One of the big stories across college sports this week is the release of the new ACC football schedule that eliminates divisions and replaces it with a 3-5-5 model guaranteeing that every ACC team will play every other ACC team both home and away at least once over a four year period. Meanwhile, the 3 yearly opponents and the 2023-26 additional 5 were also revealed with Tech getting UVA, Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh.
There were plenty of viewpoints and thoughts on this, but is this the best for the ACC, and were the right yearly 3 assembled? Here are my 3 thoughts on Virginia Tech's new ACC football schedule.
1. A Massive Step Forward
There shouldn't be a decade let alone a four-year period where every team in your conference doesn't at least play at your own stadium in conference play at least once. That also shouldn't require a shortening of non-conference play to ensure that happens.
For the ACC, that was the reality till this much-needed change that has come through the transform the conference.
The new model means that every team in the ACC will face every other team at least once at home and on the road in a four-year period. That means no insanely long 12-year gaps between appearances in home stadiums of teams in the opposite ACC division that weren't your yearly crossover opponent.
That means teams like Clemson, N.C. State, and Florida State are visiting Blacksburg three times every 12 years instead of once. That's a major upgrade in many ways.
It's also great for recruiting as any ACC school can recruit across the region and guarantee to that recruit that they'll have a chance to likely play near their home area at least once in their career for any East Coast recruit.
As much as many loved Coastal Chaos, there were definitely plenty of times where the top 2 teams were in one division especially when Clemson and Florida State were consistently dominating the conference with no path to face off for an ACC title. Those days are now gone and that will be best for the ACC to create the best matchups and prevent a potential trap game for an ACC title in terms of one team's CFB Playoff hopes.
With the NCAA making changes allowing the removal of divisions without a waiver, the ACC rightly seized the opportunity quickly to make a big change and put the conference in a much better position for fans, for players, and for playoff positioning.
2. VT-Miami Loss The ACC's Main Failure Despite Overall Upgrade
If you listened to me on radio appearances, followed me on Twitter, or even recently read some of my commentaries on the TLP; then you know that I've been wanting the ACC to rid themselves of divisions for a while. In many ways, I was more than pleased with what the final outcome is from the ACC's change.
However, I along with just about everyone else was shocked to see that the Virginia Tech-Miami game was not protected among the 3 yearly opponents for either team. The details of wonky rotation of opponents also revealed that Tech won't face Miami in 2023 or 2024 with games against the Hurricanes resuming in 2025 and 2026 after this season.
If you know Tech and Miami, you know that this is one of those rivalries built on great, intense games. The first peak of it was back in the 1990s with the flash and swagger of the Canes against blue-collar Virginia Tech. The combination of both teams being national title contenders and Big East rivals plus the culture clash built a great rivalry that is a game both teams' fan bases circle when the schedule is released.
It also would have been easy to reshuffle things easily as the ACC could have flipped VT-Pittsburgh and Miami-Louisville to give us VT-Miami and Pittsburgh-Louisville which makes a whole lot more sense.
The release of only four years of schedules also opens the door for adjustments down the road. However, there's no reason why VT-Miami shouldn't continue to be a yearly matchup though it doesn't seem like that is going to change till years down the road at the earliest.
3. Wake Forest is an Underrated Gift
Getting two nearby schools wasn't a certainty for Virginia Tech given how North Carolina and N.C. State both are accounted for in needing 3 games protected. Duke seemed like a possibility though they had rivalries to protect against their Tobacco Road rivals plus getting Wake Forest.
That left only Wake Forest as an option to get not only a second nearby school, but also the closest school to Blacksburg, even closer than Charlottesville. That's what the Hokies got and though many are mad given the context of losing Miami (which I'd swap Pitt for Miami), Wake is a solid third team that rightly is in the 3 teams regardless of the final makeup.
I included the Demon Deacons as one of Tech's 3 when I did my own breakdown of how I thought things should work so if you read, you're not surprised to see that I'm a big fan of having Wake among the 3.
Winston Salem is a convenient trip not only from Blacksburg (less than 2 hours), but also from plenty of other areas loaded with Hokie alums and fans including being less than 2.5 hours from the Roanoke Valley, 3.5 hours from Richmond, 4.5 hours from Norfolk-Virginia Beach, and within 2 hours of both the Charlotte and Raleigh metros that have loads of Hokie alums.
When we talk about good yearly opponents, convenient road trips matter and Wake Forest is as convenient as just about any ACC team outside of UVA for Tech fans.
There's also maybe some potential for a SW Virginia vs Western North Carolina rivalry here. Yes, that may be a stretch but proximity can help build rivalries and with Wake Forest on the rise under Dave Clawson, the Demon Deacons are showing the quality to potentially develop a mini-rivalry. We've seen it before with realignment helping nurture an Iowa-Nebraska rivalry that may not be the biggest one for either school, but has becoming a relevant game on the schedule.
While it's not going to be a VT-Miami level rivalry ever or even close, the proximity aspect combined with Wake's CFB relevance gives this the potential to have that angle more than say Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech which had weaker bonds built around both schools being known for their engineering programs plus the frustration of the Paul Johnson triple option that made the Yellow Jackets a top 25 team periodically, creating important Coastal battles.
Even if VT-Wake never forms into even an okay rivalry, the proximity combined with Wake emerging as a solid opponent to face yearly makes this a great yearly third team for Tech to have.