Let's talk conference scheduling!
Mark Ament in Louisville writes: I'm not surprised the ACC ended up with 8 conference games, given the Notre Dame arrangement. The biggest negative to an 8-game schedule in my mind is the one rotating cross-divisional game. It will take each school six years to play every other school in the conference, which means that players will not play one or two conference schools during their four or five years. No one should go through their entire career without playing every school in your conference. Forget the playoff, this is about fundamental conference membership and identity. It's just wrong.
Andrea Adelson: A lot of athletic directors believe it's wrong, too. That is why there were six who voted for a nine-game schedule and some who wouldn't mind scrapping divisions all together, so at least there can be more frequent meetings between all conference teams. But given the Notre Dame factor and how large the league is right now, there have to be tradeoffs made to serve the best overall goals for the league. At this point, the ACC determined that staying at eight serves everyone best.
Chris G. in Melrose, Mass., writes: Hi, Andrea. Count me as a huge fan of the ACC sticking with the 8-game sked, PARTICULARLY now that they have the "one game vs. Power 5 conferences each year." This way, I get to see the BC Eagles play one team each year (Iowa? Kansas St.? Colorado?) that they never would have otherwise. This opens up more recruiting opportunities ... and more road trip opportunities! I just don't see any downside to this decision. Thanks for listening!
Adelson: The downside is the one Chris mentions above. It seems ludicrous that NC State will play Notre Dame more often than it plays Duke, doesn't it?
Adelson: I don't think anybody knows that just yet. But the ACC just saw one of its teams play an eight-game league schedule and win the national championship. I think everybody believes an unbeaten ACC team would have a spot in a four-team playoff so there is no real incentive to change, especially since strengths of schedule will increase with Notre Dame in the mix and the tougher nonconference opponent requirement.
Larry Stone in Cookeville, Tenn., writes: When I first read the story about the ACC scheduling itself in nonconference games, I rolled my eyes. Then, the more I thought about it....wouldn't that solve a lot of problems. It's out of the box. Think about the SEC concerns over Tennessee and Alabama playing yearly. Simply make that game a nonconference game except the one year it comes up in rotation. Eight games, set by the scheduling formula, COUNT toward the league title. State and Duke could play every year and it be non-conference except the year it DOES come up in the formula.
Adelson: I actually like the creativity here, and think some athletic directors should do it if it benefits their programs. ACC baseball teams do it all the time, we just have not seen it done in football and that is why the idea sounds so silly. The Big Ten, by the way, also has discussed this idea as well so it's not as ridiculous as it sounds on first blush.
DysFunkShaNole in Atlanta writes: AA, just throwing this out there. Based on the recent discussions around "nonconference" scheduling with other ACC teams, it seems it would be best for the ACC to break out cross-conference rivalries (e.g. Miami-FSU) into nonconference games in years that aren't on the standard rotation. Hear me out. It's always seemed counterproductive to me to continue these regular-season rivalries because it A) reduces the chances that those teams can meet again in the ACCCG, and B) if they do meet again it reduces interest in the game itself. This way, teams can preserve the rivalries but not impact ACC standings and get to play more cross-division teams over time. Could it fly?
Adelson: Not sure that idea could fly, but it is an interesting concept. One big reason why Miami was in favor of a nine-game conference schedule is because it wants more teams to "share the wealth" in playing Florida State, so to speak. Every year Miami has to play that game, but not everybody in the Coastal does. It's the same argument LSU has in having to play Florida every year as its cross-divisional opponent. It's unfair to some teams, and they have to deal with that consequence year-in and year-out.
Loc Nguyen in Dover, N.H., writes: My ACC proposal to solve both the 8-game schedule and championship game. Basically there would be two years of the status quo of Atlantic/Coastal Divisions with division winners making the title game. The next two years the divisions would be separated a different way for example North/South (although any method that produces 3/4 former A/C members would work). So for a North Conference of BC, SU, PITT, UVA, VT, UL, WF would play each other and get 2 from the South. The two from the South would not include a rivalry and would be the other A/C members you don't face. They would still keep the division champs competing for the title. So there would be more variety that fans want yet increase probability to get to the playoffs that coaches/ADs want.
Adelson: Also a creative idea, but I think athletic directors want long-term solutions and not to have to shuffle up the divisions every few years. One of the big reasons there has not been much of a push to shuffle the divisions up is because their power is usually cyclical. The Coastal used to be the dominant division. Now it's the Atlantic. The concept to watch moving forward is scrapping divisions all together. There is not yet a lot of momentum there, but a handful of ADs would be in favor.