Let's face it. At this point non-conferencing scheduling in the ACC has fallen into a routine. You've got four slots to fill. One you toss to a patsy from the FCS side of things. One you try to make a marquee game; if you're Clemson, Georgia Tech or FSU you've already got that covered in your SEC rivalry game, but otherwise you go out and try to pull in a big name. The other two places on the schedule show exactly how much faith you have in your squad , because you've either agreed to home-and-aways with Big East teams or better, or you're scraping the bottom of the FBS barrel. And if you're UVa, you tae a second hit from the FCS side of things, because you need all the help you can get. As I do every year, here's how things break out.
- The SEC is still the conference the ACC faces the most, a position they've held for the past three seasons. These games fall into two groups. There are the end of season rivalries on Nov. 27th – Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina playing the usual suspects – and then there's four more games. They're not all picking on the dregs of the ACC this year either. There's LSU (UNC, 9/4), Alabama (Duke, 9/18), Auburn (Clemson, 9/18) and Vanderbilt (Wake, 11/27). All right, Bama-Duke is kind of embarrassing for the Tide, but I wouldn't mind Vandy-Wake becoming an end-of-year tradition.
- The Big East is the other big target, with Cincinnati (NC State, 9/16), Pittsburgh (Miami, 9/23), Rutgers (UNC, 9/25), South Florida (Miami, 11/27), Syracuse (BC, 11/27) and West Virginia (Maryland, 9/18) getting their shots. Miami takes two shots at its former conference, in a schedule that also includes the only Big 10 matchup of the year with Ohio State on 9/11; that's a brave schedule only FSU can compare to.
- Speaking of FSU, they're one of two teams to face the not-yet-dead Big 12, meeting Oklahoma on 9/11. Georgia Tech has Kansas on the same day. The Pac-10 rounds out the BCS conference slate, with Stanford (Wake, 9/18) and Southern Cal (UVA, 9/11).
- And although not in BCS conferences, two schools at least picked BCS-caliber teams, with FSU meeting BYU (9/18) out of the Mountain West and Virginia Tech Boise State (9/6) from the WAC. Independents fill in the rest of respectability with Notre Dame (BC, 10/2), Navy (Maryland, 9/2, Wake on 10/9, and Duke on 10/30), and Army (Duke 9/25). Hey, if you're Duke, Army counts as respectable.
- Before we hit the more shameful parts of the schedule, there's Conference USA as always, with East Carolina (VT, 9/18 and legislatively mandated games with UNC on 10/2 and N.C. State on 10/16), and Central Florida (N.C. State, 9/11)
- Now the eminently skippable stuff. The Mid-American Conference provides three opponents in Kent State (BC, 9/11) and Michigans Eastern (UVa, 10/23) and Central (VT, 10/9), as does the Sun Belt with Florida International (Maryland, 9/25), Middle Tennessee (GT, 10/16), and North Texas (Clemson, 9/4). These games are particularly embarrassing in light of the fact that...
- ...every team in the conference goes to the FCS well this season. That's the first time this has happened since I've been blogging. Compare this to the situation five years ago, and you can see the same trend emerging. It's all BCS teams or FCS squads, with very little in between.
Anyway, the final count is 7 SEC teams, 6 Big East, 5 independents, 4 Conference USA, 3 each from the MAC and Sun Belt, 2 apiece from the Big 12 and Pac-10, one from each of the Big 10, Mountain West, and WAC and 13 FCS schools. Virginia has by far the weakest draw (it won't help) followed by BC. Clemson and Georgia Tech don't acquit themselves very well, either. More importantly, plan on that first Saturday of glorious college football to be a painfully slow day. With the exception of UNC-LSU, you can look forward to 7 games against FCS teams, Clemson playing North texas and Maryland meeting Navy. And the Heels are a night game, so definitely a week to get the yard work done.