One often overlooked key to winning the ACC title is which teams have the most favorable cross-divisional schedules. Which teams in the Atlantic Division don’t have to face Virginia Tech? Who in the Coastal Division avoids Clemson and Florida State? Clemson beat two of three cross divisional opponents in last year’s run to the ACC title, including a win at Virginia Tech and at home against North Carolina. The loss came on the road to Georgia Tech.
The following is a ranking of the Atlantic Division’s 2012 crossover schedules, starting with the most difficult:
1. Florida State (at Miami, Duke, at Virginia Tech): Yes, the Noles should push Duke around, but road trips to rival Miami and defending division champ Virginia Tech will be difficult. Miami isn’t what it used to be, and the Canes will be young this year, but they’ll be gunning for the Noles. Playing in Lane Stadium on a Thursday night pushes the Noles to the top of the list.
2. Boston College (Miami, at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech): Any team that has division frontrunners Georgia Tech AND the Hokies on the schedule should be near the top of this list. The Eagles open the season against Miami, have to travel to Atlanta, and also face the defending division champs.
3. Clemson (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, at Duke): Georgia Tech should be better than Miami this year, but the Tigers at least have home field advantage for the Jackets and Hokies.
4. Maryland (at Virginia, Georgia Tech, at North Carolina): Just because the Terps avoid the Hokies doesn’t mean they’ve got an easy road. Maryland has had trouble with neighboring UVa, and North Carolina could surprise some ACC fans in Larry Fedora’s first season. Georgia Tech should also be considered a contender if not a favorite by some to win the Coastal.
5. NC State (at Miami, at North Carolina, Virginia): The only difference between NC State and Maryland in this ranking is that the Pack plays Miami, and as mentioned before, Georgia Tech should be a better team than Miami this year. It will be particularly difficult, though, for NC State to beat UNC for a sixth straight season, especially in Chapel Hill.
6. Wake Forest (North Carolina, Duke, at Virginia): No Virginia Tech. No Georgia Tech. One road trip. And Duke. That adds up to the easiest crossover schedule in the Atlantic Division, but if there’s one team on this slate the Deacs shouldn’t overlook, it’s Duke.