Item: In the end, it appears the coaching faction won out with ACC administrators and school AD’s in lobbying for an “easier” eight, as opposed to nine, conference games each season.
When ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced last week that the league would stay at eight conference games moving forward into the College Football Playoff era of four teams angling to play in the two semi-final games starting next New Year’s Day for the right to play for the championship eight days later, he did so with a watered down condition.
Sure, like the SEC also staying at eight league games, all ACC teams have to schedule a non-conference game each season against a team from one of the “Power Five” conferences, but when a year rolls around that Notre Dame is on an ACC school’s schedule (the Irish will play five ACC games per season on a rotating basis, although it will be four, including SU, in 2014 and six in 2015) that game will count as meeting the non-conference scheduling requirement.
That doesn’t help Syracuse in its need to play road games in the markets in which it recruits. Playing the annual rotation of Atlantic Division teams plus Pittsburgh and crossing over on the road to a Coastal Division market every other year doesn’t go far enough in getting the Orange to places like Miami and Atlanta, not to mention Charlottesville and Blacksburg, Va. (Richmond-Washington, D.C.).
For a program in which the football rivalries with Miami and Virginia Tech have produced some of the most memorable results, good and bad, for the program in the 34 season Dome era, it’s crazy that as members of the same conference, the renewal of those games can’t be built into some sort of equitable solution instead of just four meetings with those two schools in a 12 year cycle.
The confirmation by Orange AD Daryl Gross last week that all options are on the scheduling table, including contracting fellow league members as non conference opponents makes sense to solve that built in quirk, especially for the ‘Cuse scheduling philosophy – one FCS game in the Dome, a 2 for 1 type series against a non-CFP automatic qualifying conference (AAC, MAC, Conference-USA), and two games against “Power Five” foes.
This year along with eight league games, playing Villanova (FCS), Central Michigan (MAC), Maryland (Big Ten), and Notre Dame (quasi ACC) fits that philosophy perfectly. Over the next seven seasons after 2014, two of the four desired games have been announced through 2017, highlighted by a true home-and-home series with LSU starting next year and games against Notre Dame and Penn State, and although not made official yet, expect a return Dome appearance by upstate neighbor Colgate in 2016 to fill the FCS slot that season.
Right now, the ‘Cuse plays Virginia Tech in 2016 (home) and 2019 (away), Miami in 2017 (away) and 2024 (home), and Georgia Tech in the Dome in 2020, providing an opportunity in-between to schedule games against those programs, although currently Miami has more openings than either Tech school through the end of the current ACC cycle in 2024.