The negative effect an eight game ACC schedule had on a 14-team league became crystal clear last week when the ACC announced the football rotating crossover opponents through 2024. Eight conference games worked well with 12 teams. Teams in opposite divisions would play each other at least once every 4 years, visit and host each other every 5. Moving forward, the ACC is intent on preserving a primary crossover game as well as rotation in which, "Each ACC school will play all of their rotating crossover opponents twice during the 12-year rotation, once at home and once on the road, but not consecutively."
I've tweeted the numbers before, but they bear repeating: from now until 2024, the end of this ACC scheduling cycle, Virginia Tech will play Florida State, Clemson and Louisville five times. It will play East Carolina, a non-ACC member, seven times between 2014 and 2020.
The frequency of games can't be helped. There are too many teams, and not enough games. A ninth conference game was yanked off the table when Notre Dame joined and doesn't seem to be an option. Primary crossover games serve to ensure rivalries like Florida State–Miami, Georgia Tech–Clemson, and North Carolina–North Carolina State happen annually. However, the league could produce higher profile, competitive, yet balanced, matchups, and home and road games happening in consecutive years.
I propose the rotating crossover opponents should be replaced with priority partners. A priority partner would be chosen for each team every two years, and result in a home-and-home series. Priority partners would be determined by closely matching teams according to total number of regular season ACC wins in the previous two years, while avoiding permanent crossover pairings. The following example uses 2011 and 2012 ACC wins to set the schedule in 2014-2015 (because 2013 games haven't happened yet).
|Rank||Team||2011 + 2012 Wins||Team||2011 + 2012 Wins|
|2||Florida State||12||Georgia Tech||10|
|3||North Carolina State||8||Miami||8|
|4||Wake Forest||8||North Carolina||8|
I used total wins over 2012-13 as a guide, not a firm algorithm. Primary crossover duplicates like Pitt–Syracuse (0 wins) and North Carolina–North Carolina State (8 wins) had to be avoided. In scheduling, I believe human intervention and logic prevails over any set of rules. John Swofford and his team ought to be able to use wins as a starting point, and fill in the schedule from there.
Atlantic teams would host games in even years, and travel in odd. This is what the priority schedule would look like compared to the rotation.
|Clemson||North Carolina||@Miami||Virginia Tech||@Virginia Tech|
|Florida State||Virginia||@Georgia Tech||Georgia Tech||@Georgia Tech|
|North Carolina State||Georgia Tech||@Virginia Tech||Miami||@Miami|
|Wake Forest||Virginia Tech||@North Carolina||North Carolina||@North Carolina|
|Georgia Tech||@North Carolina State||Florida State||@Florida State||Florida State|
|Miami||@Louisville||Clemson||@North Carolina State||North Carolina State|
|North Carolina||@Clemson||Wake Forest||@Wake Forest||Wake Forest|
|Virginia||@Florida State||Syracuse||@Boston College||Boston College|
|Virginia Tech||@Wake Forest||North Carolina State||@Clemson||Clemson|
Overall, I think the priority schedule produces a better slate of games. An intriguing Miami–Louisville matchup is off the board, but the next time the 'Canes are scheduled to play the 'Cards is 2019, and NC State–Miami is nothing to sneeze at. Potential offensive fireworks put on by Clemson and North Carolina would be canceled too. However, the Heels would play an in-state foe (Wake Forest), and Tigers–Hokies and Seminoles–Bees are rematches of the last two ACC Championship Games.
Because of the cyclical nature of college football, past success doesn't always guarantee that in the future. However, the traditional football powers tend to bubble up, while the teams who fight to make a bowl gravitate to the bottom of the standings. Using wins in the trailing two seasons might not be the most scientific formula, but it is better than predetermining 10 years of games.
I believe trading the guarantee to play every team in the conference at infrequent intervals is worth the price for the familiarity of the top teams playing each other more often, and the positive effect that will have on television appeal.