At the ACC's spring meetings, the league's football coaches unanimously supported sticking with an eight-game conference slate. And while athletic directors, not coaches, have the final say, it doesn't appear as though there is much movement towards moving back to a nine-game conference slate.
The rationale for this is pretty straight-forward. For programs with a long-standing rivalry game against an in-state rival, a schedule that includes nine conference games, a rivalry game and Notre Dame once every three years is very limiting. This type of schedule provides little flexibility for programs to schedule interesting non-conference matchups such as Clemson-Georgia (2013) or Florida State-Oklahoma State (2014).
There's no question that a nine-game league schedule doesn't work for schools like Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville, but what about programs without a long-standing rivalry? Should a program like Boston College be in favor of remaining at eight games? I'm not so sure.
Consider that the Big Ten, PAC-12 and Big 12 are at or will soon move to a nine-game conference schedule. Talks of the SEC joining the Big Ten, PAC-12 and Big 12 at nine-games are ongoing, heightened by the conference's recent announcement of a joint network with ESPN. Should the SEC also move to a nine-game conference schedule, that would further limit the number of non-conference scheduling opportunities afforded the lone conference holdout, the ACC.
That's where things get a bit hairy for a program like BC.
I agree with Bill in that an eight-game schedule provides more flexibility. I also agree that the preferred scheduling mix includes one peer school (Northwestern, Vanderbilt, etc.) and one marquee program (Ohio State, USC, etc.) to go along with a mid-major and an FCS opponent. The problem with this is that this is the general formula for a large number of other power conference programs. As such, the math begins to get a bit unwieldy.
Let's assume for a moment that the SEC does move to a nine-game conference schedule, leaving the ACC as the lone conference with less than 9 league games a year -- 8 1/3 with Notre Dame to be specific. Suddenly there is far fewer opportunities to get two BCS programs on the non-conference schedule yearly, particularly for a program which has seen its two long-standing rivalries either join the conference (Syracuse) or get thrown into the conference's unique five games / year scheduling rotation with Notre Dame.
I don't see the options here for a school like BC to get to two BCS non-conference opponents in years when Notre Dame doesn't fall onto the schedule. SEC and Big 12 programs are pretty poor geographic and cultural fits; nevermind the fact that most of these programs' yearly schedules are already filled with the same formula that BC will likely follow -- a nine-game conference schedule, a BCS rivalry game, a mid-major and an FCS opponent.
Non-conference games against Big Ten programs make a bit more sense, but a lot of these programs are already spoken for. Pittsburgh is talking about renewing its long-standing rivalry with Penn State. Syracuse and Penn State also have a long history on the gridiron. Michigan? (More) Ohio State? Possibly, though both programs seem to aiming a bit higher with their future non-conference schedules. Northwestern makes a lot of sense but has a long-term deal with Stanford and a number of other schools in the USN&WR Top 50. Rutgers? Maryland? Ehh.
Same issue with the PAC-12. The programs that make the most sense -- USC, Stanford, etc. -- are locked into long-term deals with schools like Notre Dame and Northwestern. Programs representing less of a fit would probably only be good for a home-and-home at most.
I don't see a program like Boston College being able to land more than one major conference opponent a year in a college football world dominated by nine-game conference schedules. The Eagles will likely have to turn to the MAC or the American to fill the slots not occupied by an FCS opponent or Notre Dame. That's sure to disappoint fans, especially when considering the alternative of playing Coastal Division programs like Miami, Pittsburgh and Virginia on a more regular basis.
This is probably the biggest disappointment for BC fans with the conference's move to stay at eight games. Not only does the program lose non-conference rivalries with Syracuse and Notre Dame, but BC will also play schools like Miami and Pittsburgh that they have a good bit of history against once every six years; at which point is hardly feels like BC is a member of the same conferences as Miami and Pitt.
The only way eight-games makes sense for a school like BC is if it can schedule non-conference opponents similar to the alternative: an extra game against the Coastal Division. Going forward, I remain unconvinced that BC can do so.