What An ACC Without Divisions Could Look Like Including For Virginia Tech

What An ACC Without Divisions Could Look Like Including For Virginia Tech
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
May 10, 2022

News broke recently that the ACC is seriously considering getting rid of decisions starting with the 2023 college football season as the NCAA loosens requirements for conferences to have divisions in the first place when they have 12+ teams.

Some have suggested that the ACC should consider pods but the various rivalries that you'd want to preserve yearly along with the ACC having only 14 teams makes pods a non-starter.

That would mean each team would individually get 3 regular, yearly opponents plus 5 rotating every other year opponents. That would mean that every ACC team would host each other at least once every 4 years and play each other twice every 4 years. Given that it may be double-digit gaps for some teams currently, this would be a big step forward.

That's led to some like The Athletic making their prognostications which seem to miss the mark and cause the unnecessary cutting of some rivalries.

Not having Virginia Tech-Miami protected while Boston College-VT survives doesn't make a lot of sense in my book. Also, games like Miami-Pittsburgh, Boston College-Miami, and Syracuse-Florida State just don't seem to make a lot of sense in my book.

Now there's plenty I agree with but given my complaints, I decided I would run a simulation myself and see how I would choose the 3 protected opponents for each ACC program. Of course, I made sure to not have one team with 4 repeating opponents thanks to the great tools of Microsoft Excel and my limited understanding of coding that enabled me to know which "Count" function was the right one to use.

So with that said, here's my breakdown of 3 protected opponents for each ACC team.

  • Boston College: Duke, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
  • Clemson: Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State
  • Duke: Boston College, North Carolina, Wake Forest
  • Florida State: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami
  • Georgia Tech: Clemson, Florida State, Miami
  • Louisville: Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia
  • Miami: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech
  • North Carolina: Duke, NC State, Virginia
  • NC State: Clemson, North Carolina, Wake Forest
  • Pittsburgh: Boston College, Louisville, Syracuse
  • Syracuse: Boston College, Pittsburgh, Louisville
  • Virginia: Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia Tech
  • Virginia Tech: Miami, Virginia, Wake Forest
  • Wake Forest: Duke, NC State, Virginia Tech

As I mentioned, there is some agreement as I have the same teams as The Athletic for Clemson, North Carolina, and NC State. I also have 2 of the 3 same teams for Duke, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, and Wake Forest so there is plenty of agreement.

In general, my goal was to have each team have at least 2 "close by" opponents i.e. teams that were just a few hours away or are among the 2-3 closest teams to that team. Louisville is one where that requirement isn't truly satisfied though if the ACC were to ever convince Notre Dame to join the conference forcing a reshuffle down to 2 protected opponents, the Irish would make sense as 1 of the 2 for the Cardinals.

The most obvious change for Virginia Tech fans is the fact that VT-Miami is now protected while farther away schools in Boston College and Louisville are gone with nearby Wake Forest subbed in. Fun fact, Wake Forest is actually the closest school to Blacksburg in terms of driving time according to Google Maps by about 30 minutes.

Now some may be wanting Georgia Tech instead of Wake Forest, but the battle of the Techs isn't the same level of rivalry as VT-Miami while VT-Wake has proximity to boost it even if may not have the slight rivalry aspect of the battle of Techs.

Of course, I can understand why some would have Louisville in for the sake of the Cardinals (though Georgia Tech is closer to Louisville than VT), but the Hokies can actually have two "close" games whereas Louisville is travelling a good ways for most games anyway.

Enough talk about the Hokies (though did you expect me to not primarily focus on Virginia Tech), it's time to look at the other shifts.

Miami exchanges Boston College and Pittsburgh for Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech preserving a rivalry that's farther along with adding one of the closest teams to Miami in Georgia Tech to the schedule.

Georgia Tech dumps Duke and Louisville for Miami and Florida State though I could easily see a swap back of Louisville and Miami as I'll discuss briefly later on. That move creates more of a Southeast bubble for Georgia Tech which makes regional sense.

Florida State gains Georgia Tech which makes regional sense. Pittsburgh is one of the closest still for Boston College and makes more sense than others while still being among the closest for Louisville and Syracuse. Syracuse gets Louisville added in as a shorter trip than Florida State with the two closest already on the schedule in BC and Pitt.

Wake Forest swaps Virginia for Virginia Tech which gives them there closest non-NC based ACC opponent. Virginia swaps out Wake Forest for Louisville as they lose a close by team but they already have two nearby rivalries protected against Virginia Tech and UNC plus they've faced Louisville plenty since their arrival.

Louisville is a complicated one given no close by teams so the closest by in Pittsburgh is kept but Syracuse and Virginia are added as the other 2. That's due to recent Big East ties for Louisville-Syracuse along with UVA-Louisville having played plenty of late though I could see swapping that out for Georgia Tech.

Boston College is a tough one because everybody would want a road trip there on Labor Day weekend when they have extra vacation time to enjoy a weekend up there in good weather rather than in November. Miami and Virginia Tech are out as Pittsburgh swaps in due to proximity reasons for the Eagles.

The other addition is Duke which replaces Georgia Tech on the Duke side of things. Now this is an unfortunate case of someone has to be team #3 for BC (though I've been to Boston once in high school and would love to make the trip for a future VT-BC game), but Duke-BC may have a cultural fit in some ways. Additionally, Duke already has 2 protected "close by" teams so sending them farther away for the third is a clear opening here.

There are a couple changes that I could see with this. For example, I initially had Georgia Tech-Louisville which would lead to Virginia-Miami as the other half. That would mean two longer trips relative to nearby opponents for Miami while Georgia Tech is still a fairly long trip for Louisville relative to UVA though I could be persuaded on that.

Of course, there's probably other varying opinions and plenty who may not be fans of how I decided the protected opponents (see fans of Duke or Boston College). However, this breakdown protects most of the ACC's rivalries along with giving 2 "close by" opponents out of their 3 opponents.

So Hokies and all ACC fans, share your thoughts. Do you like your 3 protected opponents or how would you adjust this differently?