After the ACC's new schedule model was released on Wednesday, I wrote about how the conference had stuck it to Florida State with its new 10-game conference schedule. But I decided to follow-up on that by further crunching the numbers.
Not only did those numbers corroborate my observations about FSU playing as many of the ACC's top teams as any other program while having some of the weaker squads eliminated from its schedule, they speak to a larger point: the Seminoles now have the conference's toughest schedule-- and it's quite curious which programs have the easier slates.
As I did in my previous piece, I used SP+ ranks for this research, consulting the preseason calculations offered by the insightful Bill Connelly.
Here's where ACC teams fall in those rankings (remember, Notre Dame is an ACC football team, at least for 2020):
- Clemson (3)
- Notre Dame (12)
- North Carolina (17)
- Miami (23)
- Florida State (26)
- Virginia Tech (32)
- Louisville (41)
- Pittsburgh (42)
- Virginia (44)
- Georgia Tech (58)
- NC State (62)
- Duke (69)
- Boston College (71)
- Wake Forest (81)
- Syracuse (95)
So I looked at each team's schedule and their opponents' respective average rankings. Florida State's opponents are perceived to be better than any other conference foe, and with a pretty decent buffer. To provide some context, I've rounded the average opponent rankings off and listed the team with that ranking to give you an idea of which squads programs would play if they faced this level of perceived competition every week. I like Pittsburgh's chances.
1. Florida State (37.1): Ole Miss
2. Wake Forest (39.8): Arizona State
3. Miami (40.6): Louisville
4. Boston College (41.3): Louisville
5. Pittsburgh (42.3): Pittsburgh
6. Virginia (42.5): Mississippi State
7. Georgia Tech (44.4): Virginia
8. Virginia Tech (45.3): Michigan State
9. Syracuse (45.6): Purdue
T10. Louisville (48.4): Stanford
T10. Clemson (48.4): Stanford
12. NC State (49.7): Missouri
13. Duke (49.8): Northwestern
14. Notre Dame (50.3): Northwestern
15. North Carolina (51.5): California
Now, a reminder about the SP+ rankings: they're predictive, and of course there will always be surprises in any given season. But Connelly has honed his craft over the years, and he's quite respected in the college football community, which is why I've employed his numbers here.
So what do we notice? The ACC is often chided as the "All Carolina Conference" because of where it's headquartered, where it stages so many of its conference championships, the fact that five of its teams are from the Carolinas, and the idea that those schools have received preferential treatment over the years. And these numbers hardly rebuff that perception.
Sure, there's Wake Forest coming in second to just FSU. But the Demon Deacons are estimated to be the weakest ACC squad from the Carolinas. So are they a sacrificial lamb of sorts? Check out the bottom of the list. Four of the five schools with the weakest schedules are Carolina teams (Clemson, NCSU, Duke, and UNC). And the other? Notre Dame, a program that has joined the ACC in every other sport except football, and which the conference would love to have as a full member moving forward.
It's up to you to decide if this is all just a coincidence or not, but the numbers are what they are. Of course, in any conference slate, you're always going to have some teams with rockier roads than others. But a 15-spot discrepancy between Florida State and North Carolina is rather striking.