1, 0-1
Duke, Syracuse, Wake Forest: 0-2, 0-2