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ACC Scheduling Debate is Much Ado About Nothing

When it comes to the ACC football scheduling debate, have you ever seen so many allegedly smart people debate for so long over something that really isn’t going to make all that much of a difference in the long run?

Ok, outside of Congress anyway.

The matter at hand for league athletic directors is to decided if it should require all schools to play a ninth conference game. If it is determined that the league shouldn’t do that, the other option would be to remain with the conference schedule at eight games apiece. But each team would then be required to schedule two out of conference games against other “power 5 conference” schools, instead an extra softy or mid major.

This has been debated for years in the past. And as recently as 2014 a vote to remain at eight games was held up.

The great irony over the constant schedule hand wringing is that in the end it really won’t make much of a difference to most schools.

At the core of the debate is that the ACC (as a conference) would like to see its schools play as difficult of a schedule as possible so as to create buzz around the conference, fill seats, and drive up TV ratings. Furthermore, when it comes to playoff selection time, an undefeated or one-loss team that has played a difficult schedule would be hard to leave out of the national tile playoff.

Conversely, the ACC (as individual schools) want all the above positives. But they also don’t want to set themselves up for an extra loss if they are a title contender or risk a dip in the potential bowl pecking order.

On the TV end of the things, the new ACC network would definitely like having a ninth game for each team so as to help fill programming. And my guess is that the ACC network will be the primary reason given if the league ever decides it will go to a ninth conference game.

By the way, feel free to substitute the word “excuse” for “reason” in the above sentence if you prefer.

If the ACC wants to see its member schools benefit from a stronger schedule, it might as well rely on itself to do it by playing better football. Because relying on member schools to find tough games to schedule outside of conference parameters is fruitless. It’s a hard thing to do since the other power five conferences play nine games each in house. And some teams are just too afraid to do it.

Then again, as the Atlanta Journal Consitituion chronicled, there are teams such as Georgia Tech that are the perfect example of schools as that want the 8+2 format instituted:

“This is the option preferred by Georgia Tech. Because of its annual rivalry game with Georgia and the league’s contract with Notre Dame, a ninth conference game would mean that the Yellow Jackets would play nine ACC opponents, Georgia and Notre Dame on three separate occasions between 2020 and 2024, a more rigorous schedule than coaches find palatable.”

So the yin and yang of the scheduling debate is obvious: Schedule good out of conference games, but not too many. Rely on the ACC conference to beef up quality….but not too much.

The funny thing is, given the ACC’s recent history of mediocre depth and the difficulty of scheduling that exists, what do these schools have to be afraid of either way?

Well, in Georgia Tech’s case it’s getting Clemson, UGA, and Florida State all in the same season once every half decade or so, I guess.

But in most cases, a ninth ACC game vs scheduling two “power fives” isn’t going to be all that different because the depth of the ACC is practically non existent. After Clemson and FSU, can you look at any team in the conference and say to yourself…”Yup, that’s gong to be a nine win team every year.”

I can’t.

And when you look at scheduling out of conference power fives, not everyone will be scheduling Alabama, Stanford, Ohio State, and Oklahoma every season. There’s mediocrity in the other conferences too.

The Georgia Tech example is an extreme, and the argument shouldn’t be viewed on extremes.

Take Pitt instead. If the conference goes to 8+2, in most years the “two” Pitt will be getting are other schools of its ilk. Especially in a season when Pitt gets Notre Dame (who presumably would count as an out of conference power 5), do we really think the other power five slot would be filled by Florida or Michigan?

No. It’s going to be a Rutgers or a Vanderbilt. And is a Rutgers or Vanderbilt in any given year that much different than an NC State or a Wake Forest as a ninth ACC team?

“Put them on the schedule, and we are going to play ‘em,” said Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi. “We’re always going to play eight conference games and two BCS teams.”

That sounds good. And Narduzzi has backed that up in his first two years (because of the ND game). But would Pitt be as willing to do so twice out of conference if they had the ninth conference game? My gut tells me that under those circumstances this year (as an example) Oklahoma State may have been left off and Villanova or Marshall would’ve been kept. Pitt had just Iowa in 2014 and just ND in 2013 since starting ACC play.

It’d be nice if, in theory, the two out-of-conference games for Pitt every year would be Penn State and WVU. But just because there would be more incentive for Pitt to schedule those teams, that doesn’t mean they have the increased motivation. The only thinking may be Pitt would be more inclined to do a 1for2 home vs away set up just to meet ACC qualifications.

I’d like that. But I know many Pitt fans wouldn’t, especially in a year when the extra home game couldn’t be made up elsewhere.

It’s a complicated decision over a fairly simple matter. So the ACC might as well just make it easy and keep it the way it is instead of choosing either option. Save the time. Cancel the next conference call.

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