Orange Watch: Inequities of opening week schedule for Syracuse football, ACC

Syracuse coach Dino Babers speaks to his team. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Each year during Week 1 of the college football season we’ve always been amazed at the canyon size range of match-ups. From schools playing and paying FCS and lower conference FBS opponents, to Power 5 vs. Power 5, and even conference games opening week. The only way to equal the playing field is to allow schools to play some sort of exhibition as a tune-up, something that just so happens to take place in virtually every other team sport – except college football.

Would Orange Nation rather see Syracuse 1-0 with a victory over a program like Liberty, or 0-1 following a tough conference loss to the likes of Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Virginia, or Virginia Tech?

Well, of course, we know the answer is 1-0, like any of the other 130 FBS schools.

Yet crazily, the game we have watched in-person for 55 seasons and get excited over the current campaign which is celebrating the sport’s 150th anniversary, has not figured out a way for programs close geographically (bus trips) to line up exhibition games or more pronounced formal scrimmages (that could perhaps have 10:00 quarters) to help iron out the kinks for players and coaches, before simple arithmetic, calendars, and TV contracts dictate that some teams will indeed end up playing a far lesser opponent during the opening week, and others will not.

» Related: What we learned in Syracuse’s win over Liberty

The ACC Network instantly changed the dynamic, especially in its debut season with the need to sign up as many providers as possible, and control of the inventory. Not only does Syracuse basketball open up with arguably its toughest opening opponent since Charlotte (upset the ‘Cuse) in 2003 with Virginia in an ACCN exclusive this November, but the aforementioned six ACC football teams played one another last weekend, leaving the Hokies, Panthers, and Yellow Jackets staring at 0-1 records in the Coastal Division two days before Labor Day.

Believe it or not, the Orange’s 24-0 victory at Liberty, combined with the opening game win at Western Michigan in 2018, marked the first time in program history SU began consecutive seasons with wins on the road, and Syracuse is just 10-10 in season openers since 2000 with five of those wins coming against FCS opponents Villanova, Rhode Island, Colgate, and C. Connecticut State, along with WMU and Liberty since 2014.

Here’s a look at the 2019 season opener for each ACC school, you be the judge as to which team had the lowest-rated opponent:

  • Boston College – Virginia Tech (H)
  • Clemson – Georgia Tech (H)
  • Duke – Alabama (N)
  • Florida State – Boise State (H from N)
  • Georgia Tech – Clemson (A)
  • Louisville – Notre Dame (H)
  • Miami – Florida (N)
  • North Carolina – South Carolina (N)
  • N.C. State – East Carolina (H)
  • Pittsburgh – Virginia (H)
  • Syracuse – Liberty (A)
  • Virginia – Pittsburgh (A)
  • Virginia Tech – Boston College (A)
  • Wake Forest – Utah State (H)

In 2020, Syracuse has its four non-conference games set (Rutgers, Colgate, Western Michigan and Liberty), but the opening weekend (Sept. 5) is open for…an ACC game to begin the season.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.