One of the main topics to be discussed at this week's ACC winter meetings in Fort Lauderdale is future scheduling. Lots of chatter about inter-conference partnerships and scheduling these days, actually. When the ACC gets around to talking future scheduling, one of the areas I think the conference can improve on is the future schedule model for the final weekend of the regular season.
On Wednesday, N.C. State announced that they would host the in-state East Carolina Pirates on November 23, the latest non-bowl, non-conference game for the 'Pack since N.C. State faced the same ECU team in 2006. While next season ends on November 30, not November 23, this got me thinking whether all ACC teams could end the season with a permanent rivalry game. Could the conference put together a solid lineup of rivalry games for Thanksgiving weekend?
Here's a stab at who each ACC program could play to end the season.
When DeFilippo was A.D., there was talk about having BC-Syracuse end the season as part of the non-conference series between the Eagles and Orange. Now that Syracuse is joining BC in the ACC (and the Atlantic Division), I'd imagine there still might be a push for an annual BC-Syracuse tilt over Thanksgiving weekend.
I would be OK if Syracuse becomes BC's de facto end-of-season opponent, but with students of both schools home for the holiday, I'm not sure this is the best way to rekindle this rivalry. The Syracuse game should also be one of the better home draws for BC. Personally, I would prefer if this game was on a set weekend during the middle of the season (say, third Saturday in October, Alabama-Tennessee style) over Thanksgiving weekend.
With the future of the Notre Dame series up in the air (the Irish typically end the year at either USC or Stanford, anyway), there's really no non-conference rival I'd like the Eagles to end the year with. So, UConn?
This one is easy. Clemson and South Carolina have played one another in mid to late November every year since 1960. The two teams end the regular season against one another on November 30 at Williams-Brice. Clemson leads the all-time series 65-41-4.
The Blue Devils should play the Tar Heels to end the season. This is a intra-division game which may even have ACC Championship Game implications should one of the North Carolina schools finally break through. The Blue Devils facing either N.C. State or Wake Forest doesn't make much sense considering the -- don't laugh -- possibility of a rematch the following week in the conference championship. (This is also the reason why there should never be a cross-divisional game the end the regular season.
Florida. Another no-brainer. The two programs have played in either November or December every year since 1977 and even in a pair of bowl games in the 1990s. Florida leads the all-time series 34-21-2. This year's matchup is in the Swamp on November 30.
To hell with Georgia. Clean, Old Fashioned Hate was first played well over 100 years ago with the Jackets earning a 28-6 victory over the Bulldogs. However, it's Georgia that owns the all-time series record 62-40-5, including four straight over the Engineers. As with the Clemson and Florida State SEC rivalry games, this year's game will also be played on November 30 in Atlanta.
Have to think that with the Cardinals moving to the ACC -- likely in 2014 -- that Louisville and Kentucky could move their in-state rivalry to the final weekend of the regular season. Louisville-Kentucky could join Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida and Georgia Tech-Georgia as one of the conference's season-ending ACC vs. SEC matchups. The next few years this game will be played in August / early September -- 9/14 (2013), 8/30 (2014), 9/12 (2015), 9/3 (2016).
Despite these two in-state rivals being separated by a mere 80 miles on I-64, this series took a 70-year hiatus before the series was resumed in 1994. Starting in 1994, Louisville and Kentucky began battling for the Governor's Cup Trophy. Louisville holds an 11-8 edge in the Governor's Cup series, but it's Kentucky that owns a 14-11 record in the all-time series.
Miami is a bit of a third wheel in Florida's Big Three when it comes to non-conference matchups. The 'Canes have faced the USF Bulls each year over the last four seasons, and play again this year on September 28, but that series ends after this season. It could become a thing but I'm not sure if the program has any interest in a long-term deal with USF. Miami owns a 4-1 record in the all-time series and has won each of the last two meetings.
Within the conference, Miami could face new Coastal Division foe Pittsburgh in an attempt to rekindle some of that old Big East hate. Miami owns a slight 22-9-1 edge in the all-time series with the Panthers. More on Pitt below.
Much like Duke, N.C. State should face intra-division rival Wake Forest to end the season. This would pit the four Carolina schools against one another on the final weekend of the regular season.
See above. Duke. Though if the Heels want to schedule a long-term non-conference series with, say, Tennessee, I don't think many would be opposed to having another ACC vs. SEC matchup to end the regular season.
This one is tricky. The most logical choice here is the rekindling of the Backyard Brawl and a season-ending matchup between Pitt and West Virginia. However, the Big 12 schedule gets complicated towards the end of the year with just 10 programs, no conference championship game and few non-conference games post October 1. Might that change with the Big 12 lobbying the NCAA to allow a conference championship game with just 10 members?
He [Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby] said that could also mean more marquee nonconference games outside of the first month of the football season.
"We, as a rule, haven't played very many nonconference games after the first of October," Bowlsby said. "And so, the thought of choreographing games into the later portion of the season is pretty interesting from a TV standpoint, too."
Today, the Big 12 needs an even number of programs willing to play intra-conference matchups during the final two weekends of the regular season. This year, Baylor-TCU, Iowa State-West Virginia, Kansas-Kansas State and Texas-Texas Tech play on the weekend of November 30, while Baylor-Texas and Bedlam ends the regular season on December 7.
In order for this to work, the conference would have to find another Big 12 program willing to play a non-conference game on the second to last weekend of the year. Iowa State is the most logical oddball, but with the Big Ten's rigid non-conference scheduling restrictions, a season-ending Iowa-Iowa State game would appear highly unlikely. The other option is kick-starting the Kansas-Missouri Border War, which should happen, but was the unfortunate victim of SEC expansion / Big 12 defection.
The other option for the Panthers, Penn State, is subject to the same rigid Big Ten scheduling rules that Iowa is. Probably doesn't happen. I suppose if Pitt really wanted a non-conference opponent to end the year, they could schedule a long-term deal with in-state Temple or Cincinnati.
Within the ACC, the options are similarly limited. You could pair the Panthers with the Hurricanes, which would keep the final weekend's matchups within the division. Like a lot of former Big East opponents, Miami owns Pittsburgh in the all-time series.
BC seems to be the only logical choice for Syracuse. I suppose the Orange could also give UConn a call if they wanted to go the non-conference route. I was surprised to see that Syracuse and in-state Army haven't played all that often (11-10 SU with the last game in 1996), though I know that Army went through a phase of dumbing down the Black Knights' independent schedule to get back to bowl games.
Rutgers and Penn State are both probably out with the Big Ten schedule. West Virginia would be either booked with the Big 12 schedule or with Pitt. Buffalo? Albany? Stony Brook?
Virginia Tech. When the Cavaliers last defeated the Hokies, gas was $1.46 a gallon and the current President of the United States just a member of the Illinois Senate. Virginia Tech has won nine straight and 13 of the last 14. Yawn.
N.C. State, again, above.
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