The ACC is likely going to stay at an eight-game conference schedule, with the additional requirement that at least one opponent from the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 or Notre Dame must be scheduled by each ACC school on an annual basis beginning in 2017.
For schools that don't already have a season-ending rivalry game against an in-state SEC opponent, ACC ADs are gonna have to get on the horn to line up power conference programs during the years in which it doesn't play Notre Dame.
Assuming that Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville will continue their rivalry games with the SEC, let's take a look at the remaining 10 ACC programs that will need to schedule a power conference team beginning in 2017. Let's also make some predictions on possible future non-conference opponents. As you can see, some programs are in much better shape than others.
[NOTE: Since they won't factor into the new strength-of-schedule requirement, 2014-16 power conference opponents are listed for reference]. Future schedules via fbschedules.com.
Duke is in pretty decent shape beginning in 2017 with home-and-home series lined up with both Northwestern and Baylor (though unfortunately both road games happen in the same year). Looking further back, Duke has recently faced Stanford, Alabama and Vanderbilt. Given a propensity for scheduling like-academic schools, I wouldn't be surprised to see Duke re-up with Vanderbilt given the SEC's similar strength of schedule component. I also wouldn't be surprised if Duke heads west to face a Pac-12 opponent.
2014: at Nebraska Cornhuskers
2015: Nebraska Cornhuskers
2016: at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2018: at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2019: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2020: at Michigan State Spartans
2021: Michigan State Spartans
Miami needs a Power 5 conference opponent in 2017. Unfortunately for the Canes, the American Athletic Conference won't satisfy the requirement as Miami and South Florida have hooked up on the gridiron a few times over the past few seasons. Starting in 2018 and going through 2021, Miami is set with back-to-back home-and-homes against the Big Ten's Rutgers and Michigan State. Given Miami's relative proximity to a number of SEC schools, I wouldn't be surprised if an SEC AD comes calling.
North Carolina is also set through 2018 with a non-conference series with Ohio State in 2017 and 2018. For a string of several years, UNC was dipping into the Big East/American pool with non-conference home-and-homes with Connecticut, Rutgers, Louisville and South Florida, though it appears the future schedules have more of a Big Ten flavor. Like Miami, North Carolina is close enough to several SEC members, making scheduling easy. I also wouldn't be surprised to see North Carolina continue to ink series with the non-Maryland members of the Big Ten's East Division.
2016: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2017: at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Of all the ACC teams that will be looking for Power 5 scheduling partners, N.C. State has the most work left to do. This year N.C. State faces Georgia Southern, Presbyterian, Old Dominion and USF. The following year ... Troy, Old Dominion and South Alabama. Five of those seven opponents are or were very recently members of the Football Championship Subdivision. Don't strain yourselves too hard, Wolfpack.
With how watered down the 'Pack's non-conference schedules have been of late, it will be interesting to see what State does with this new strength of schedule component. Do they go searching for bottom-of-the-barrel Power 5 programs to play in an attempt to schedule their way to a bowl game? Or will they capitalize on their close proximity to SEC programs and break a sweat during non-conference play?
Possible non-conference opponents: Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Ole Miss Rebels, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores
2014: Maryland Terrapins, vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2015: LSU Tigers
2016: vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2017: at LSU Tigers
2019: at Maryland Terrapins
2020: at Penn State Nittany Lions
2021: Penn State Nittany Lions
The Orange have the conference's strength of schedule component satisfied for 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Syracuse only needs a game in 2018 to fill the quota over the first five years of the arrangement. With any luck, Notre Dame will fall back on the Orange's schedule as part of the ACC's rotation with the Irish and Doc Gross won't have to do anything here. If Syracuse is looking for non-conference games, I'd imagine they'll be more than happy to re-up with a school like Penn State. I also wouldn't be surprised if Maryland finds its way back on a future Orange schedule, seeing as both have that whole ships passing in the #goacc night thing going for them.
Possible non-conference opponents: Penn State Nittany Lions, Maryland Terrapins, Northwestern Wildcats
2014: Iowa Hawkeyes
2015: at Iowa Hawkeyes, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2016: Penn State Nittany Lions, at Oklahoma State Cowboys
2017: Oklahoma State Cowboys, at Penn State Nittany Lions
2018: Penn State Nittany Lions
2019: at Penn State Nittany Lions
Pitt is fairly set having inked a four-game series with Penn State. With any luck, those two programs will bury the hatchet and continue to play fairly regularly. Have to think that given enough time passing, the idea of kickstarting the Backyard Brawl will be put back on the table. Between Penn State, Notre Dame and West Virginia, Pitt is in really good shape here.
Possible non-conference opponents: Penn State Nittany Lions, West Virginia Mountaineers
2014: UCLA Bruins
2015: at UCLA Bruins, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2016: at Oregon Ducks
2017: Stanford Cardinal
2018: at Stanford Cardinal
2021: Illinois Fighting Illini
2022: at Illinois Fighting Illini
TBA: Penn State Nittany Lions
Virginia has been on a long run of scheduling western programs. It's probably only a matter of time before Cal or USC cycles back onto the schedule. I also wouldn't be surprised to see several SEC programs inquiring about home-and-homes with the Cavaliers given the proximity and fertile recruiting grounds.
Possible non-conference opponents: California Golden Bears, USC Trojans, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores
2014: at Ohio State Buckeyes
2015: Ohio State Buckeyes, at Purdue Boilermakers
2016: vs. Tennessee Volunteers, at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2019: at Wisconsin Badgers
2020: Wisconsin Badgers, at Michigan Wolverines
2021: Michigan Wolverines, at West Virginia Mountaineers
2022: Penn State Nittany Lions, West Virginia Mountaineers
2023: Purdue Boilermakers, at Penn State Nittany Lions
The Hokies aren't shy about taking on the Big Ten's best, as Virginia Tech has upcoming home-and-homes with Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State. Throw in home-and-homes with West Virginia and Purdue and single games against Tennessee (Bristol Motor Speedway) and Notre Dame and this has the makings of one of the strongest non-conference slates in the league.
No reason to think the healthy dose of B1G won't continue. How about Michigan State and Rutgers, too?
Possible non-conference opponents: Michigan State Spartans, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Indiana Hoosiers
2015: Indiana Hoosiers, at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2016: at Indiana Hoosiers
Much like N.C. State, Wake Forest might want to get on this whole non-conference Power 5 scheduling thing. The Deacons currently don't have any Big 5 opponents scheduled starting in 2017. Part of me hopes that Wake and Vanderbilt ink a new long-term series; yet another ACC-SEC matchup to end the year. I'm sure a few SEC programs will also come calling given the current state of the program.
Possible non-conference opponents: Vanderbilt Commodores, Auburn Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide, Tennessee Volunteers, Northwestern Wildcats
2014: USC Trojans
2015: vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Fenway Park)
2017: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2023: at Ohio State Buckeyes
2024: Ohio State Buckeys
Admittedly BC, much like N.C. State and Wake Forest, has a lot of work left to do as well; mostly due to the fact that the BC-Notre Dame series will no longer be played annually-ish. The only non-conference series on the books starting in 2017 is the home-and-home with Ohio State (that's already been pushed back to 2023-24). I think we're gonna see BC hit up some familiar faces from the Big Ten (Penn State, Northwestern) as well as head west to take on the California schools.
Possible non-conference opponents: California Golden Bears, Stanford Cardinal, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Penn State Nittany Lions, Northwestern Wildcats