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Curt Weiler, Democrat from Tallahassee
All signs point to a massive shift in how the Atlantic Coast Conference creates its football schedules could be on the horizon.
Nothing has been officially announced yet, but the NCAA recently announced a constitutional change that would no longer require conferences with more than 12 teams to have divisions to host a conference championship game.
How the ACC might change its schedule was one of the main discussion points at the spring sessions of the conference earlier this month. While nothing is set in stone yet, a clear option has emerged as a likely new planning format that could begin as early as the 2023 season.
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The ACC is expected to transition to a 3-5-5 scheduling format, with all 14 conference teams having a list of three seeded opponents they will face each season. The other 10 teams not on this setlist are played in groups of five, alternating home and away games, every two years.
From different scheduling perspectives, this means that a four-year-old college football player would play each ACC team at least twice, once at home and once at the other team’s stadium.
One of the earliest reactions to this potential shift was to try to figure out what opponents each team would face annually.
For FSU, two in Miami and Clemson seem clear. The Seminoles and Hurricanes have played every year since 1969, and that rivalry is going nowhere. FSU and Clemson have become bitter rivals as well as titans of the Atlantic Division, collectively making up 12 of the 16 division titles.
The third opponent of the year remains a much more open question. Who could this third opponent be? What do we think of this possible schedule format change? FSU beat writers Curt Weiler and Carter Karels offer their thoughts in this panel.
Thoughts on the 3-5-5 schedule model
Hamlet: There is still some uncertainty as to exactly what the next iteration of the College Football Playoffs will be like, but an expansion to eight or even 12 teams seems likely. Whatever the case, this new 3-5-5 model would give the ACC and FSU by proxy a better chance of potentially fielding two teams. There’s no denying that eliminating divisions would give FSU better chances of reaching the ACC Championship Game each season. The way it’s currently formatted, only one of FSU and Clemson could make it, and there were definitely years when they would have fought back at Charlotte otherwise. The good news for FSU would be that they would always have a feather in their cap when CFP deliberation time came due to their tough annual schedule that includes Clemson and Miami.
Charles: Switching the ACC to a 3-5-5 format for football in general wouldn’t change much from the strength of Florida State’s schedule, which is one of the toughest of the conference annually. Instead, the biggest advantage for the Seminoles would be their easier route to the ACC Championship Game. It would no longer be Beat-Clemson-or-Bust. And even if the college football playoff inevitably expands, this 13th data point could be useful for the FSU in its argument for admission. Not to mention the variance in the schedule, giving fans and players more opportunities to experience each conference venue.
Best case scenario third opponent
Charles: Syracuse. There’s probably not a close second. Syracuse has had little success since the turn of the century and is likely to remain an easy opponent in the years to come. The Orange lacks the history, facilities and virtually every other element that helps football programs compete with the best. The recruitment limitations that come with these factors and the school’s location also significantly reduce Syracuse’s talent pool. The Oranges have lost 12 of their last 13 against the Seminoles. They only ended their last eight seasons with a winning record once.
Hamlet: I agree that the third opponent for FSU is Syracuse at best. There will be other teams that some fans may clamor for, but FSU deserves a third annual opponent, which ranks among the bottom of the ACC considering they would have to play two of the top three most committed teams each year. No offense to the Orange, but there may not be a multi-year basement ACC program like Syracuse. As Carter mentioned, there are geographic and financial constraints that have understandably prevented Orange from competing at the highest level. They have only had a winning record twice in nine ACC seasons and have won more than 50% of their ACC games just once.
Worst case scenario third opponent
Hamlet: After considering what the worst-case scenario would be for FSU’s hypothetical third opponent, I move on to what some people were quick to point out as the obvious choice at Georgia Tech. Yes, GT is the closest the ACC team is in terms of distance, and there is a large FSU fan base in Atlanta. And yes, the Yellow Vests have been down lately, winning three games in each of their last three seasons. But those plans need to be long-term, and while GT has been down lately, it’s won more than seven games every season, save for one between 1997 and 2014. The Yellow Jackets have plenty of talent around them in Georgia, and when they’re in becoming the more consistent program they once were in the coming years, this would give FSU three very difficult annual opponents. That’s exactly the kind of injustice the ACC is trying to avoid with this potential timetable change.
Charles: Behind Clemson and Miami, Virginia Tech comes a distant third on the list of ACC football programs best equipped to constantly challenge Florida State. The Hokies are essentially a win-by-default selection here. But they still pose a threat with their dedication to football, proven track record and solid home field advantage at Lane Stadium. Clemson (8) is the only team with more ACC Championship Game appearances than Virginia Tech (6). When not fighting for a conference championship, the Hokies are still at least decent. Her 27 straight bowl game appearances — spanning from 1993 to 2019 — is considered the fourth-longest streak in college football history.
Reach Curt Weiler at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.
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