The ACC is having their meeting this week with the 15 athletic directors of ACC programs and while the ACC’s leaked new logo has caused some interest, the main interest so far has been about the length of the conference schedule. There has been tons of controversy on whether the ACC should maintain an 8-game conference schedule or expand it to 9 games. There were even rumors about a decision not being amde at the ACC Meetings but a decision was made earlier this week.
The ACC announced on Monday that they had made the decision to stay at 8 games but with one caveat, the requirement that each program play at least one nonconference game against a team from one of the 5 power conferences. This was big news after all of the rumors and is a decision that will definitely have an impact on the ACC for the next few years. There will be some people complaining that 9 games would have been better for the ACC but this decision makes too much sense for many reasons.
First, 4 ACC teams already have guaranteed yearly rivalry games against SEC foes while a few ACC teams will be locked in to playing Notre Dame so there is already a limited amount of flexibility. Adding a ninth game would give about half of the ACC the power to only determine 2 nonconference opponents which could mean a cupcake makes it on to an ACC team’s schedule instead of a power conference opponent.
This decision also forces all ACC teams to play at least one power conference opponent yearly which guarantees that ACC fans will get a nonconference game against a big time opponent. The Hokies have in the past had some weak non-conference schedules that were headlined by East Carolina. Fans would definitely prefer watching the Hokies play a big time opponent like Ohio State or Tennessee than smaller programs like Western Michigan or Old Dominion.
The Hokies have 7 home games this fall and that will give the Hokies the chance to make a lot more revenue from ticket sales. A 9-game conference schedule would have likely made it much more difficult for this to happen and for the ACC as a whole, an extra game means a significant revenue difference. Also, maintaining a realistic ability to have 7-home games will provide more Hokies’ fans the chance to attend a game with the difficulty of getting a ticket already being fairly high.
This new format also leaves the door open for nonconference games against other ACC foes and while that seems a little awkward, it has the potential to be really good for ACC. This gives the Hokies the chance to schedule a nonconference game against Florida State or Clemson without hurting their ACC chances. This could also allow for a rematch in the ACC Championship Game and create a matchup of a one-loss team against an undefeated team on a neutral site that could help guarantee a team in the College Football Playoff.
Also, a 9-game conference schedule would have led to an imbalance of home and road conference games that could affect the chances of an ACC team in the College Football Playoff. As said by Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock and ESPN’s Andrea Adelson in this article on ESPN, there is history of teams losing their national title chances because of a 9-game schedule.
Babcock, who spent time at Missouri when the Tigers were in the Big 12, pointed out that the fifth conference road game ended up costing both Oklahoma State and Kansas State a chance to play for the national championship. In 2011, the unbeaten Cowboys lost at Iowa State 37-31 in double overtime, setting up the LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS national title game. In 2012, unbeaten Kansas State lost at Baylor 52-24.
The extra road game has cost teams in the past a shot at a national title and while the new system has the potential to be more forgiving to a team that loses only once, a team that plays a 9-game conference schedule could in theory lose two on the road and win the conference. This would probably cost the ACC a chance of having a team in the College Football Playoff and would be devastating.
There are some good reasons why the ACC should have expanded to 9 games but sticking at 8 games is the best for the ACC.
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