As Matt touched on earlier today, the Atlantic Coast Conference is doing away with divisions beginning in 2023. Gone are the halcyon days of “Coastal Chaos” and having a different challenger swatted away by Clemson in Charlotte for the ACC’s lone BCS slot. Now, everyone gets to play with everyone else (twice in four-year chunks), but some teams get to play with certain schools more than others.
“Primary Opponents” is what the ACC calls it, and it’s a measure to ensure certain historical or geographic rivalries remain intact to keep intensity/interest high while the rest of the schedule becomes more egalitarian (and perhaps boring). Nobody in Chapel Hill is relishing the trip up to Syracuse.
With that in mind, let’s bring up the ACC’s fantastic graphic reference...
In 2023, the ACC will adopt a 3-5-5 football scheduling model and all 14 schools will compete in one division.— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) June 28, 2022
Teams will play 3 primary opponents annually + face the other 10 teams twice during the 4-year cycle, once at home and once on the road.
: https://t.co/7cvsuH48j3 pic.twitter.com/ne5TjwtfYd
... and rank who has the best trio of rivals!
1.) North Carolina
Airport lounges used to be the exclusive playground of business executives and the wealthy. With airlines and credit card companies offering access to the masses in order to incentivize more spending, the scene has shifted considerably. UNC’s three primary opponents remind me of the trichotomy of folks you’ll find in lounges today.
Duke is the business traveler, probably on his way to close down a factory or nursing home before returning to New York, dressed in a suit with a white shirt, red or blue tie, and shined black shoes. Stuffy, pretentious, but ultimately harmless if ignored.
Virginia is the traveler who appears wealthy and on vacation. Adorned in Vineyard Vines from head to toe, including gaudy-colored trousers and some sort of nautical themed stitched belt.
NC State is the guy dressed like Adam Sandler in his candid tabloid pictures that everyone wishes wasn’t there.
Carolina historically has winning records against all three rivals, with Virginia being the closest in head-to-head wins. UVA has been something of a bogey team for the Tar Heels in recent years, winning four in a row until last season’s thrilling 59-39 shootout win in Chapel Hill. Prior to that most recent streak, UNC won seven in a row. It bears monitoring how well Tony Elliott gets the Cavs rolling out the gates. It’s imperative that Carolina keeps UVa in its rearview, especially since the two schools go head-to-head for some of Virginia’s top high school talent.
DJ Uiagalelei really did a number on our perception of Clemson football, but I choose to believe that last year was an aberration. The program is too established, and the recruits are too premium to let Clemson continue to slide. Their primary opponents should quell any notion of decline.
Having a North Carolina and Georgia school are good for geography’s sake. Fortunately, they’ll face an agricultural school and an engineering powerhouse, so the culture’s (kind of) align. Florida State brings name recognition that you can beat easily. Sort of like when Ric Flair was wrestling in his 50’s.
Expect Clemson to resume their perch on top of the ACC, beating the living hell out of NC State, Georgia Tech, and Florida State.
Duke was fixing to get their ass beat regularly by whoever they matched with. At least with UNC, Wake Forest, and NC State, they can just ride a bus. The real winner here is logistics.
Remember when Miami joined the ACC with Virginia Tech and it just made sense? Good school that actually touches the Atlantic Ocean and a current member of the conference, contiguous state-wise?
Well, they get to pummel two of the misfit toys that the ACC had to throw in the mix when conferences started poaching other schools for better TV deals. Louisville and Boston College have fared decently well against the Hurricanes in the past half decade, but with Mario Cristobal and some sweet NIL deals, it’s gonna be all about the U in this pod.
Florida State pinched one from Miami last season, but prior to that, the Canes ripped off four in a row. I forecast the Hurricanes to see sunnier skies in the next few years. As the Rock said years ago, there’s nothing in Tallahassee but “sand, shit, and Seminoles.”
The Hoos get Carolina, Virginia Tech, and... Louisville? I guess it makes sense since the state of Virginia borders Kentucky, but that’s a long drive. I can’t see fans from either school bothering to make that trip too often.
Virginia’s head-to-head against UNC is not that bad (just -7 historically) especially compared to their struggles against the Hokies (-22 against Virginia Tech, and losers of 17 of the last 18, oof). Virginia and Virginia Tech both made strong statements that they were going to recruit their state, so getting wins against their two primary recruiting opponents is essential.
Louisville? That smells like a noon kickoff every time.
6.) Boston College
It’s a Big East reunion! Boston College, the original Kaliningrad to the ACC’s Russia, had to play three schools every year. That was the ACC’s rule when they announced the 3-5-5 schedule going into 2023. Absent any real rivalries, the ACC seemingly just shrugged and decided to see if some elementary school friends would still get along in high school after going to different middle schools.
Syracuse and Pitt make sense since they’re not “southern” schools like rest of the ACC. You know what? Neither is Miami, since Miami is it’s own thing, like David S. Pumpkins. Honestly, if BC, Pitt, and Syracuse would go away, we might get closer to being able to play all the ACC schools every two years instead of four.
7.) NC State
NC State got lumped with three schools that are higher ranked academically, historically more successful (except for Duke), and have less bricks on campus combined. Plus, there’s only one reliable win. This is a tough bundle to swallow.
NC State will crow that they have what it takes to beat Clemson, but history and statistics are cruel mistresses. Clemson is +30 in wins head-to-head, and before last season’s victory over the Tigers, NC State lost eight in a row by an average of 21.9 points. This is not a rivalry!
Carolina will be the wild card. If they sustain success building their program, the Wolfpack is in trouble. Last year’s debacle gave NC State a last minute 4-point win. In Mack Brown’s first two seasons back, UNC won by 31 and 27. This year’s game will be instructive.
Tomorrow, I’ll go over the bottom half of the league. What do you think? Who has the best annual rivalry set-up? Let us know in the comments below!