By William Qualkinbush.
On the heels of the early release of the ACC football schedule, here is your Five for Friday, ACC superlative edition…
1. Most Intriguing Week: September 20. This week barely edged the opening weekend at the end of August. While that one has some sexy matchups, the week of September 20 mixes marquee non-conference showdowns with meaningful conference tilts.
Both divisions boast great games that could prove influential long-term. Clemson travels to Florida State in a game that should all but decide the Atlantic Division, while Virginia Tech hosts Georgia Tech in a monster Coastal Division showdown.
Additionally, there are some critical out-of-league contests that could help shape the perception of the ACC around the country. Miami trips to Nebraska in a game that carries more weight in theory than substance, but at least it’s a trip down memory lane. Maryland’s only game against an ACC opponent next season comes in a trip to Syracuse, which will be a major realignment storyline.
North Carolina has to visit East Carolina—not a gimme by any stretch—and Virginia goes to BYU, which is always a tough place to play. Pittsburgh also gets into the action by hosting an Iowa team that should be fairly highly regarded next season.
2. Team That Should Pray Hardest: Syracuse. The Orange play nine games without a bye from September 13 until November 8. That’s the longest stretch of continuous play in the conference.
The Orange have a ton of home games in that stretch, but the caliber of opponent is unforgiving. Syracuse hosts Maryland, Notre Dame, Louisville (on a Friday), and Florida State on consecutive weeks. It could very well lose all four games. A road game at Clemson and a home date with Duke also loom during that time period.
Six of the nine are home games, but that doesn’t make them likely wins for Syracuse. All if does is mean Scott Shafer may be wishing his bye week comes much, much sooner.
3. Team That Should Be Embarrassed: N.C. State. Really, N.C. State? You act like a sleeping giant in the football world, yet you roll out this kind of garbage non-conference slate.
The Wolfpack opens up with Georgia Southern and Old Dominion, then travels to South Florida, and comes back home for a game against Presbyterian College. That’s the non-conference schedule.
No offense to any of those programs, but that’s an outrage. I have no sympathy for N.C. State during the stretch that follows in which Dave Doeren will have to play Florida State at home and at Clemson and Louisville. What a shameful slate put forth by the Wolfpack.
4. Team Likely to Disappoint: Virginia Tech. There is a certain level of expectation that comes with the start of the football season at Virginia Tech. But this year’s schedule might mean a more disappointing season than usual for the Hokies.
There’s a losable FCS game against William & Mary to open the season. Then the team goes to Columbus to play Ohio State. If Frank Beamer’s team gets blown out by the Buckeyes, it will confirm the downturn that has taken place within the program. They could very easily lose three of the next four games, as well, as a trap game against East Carolina follows the game against Ohio State.
Georgia Tech at home and North Carolina on the road constitute two of the next three games. A 2-4 start is certainly plausible, and the Hokies still have to face Pittsburgh and Duke on the road. Beamer Ball may be over if they succumb to the schedule.
5. Most Exciting Matchup with Notre Dame: Florida State. The Seminoles host the Fighting Irish on October 18. We can call it college football pageantry overload.
Notre Dame also faces off against Louisville (home), North Carolina (home), and Syracuse (road) this season. Those matchups are marquee in nature and should be for years to come.