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Clemson-FSU in 2020: now what?

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A day has passed, but the dust is far from gone since Florida State refused to play Clemson on Saturday, just hours before the afternoon kick-off in Tallahassee.

Trying to understand a situation that is simply not right seems pointless at this point. There is no blueprint or handbook for how to deal with COVID-19 or what to do if an entire team is traveling for a match to be rejected.

Why couldn’t Clemson, who reportedly tested positive for a player after arriving for the road game, not stay in town for a day or two, get fully tested and then play FSU on Monday, which head coach Dabo Swinney advocated?

Why did the ACC sign off and Clemson complying with every protocol, but the league agreed that FSU called the match?

How come this can’t be a forfeiture, given that the Tigers, a 5-touchdown favorite, were already there and wanted to play?

Optics play a major role in this. There is no doubt, but too much is wrong. And that is 2020 in a nutshell.

However, the biggest question of all lingers: is this game being made up?

There could be some clarification on that later Sunday, when Swinney will speak to the media for the first time since last Wednesday and likely address the options on the table. Check back to AllClemson later in the day for updates.

But what exactly could those options be? FSU, a team ravaged by injuries and opt-outs, probably didn’t have many healthy, capable bodies, but head coach Mike Norvell said his team was ready to play. This boiled down to decisions made by the medical staff.

Then let’s take Norvell’s word for it. How are the coach and his university progressing with this? Are they willing to do whatever it takes to play this game on December 12th, the next time both teams leave? Will he have enough healthy bodies then?

Or, will FSU just wait for attempts to play this game? Could Clemson do the same? After all, the tigers made nearly all the costs of their trip to Tallahassee. The team was about to leave the hotel before the game was announced and would have gone from the stadium to the airport from there immediately after the game. The only thing they might not have paid in full was the post game meal. Actually, it is.

Clemson may just be unwilling to return to Tallahassee, which athletic director Dan Radakovich escaped when speaking to The State on Saturday afternoon. It’s not really feasible in a pandemic season where there are numerous budget cuts that the Tigers would cough up another six figures to return to FSU.

The Seminoles might consider making the trip to Death Valley and offset the cost, but there’s almost no reason for them to do so. FSU isn’t going anywhere this season. None of their remaining games mean anything in the leaderboard to them. Their sole purpose is to work on building a culture and growing up young players. Getting beaten by 30 points or more on the way to Clemson wouldn’t contribute much to that.

Could the ACC step in and just call the game a no-match and move on? Absolutely. They just did it with Duke and Wake Forest, which was canceled last week, no longer put off. There are so many moving parts in a league that are already scrambled games for the next three weeks hoping to balance the top of the leaderboard.

Well, Clemson still has a shot at an ACC title and a trip to the College Football Playoff. Favoritism to getting one of the top teams in all 11 games should be a priority, and there’s nothing wrong with the league admitting that.

Hopefully, in the coming days, more light will be shed on the potential of a Clemson-FSU showdown in 2020, but don’t hold your breath. This is complicated and has many more questions than answers.



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