Florida State has joined the growing movement toward playing neutral-site games against marquee national teams.
The Seminoles opened last season in Arlington, Texas, against Oklahoma State. In 2016, they open against Ole Miss in Orlando, Florida. Then the blockbuster news last week: opening against Alabama in 2017 in Atlanta. But they are not the only ones who are embracing the trend.
Louisville is playing in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta against Auburn to open this season. Clemson and NC State have played in that game over the past several years. North Carolina opens against South Carolina in Charlotte. Then next season, the Tar Heels open against Georgia in Atlanta.
Boston College and Notre Dame will play in Fenway Park this November. In 2016, Virginia Tech and Tennessee will play at Bristol Motor Speedway. In 2018, Miami will open against LSU in Arlington. In all, seven different ACC teams have at least one nonconference game booked at a neutral site.
The question, then, is why have these games grown in popularity over the past five years?
For Florida State, it comes down to a combination of money and proximity to fans. Athletic director Stan Wilcox told Safid Deen of The Tallahassee Democrat: "We have a large contingency of our fan population that's in the state of Florida and Georgia, as well as, a lot of our kids are from Florida and South Florida. So we don't feel the need to go too far. And it helps us as far as being able to cut travel costs and things of that nature so we can maximize the revenue we make from neutral-site games."
Florida State will make $3.5 million off its game against Ole Miss in Orlando. Wilcox estimates that is about $1 million more than a home game. As I told Deen in an interview for his story, the College Football Playoff selection committee is looking hard at nonconference strength of schedule. It makes more sense to do a one-off game at a neutral site to show the committee you are making an effort to beef up the schedule -- while making an extra million (or two) to boot.
Here is a quick look at the ACC neutral-site nonconference games already booked:
Louisville vs. Auburn, Atlanta
North Carolina vs. South Carolina, Charlotte
Notre Dame vs. Boston College, Fenway Park
Florida State vs. Ole Miss, Orlando
North Carolina vs. Georgia, Atlanta
Virginia Tech vs, Tennessee, Bristol Motor Speedway
Syracuse vs. Notre Dame, at East Rutherford, N.J.
Florida State vs. Alabama, Atlanta
Louisville vs. Purdue, Indianapolis
Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia, Landover, Md.
Miami vs. LSU, Arlington, Texas