I don't have much in the way of traditions with this blog, but one thing I've managed to do in each of the last six seasons is make disparaging comments about the non-conference schedules of the ACC football teams. To be fair, when I started, it was really, really, bad. The only BCS conferences they were scheduling were the Big East and the SEC, while conferences like the MAC and the Sun Belt were taking most of the slots. As the years have gone by, schools have evolved away from that, putting one or two marquee names on the schedule and greatly amping up the use of FCS schools.
So how do things shape up this season?
- We'll start with the SEC, ... Tennessee (N.C. State, 8/31) and Auburn (Clemson, 9/1) kick things off the opening week, but after that we don't see the conference again until the three rivalry games that close out the season. Vanderbilt (Wake, 11/24) also shows up that final week, and isn't too far removed from becoming a rivalry game itself. That aside, the ACC seems to be backing away from their southern counterparts, and is a little discouraging. Of course, it doesn't help that the ACC keeps losing these contests.
- The conference seems to be tying themselves to the Big East even more than usual this season, with eight meetings — a number that would be even greater if members didn't keep fleeing the conference. You'll see a lot of Connecticut (N.C. State, 9/8 and Maryland, 9/15) and South Florida (FSU, 9/29 and Miami, 11/17). Also on the list are returned-to-the-fold Temple (Maryland, 9/8), Louisville (UNC, 9/15), Pittsburgh (VT, 9/15), and Cincinnati (9/29).
- The ACC also plays a pair of Big Twelve schools, only because they were originally going to Big East members — West Virginia (Maryland, 9/22) and TCU (Virginia, 9/22). Original member Kansas State (Miami, 9/8) shows up, too. The Big Ten sends two down south as well, with Penn State (Virginia 9/8) and Northwestern (Boston College, 9/15), two games that aren't really going to get much attention from Sportscenter. The Pac-12 wraps up the BCS conferences by giving Stanford (Duke, 9/8) a gimme win.
- On to Conference USA, who can usually be relied on for quite a few games. Not this season, however. Only Memphis (Duke, 9/22) and East Carolina (UNC, 9/22) are on the schedule. There have been years when ECU has played more ACC teams alone. There sure are a lot of independents, though. Three schools play Notre Dame (Miami, 10/6; BC, 11/10; Wake, 11/17) and two also play Army (Wake, 9/22 and BC, 10/6). Brigham Young (GT, 10/27) travels to ACC country as well.
- As for the rest? There are two MAC schools, Ball State (Clemson, 9/8) and Bowling Green (VT, 9/22); three Sun Belt teams, Florida International (Duke, 9/1), South Alabama (N.C. State, 9/15), and Middle Tennessee (GT, 9/29); and two WAC teams, Idaho (UNC, 9/29) and Louisiana Tech (Virginia, 9/29). And can I just say how much I enjoy the thought of playing Idaho? I know it's filling a hole Tennessee left in the schedule, but it's such a madcap choice. Idaho!
- And the other 13 teams? FCS schools, of course. And yes, that's 13, as Florida State double-dips in what is the most pathetic non-conference slate I've seen in quite some time. You get the impression they'd duck Florida too, if they could get away with it. Virginia Tech went that route last season, only to fall flat on their face in their conference opener against Clemson. FSU could be equally ridiculous playing Wake in Week 3. If you'd ike to break the 13 schools down further, there are 3 from the Southern, 3 from the CAA, 3 from the MEAC, 2 from the Big South, and 2 from the Ohio Valley.
There you have it. Props to Clemson and N.C. State for scheduling tough openers — even if the Wolfpack still like playing South Alabama, a now-FBS team that was still only founded in 2009. FSU is obviously the most embarassing, and UNC's isn't great, but for reasons beyond their control, so we'll let it slide. And blame Tennessee, the chickens. And here it is graphically, if your so inclined: