Orange Watch: The case for eliminating divisions in ACC football

Nov 28, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack wide receiver Emeka Emezie (86) is tackled by Syracuse Orange defensive back Kyle Strickland (22) in the first quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Item: The ACC is set to release the 2021 conference football schedule on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if Syracuse’s schedule indeed reverts back to its pre-pandemic structure; that is games against the other six Atlantic Division teams, and Coastal crossover matchups hosting Pittsburgh and playing at Virginia Tech.

Following last season’s modifications, this would be a good time for the ACC to abandon the two-division format permanently, knowing it won’t be this season, but should allow a season or two to wean off it, or at least move to a new rotation that ensures teams play more often.

For example, Syracuse fans will not see Miami in the Dome until 2024, after the former Big East rivals last met in 2017 in Miami. It’s a point that SU athletic director John Wildhack, who’s served on the conference football scheduling subcommittee, has lamented in the past.

“I think we need to figure out ways we can play each other (current Coastal schools) a little more frequently,” Wildhack said during a December press conference.

Assuming eight ACC regular season games remains the quota, each team should go to a “3-5-5” format. Play three teams every season; perhaps past legacy Big East foes B.C., Louisville and Pitt for SU, then alternate five ACC teams in even years, the other five teams in odd years for eight total games.

That would ensure Syracuse sees the likes of Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia every other season, and in the Dome at least within every four seasons.

As of now, the 2021 Syracuse football schedule opens with four non-conference games, three at home:

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  • September 4, at Ohio
  • September 11, Rutgers
  • September 18, Albany
  • September 25, Liberty

Those games will be followed by the six Atlantic Division games (B.C., Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, N.C. State, Wake Forest) and the two aforementioned crossover matchups versus Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.

Even with a host of returning players coming back using the one-season pandemic exception, and a great Orange-flavored recruiting class, it’s will be a tough challenge for Dino Babers and company to get back to a bowl game for the first time since the 2018 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.