Had an interesting thought while knee-deep in this 2015 scheduling analysis exercise--could Boston College open next season on the road...in conference play?
In looking over next year's schedules it looks like a majority of ACC programs already have non-conference games scheduled for opening weekend (9/3-9/7):
Boston College -
Florida State - Texas State (9/5)
Louisville - Auburn (9/5, at Atlanta, Ga.)
N.C. State - Troy (9/5)
Syracuse - Rhode Island (9/5)
Wake Forest - Elon (9/5)
Georgia Tech - Alcorn State (9/3)
North Carolina - South Carolina (9/3, at Charlotte, N.C.)
Pittsburgh - Youngstown State (9/5)
Virginia - at UCLA (9/5)
Virginia Tech - Ohio State (9/7)
Of the teams still without opening weekend opponents, BC misses Miami but does play both Clemson in division play and Duke as its rotating, cross-division Coastal opponent.
Duke has non-conference games against Northwestern, Army, Tulane and FCS N.C. Central scheduled for next season, though neither the Tulane nor N.C. Central dates have been set. Either of those games could end up on opening weekend. Tulane doesn't have an opening weekend opponent set yet, while the first weekend of the year has no shortage of FBS-FCS matchups.
For BC, the Eagles already have non-conference games on the books against NIU (9/26), New Mexico State (10/17) and Notre Dame at Fenway Park (11/21). BC will likely complete the 2015 schedule with an FCS opponent, but, should N.M. State cancel its return trip to the Heights, BC would have to scramble to find a FBS replacement team on short notice with pickings predictably slim.
Clemson has non-conference games against Appalachian State (9/12), Notre Dame (10/3), at South Carolina (11/28) and a TBA game against Wofford. The Tigers could certainly start the season at home against Wofford, just as BC could just as easily start the season against an FCS opponent. However, recently teams with big rivalry games to end the season (think: Florida-Florida State, Kentucky-Louisville, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Auburn-Alabama) have gotten into the habit of scheduling non-conference fodder the week before the regular season finales.
Here are a few of those penultimate regular season games on November 21 next season:
Alabama - FCS Charleston Southern
Auburn - Idaho
Florida - Florida Atlantic
Florida State - FCS Chattanooga
Georgia - Georgia Southern
Georgia Tech -
Kentucky - Charlotte
South Carolina - FCS The Citadel
If Clemson schedules its FCS game against Wofford on November 21 to match South Carolina, that would leave the Tigers needing a conference game scheduled over opening weekend. Could the schedules align such that Boston College and Clemson open up next season in Death Valley?
As part of the ACC's new media rights deal with ESPN, the conference is obligated to host a ACC home game on Labor Day Monday each year. Two years ago, the conference helped move some non-conference scheduling obligations around to stage Florida State at Pittsburgh on Labor Day, the Panthers' first ever ACC game. FSU won 41-13. This year's Labor Day game was another ACC debut, as Miami traveled to Louisville to take on the Cardinals. Louisville won 31-13.
Next season, Virginia Tech will host Ohio State on Labor Day in a game that was originally scheduled for later in the month.
While non-Labor Day Monday, intra-ACC matchups have been rare, there have been a handful over the years. Conveniently, BC has been involved in two of three of them. In 2005, Virginia Tech opened the season at N.C. State on a Sunday (Tech won 20-16). In 2007, BC began its ACC Atlantic Division title season with a 38-28 home victory over Wake Forest, while in 2012, BC hosted Miami in the AERIE-AL circus debut, falling 41-32.
That said, I suspect history will be a poor guide going forward, particularly as the games that are part of the Notre Dame-ACC scheduling arrangement move other conference games. We'll probably see a lot of weekends where there are six conference games (12 teams), a Notre Dame-ACC game and a team on a bye week, but I can't imagine it will be as clear cut as that; especially when catering for other programs that, as an example and per the above, want to schedule consecutive non-conference games to end the year.
While it will be hotter than hell in South Carolina in early September, I actually like the idea of starting next season on the road in conference play. It would be a nice way of (hopefully) breaking up the glut of September home games and more evenly distributing them throughout the year, as well as avoiding a weak turnout at the gate given the Labor Day holiday.
Of course, it's entirely possible that the ACC helps BC, Clemson, Duke and Miami move some pre-existing scheduling obligations around and all four programs end up starting the season with non-conference opponents. But there also seems to be a decent shot of BC opening up the year with a conference opponent again next season.