As we enter the time of year when pre-season predictions abound, it's important to be grounded on the actual schedule each team faces. While Georgia Tech may be just as good or better than a year ago, their schedule goes from super easy to super hard. In this post, we'll give you a quick run down of what some conference members face this season.
Until the divisions re-align or are disbanded altogether, any team stuck in the Atlantic that isn't Clemson, Florida State, or Louisville has to face all three... tough break kiddo. Boston College will have to run that gamut, and they added one of the more intriguing games we'll get to see this in Week 12 (we're back to 13 total weeks and one bye) when they "host" Notre Dame in Fenway Park. They also have a cross-division game at Duke. Their ceiling may be at 8 wins this season.
Duke's schedule is once again fairly soft. They have Wake Forest and BC from the Atlantic and Northwestern is their toughest non-conference game. A good team should win 10 games with their schedule.
Florida State's schedule is a bit bland. It's similar to Clemson's only with Chattanooga in place of Notre Dame. Miami and Louisville are their marquee home games. NC State, Syracuse, and three creampuffs fill the remainder of their home slate. Rather than having to travel to Louisville on a Thursday, they go to BC that same week for a Friday game. They then have an inconvenient bye week following the game. The 'Noles host Miami and Louisville and travel to Georgia Tech, all in consecutive weeks. Shortly after, they play Clemson. It's hard to see them losing more than two.
Georgia Tech has arguably the toughest schedule in the ACC. They play at Clemson and at Notre Dame. They host Georgia and Florida State. It's not completely inconceivable that they win every Coastal game (though I'd lean more towards 5-1), but lose to both of their Atlantic opponents and both marquee, non-conference opponents. Essentially, they are replacing Georgia Southern and NC State with Notre Dame and Florida State, so comparing this season's record to last season's won't mean much.
Louisville starts the season against Auburn in the Dome - something I recall fondly - and they close with a trip to Lexington. Drawing Clemson on a Thursday, and then later getting FSU after a bye week (while FSU plays Miami the week prior) is silly good luck. They lost a lot of talent to the NFL, otherwise they'd be a sneaky pick to win the Atlantic.
Miami has to play Clemson and Florida State from the Atlantic, which is a rough draw. They also play a pair of Midwestern teams in Nebraska and Cincinnati. It's crazy to think that when the Hurricanes and Huskers play, it probably won't be that big of a deal. Maybe stranger though, they go to FAU on a Friday and have two ACC, weekday road games.
On the opening Thursday (Sep. 3), UNC plays South Carolina in Charlotte. The Heels have done a great job of recruiting Charlotte, and an appearance there is a nice idea. After that, they have three non-conference creampuffs and a pedestrian conference slate with cross-over games against Wake Forest and NC State.
As for NC State, they have a very bland schedule. They start with four soft, non-conference opponents, including Old Dominion and South Alabama on the road. They play UNC and Virginia Tech (on a Friday) from the other division, and like Clemson, Florida State, Virginia, and Wake Forest, they also get their bye week following their weekday game. Seems like Swofford got confused and meant to put the byes a week sooner.
Pittsburgh drew Syracuse and Louisville from the Atlantic and have an interesting back-to-back when they host the Thursday game against UNC followed by another home game against Notre Dame the following weekend.
Syracuse plays LSU this year. The Bayou Tigers paid NC State $100,000 to cancel their series against NC State, and they replaced it with this one.
Virginia has an argument for the toughest schedule in the conference. They go to UCLA, host Notre Dame, and host Boise State on yet another Friday game. They get Louisville and Syracuse from the Atlantic, which probably makes their schedule a shade easier than Georgia Tech's (who plays Notre Dame, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia).
Virginia Tech gets to host Ohio State on Labor Day after beating them in the Horseshoe a year ago. Something tells me the road team may win again. They also have multiple weekday games, which you know they love. They also travel to Purdue and ECU, which doesn't exactly get one excited.
Wake Forest's schedule starts easy, but builds as the season goes on. They begin with Elon, Syracuse, Army, and Indiana, but conclude with Louisville (on yet another ACC Friday night), Notre Dame, Clemson, and Duke. If they don't start 4-0, they have absolutely no shot to make a bowl game. FSU is in there somewhere too.
Finally, we have your Clemson Tigers, who, after playing marquee opening weekend games the past three seasons, start with their only FCS opponent of the year, Wofford. They then get Appalachian State before a very short week with a road trip to Louisville the following Thursday. In the past, the ACC has done a great job of giving teams a bye the weekend prior to any scheduled weekday game, but not so much this year. Playing on the road without that crucial bye, the Tigers will be at a disadvantage. You have to figure their chances here are no better than 2-in-3, at the very best.
After the lone weekday game on the schedule, they get an ill-timed bye, meaning they get two weeks plus the Friday and Saturday following the Louisville game off. They then get three straight home games with Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, and Boston College all coming to town. After that point, they'll still have four road games left and only two home games. However, given the schedule breakdown, if they are undefeated I'll be a believer.
Road trips to Miami and Raleigh are interesting, but probably not killers, and they precede the huge matchup with Florida State. After that, it's two recovery weeks with a trip to Syracuse and the classy, but equally awful, Wake Forest before the season finale in Columbia.
Miami and Georgia Tech are a tough draw from the Coastal, and Notre Dame/South Carolina are solid non-conference foes. It's an appropriately hard schedule, as Clemson typically plays, though Georgia Tech and possibly Virginia have tougher.
Kudos to the Clemson Athletic Department for keeping interesting non-conference games on the docket. Looking at past and future schedules, in addition to South Carolina, we've had strong opponents since 2008:
2008: Alabama (GA Dome)
2010: at Auburn
2012: Auburn (GA Dome)
2014: at Georgia
2015: Notre Dame
2016: at Auburn
2018: at Texas A&M
2019: Texas A&M
We Applaud Games Like These
Sep 3. (TH) North Carolina vs. South Carolina
Sep 5. Auburn vs. Louisville (GA Dome)
Oct 3. Notre Dame at Clemson
Oct. 24 Florida State at Georgia Tech
Nov. 7 Florida State at Clemson
Nov. 21 Notre Dame at Boston College (Fenway Park)
We Bemoan the ACC's Involvement in These
Sep. 3 (TH) Duke at Tulane
Sep. 12 Miami at Florida Atlantic
Sep. 12 Wake Forest at Syracuse
Sep. 19 NC State at Old Dominion
Sep. 27 NC State at South Alabama