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ACC teams will try to adjust future scheduling to take into consideration the formula for berths in new playoff format.
Associated Press | File 2001
Virginia Tech and West Virginia will renew their rivalry with games scheduled for 2021 and 2022.
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Southern California defensive end Wes Horton sacks Virginia quarterback Marc Verica late in the fourth quarter of a game in Los Angeles.
The Roanoke Times | File 2009
Nebraska kicker Alex Henery kicks a field goal during the first quarter of a game between Virginia Tech and Nebraska at Lane Stadium.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Crafting the nonconference portion of a football schedule is never easy for ACC programs.
Does the schedule have enough beatable foes? Are there enough home games to fill the school's coffers? Could the schedule use a marquee nonleague team to entice ticket buyers, recruits and poll voters?
And now there is something else for athletic directors and coaches to worry about.
FBS football will switch to a four-team playoff system beginning next season. The playoff participants will be chosen by a selection committee that will judge teams on strength of schedule, among other criteria.
"We are in the process of revising our philosophical [scheduling] approach to some degree," Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver said. "We are trying to play more BCS nonconference games because of the criteria that will be used, namely strength of schedule, in the new playoff model."
So Tech is trying to include on future schedules at least one foe each year from one of the other major conferences, striking deals with such schools as Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia and Penn State.
Of course, ACC teams have often played marquee nonleague games. On Saturday, Virginia Tech will face Alabama for the second time in five seasons. Virginia will host Oregon next month.
In 2011, on the other hand, neither Tech nor UVa played a glitzy nonleague foe in the regular season.
But the ACC wants its schools to seek out quality nonleague opponents, especially with a selection committee on the horizon.
"I think all of us will see as we go along here, if you expect to compete at the top level, you've got to have a competitive schedule," Tech coach Frank Beamer said.
Schedule strength is already a factor in how the participants in the BCS title game are chosen each year. The BCS computer rankings take strength of schedule into account, and the voters in the two polls that are part of the BCS process no doubt consider schedule strength as well.
The members of the playoff selection committee that will debut next year have not yet been named. But the committee will evaluate strength of schedule, along with other criteria such as how teams have done against common foes, how squads might have done head-to-head, and whether a team has won its league title.
"Schedule strength ... will be a significant element," said Bill Hancock, who will go from being the executive director of the BCS to being the executive director of the playoffs. "The first time a team finishes No. 5 or No. 6 because it didn't play as strong a schedule as teams 3 and 4, then people will begin to absolutely pay serious consideration to the schedule matter."
This year, ACC teams will test themselves against No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon, No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina, No. 10 Florida, No. 14 Notre Dame, No. 22 Northwestern and No. 24 Southern Cal.
"Our league is playing the toughest nonconference schedule of any conference in college football" this year, said ACC commissioner John Swofford.
It is part of a league-wide strategy with the selection committee on the horizon.
"We need to be giving ourselves opportunities that really matter," Swofford said. "You can't be the best unless you beat the best, and you can't beat the best unless you play them. That's the first step. The next step is we need to win our share of those games."
Winning its share of those games has been a problem for the ACC in recent years - one of the reasons no ACC team has made the BCS title game since Florida State at the end of the 2000 season.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he's not worried about impressing the selection committee in future seasons. The Tigers play South Carolina every year. They will also play Georgia this year and next year.
"There's a lot of teams out there that can win all their games and still can't probably get in that [playoff] realm, but we don't have that problem at Clemson," Swinney said.
"You've got to remove all doubt. I want to have a schedule that allows us to compete at the highest level."
Hokies and Cavs
Over the past 10 seasons, the Hokies have not only played Alabama but also Texas A&M, Southern Cal, WVU, LSU, Nebraska and Boise State.
Because of the selection committee, expect to see more such games in coming seasons.
"We're trying to make it happen every year - have a quality [nonleague] opponent," Weaver said.
Virginia has played Southern Cal, TCU and Penn State in the past five years. Schedules in future years will include UCLA, Boise State, Oregon and Stanford.
UVa coach Mike London considers such foes helpful in the recruiting process.
"We'll play anybody ... because I think that's what's been productive for us to this point in terms of having young men interested in our program," London said. "We'll do our best to try to schedule teams that don't overwhelm us but at the same time bring a level of competition to Scott Stadium that people haven't seen in a while."
Beginning next year, ACC teams' schedule strengths will get a boost because Notre Dame will play five ACC squads each season.
The years in which it is their turn to face the Fighting Irish, Tech and UVa should have particularly tough schedules because they do not want Notre Dame to be their only big-name nonleague foe in those seasons. In 2015, for example, UVa will not only face Notre Dame but also UCLA and Boise State.
"That's a full plate for sure, ... but I welcome the challenge of that because that's what young men want to do, they want to play teams like that," London said.
The nonleague schedules of Tech, UVa and other ACC squads don't include only heavyweights, though.
Big Ten schools recently decided to phase out FCS (formerly known as Division I-AA) teams from their nonleague schedules. But no such ban is planned in the ACC.
Tech will host Western Carolina this year, with William and Mary, Furman, Liberty, Richmond and Delware on future schedules. UVa will host VMI this season, with Richmond and William and Mary on future schedules.
Weaver said it is easier for Big Ten schools to adopt an FCS ban because they still have Mid-American Conference teams in their backyard.
Eight or nine?
The ACC had planned to switch from an eight-game conference schedule to a nine-game conference schedule, but that idea was scrapped last year in the wake of Notre Dame agreeing to play five ACC teams each year.
Swinney said he likes having only eight conference games.
"It gives us the flexibility to ... have the type of schedule that we want," he said.
That's a big reason the nine-game plan was scrapped. Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech are each locked into an annual nonconference game with an intrastate rival (Clemson-South Carolina, FSU-Florida and Georgia Tech-Georgia). Playing their rival plus nine ACC games and also the Fighting Irish in some years would not have left FSU, Clemson and Georgia Tech with much scheduling flexibility.
But Weaver, who doesn't have that trio's problem, would love to switch to a nine-game conference schedule.
"It helps everybody's strength of schedule," he said.
He said it would also cut down on the need to pay teams such as 2014 foe Western Michigan to visit Lane Stadium.
"It's very difficult and it's costly to get nonconference 'buy' games, so I'd rather have another conference opponent," Weaver said.
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