A few weeks back, with the league set to kick off its Winter Meetings, I proposed a few ways that the ACC could improve on its future schedule model for the final weekend of the regular season. I doubt the league office was listening, but credit where credit is due -- the ACC finally gets the final weekend of the regular season right.
Here's how the final weekend of the regular season shapes up in 2013:
No inter-division games to end the year, avoiding the possibility of a rematch the following week in the ACC Championship Game. Strong, intra-division rivalry games in both divisions, including BC-Syracuse, Duke-Carolina and Virginia Tech-Virginia. Plus one final meeting between the Atlantic Division's Terps and Wolfpack before Maryland is off to the Big Ten. The addition of Miami-Pittsburgh, former Big East rivals, complements the existing slate of intra-division rivalry games at seasons' end.
In non-conference play, traditional season-ending ACC vs. SEC matchups between Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida and Georgia Tech-Georgia are joined by Wake Forest-Vanderbilt this season. All four programs even thought enough of the rest of the conference to schedule bodybag games the week prior to their ACC vs. SEC showdowns -- Clemson hosts The Citadel, Florida State Idaho, Georgia Tech Alabama A&M and Wake Forest Duke.
Now that the league got it right, how do we keep this going?
Starting in 2014, Louisville replaces Maryland, which complicates this final weekend schedule somewhat. The other complication is that Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt isn't an annual ACC vs. SEC game. At least not yet. While the two programs will have faced one another six times over the last eight seasons, and have three more scheduled from 2013-2015, right now the series is slated to end after that.
The simplest solution has Wake Forest and Vanderbilt renewing their non-conference series and swapping Louisville for Maryland. That leaves the ACC a final weekend that consists of:
If Wake-Vanderbilt doesn't become a more permanent non-conference series, the Deacons may also be able to swap Army or another non-conference game game on college football's final weekend.
The other solution is to replace Maryland with Wake Forest, staging an all-Carolina N.C. State-Wake Forest finale, and figure out if Louisville can find a non-conference rivalry game to end the season. Kentucky is the logical choice here, but the Wildcats don't seem interested in the idea of ending the year with the Cardinals as UK wants to end the year with SEC East border rival Tennessee. Consequently, that probably leaves N.C. State-Louisville and Wake Forest looking for a non-conference opponent.
Either way, hat tip to the ACC for getting the final weekend of the 2013 season right. Now let's build on that and make this a yearly thing.