Monday, July 7, 2008

Hit or Miss: The ACC's 2008 Non-Conference Slate

Last fall, we saw the likes of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Virginia go on the road and get abused like rented inbred mules at Oklahoma, LSU, and Wyoming respectively, on national TV, in the first weeks of the season. The ACC's image never recovered in the following months and the league did itself no favors by going a lousy 2-6 in bowls.

2008 offers a major chance at redemption....or another chance to bury the league's reputation even further. Here's a week by week schedule of non-conference action for the league (listed by most-to-least intriguing):

AUG. 28-30, 2008
Clemson vs. Alabama (in Atlanta)
USC @ Virginia
N.C. State @ South Carolina
Wake Forest @ Baylor
Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina (in Charlotte)
Boston College vs. Kent State (in Cleveland)
James Madison @ Duke
Jacksonville State @ Georgia Tech
Delaware @ Maryland
Charleston Southern @ Miami
McNeese State @ North Carolina

SEPT. 6, 2008
Miami @ Florida
Ole Miss @ Wake Forest
Northwestern @ Duke
Maryland @ Middle Tennessee
The Citadel @ Clemson
Western Carolina @ Florida State
Furman @ Virginia Tech
Richmond @ Virginia
William & Mary @ N.C. State

SEPT. 11-13, 2008
California @ Maryland
North Carolina @ Rutgers
Virginia @ Connecticut
Navy @ Duke
Chattanooga @ Florida State

SEPT. 20, 2008
Miami @ Texas A&M
Mississippi State @ Georgia Tech
UCF @ Boston College
East Carolina @ N.C. State
Eastern Michigan @ Maryland
South Carolina State @ Clemson

SEPT. 27, 2008
Virginia Tech @ Nebraska
Florida State vs. Colorado (in Jacksonville)
USF @ N.C. State
Navy @ Wake Forest
Rhode Island @ Boston College

OCT. 4, 2008
Connecticut @ North Carolina
Western Kentucky @ Virginia Tech

OCT. 11, 2008
UCF @ Miami
Notre Dame @ North Carolina
East Carolina @ Virginia
Gardner-Webb @ Georgia Tech

OCT. 18, 2008
no out-of-conference match-ups

OCT. 25, 2008
Duke @ Vanderbilt

NOV. 1, 2008
no out-of-conference match-ups

NOV. 8, 2008
Notre Dame @ Boston College

NOV. 15 & NOV. 22, 2008
no out-of-conference match-ups

NOV. 29, 2008
Florida @ Florida State
Georgia Tech @ Georgia
South Carolina @ Clemson
Vanderbilt @ Wake Forest

BY THE NUMBERS
Non-conference home games: 34
Non-conference road games: 10
Non-conference neutral site games: 4
vs. SEC: 10
vs. Big East: 4
vs. Big 12: 4
vs. Pac 10: 2
vs. Big 10: 1
vs. Notre Dame: 2
vs. non-BCS 1-A: 11
vs. 1-AA: 14

THOUGHTS
--More home games, less BCS competition, more-1AA foes...I don't have a problem with it at all; the ACC as a whole proved it couldn't handle the brutal non-conference gauntlet of '07 so it's best to take a step back and face an easier slate.
--Weeks 1 and 2 will likely set the tone in terms of the ACC's reputation this year.  Clemson-Bama, NC State-South Carolina, UVA-USC, and Miami-UF are four of the biggest non-conference games of the opening two weekends in all of college football.  Cavs-Trojans and Canes-Gators are unfortunate mismatches favoring the non-ACC clubs, so the ACC needs the more "even" matchups to turn out in it's favor.  And it goes without saying that the league cannot lose any other non-conference game in those two weekends, except for perhaps Duke-Northwestern.
--Although there's less total BCS opposition, the quality of the opposition is still pretty tough: Florida twice, USC, Georgia, USF, Cal, Alabama, Nebraska, etc.  But it's still easier than last year's slate.
--A quick glance of the games tells me that the ACC should win every 1-AA and non-BCS 1-A matchup; all but three of those games are home contests and there's no glaring mismatch (i.e. BYU vs. Duke).  That's 25 wins right there.  Going just 11-12 in the 23 BCS-opposition games would put the ACC at 36-12 in non-conference competition heading into the bowl season.   Anything less than that and the ACC's reputation likely stays in the crapper.

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