We Take a Look at Which Divisional Setup Would Work Best For the ACC
Once Pittsburgh and Syracuse join the ACC (whenever that may be), the biggest issue outside of renegotiating the league’s TV contract will be divisional alignment. Given the conference’s unorthodox divisional setup to begin with — dividing teams by no geographic lines in particular, and just splitting up the best teams to assure more competitive title game matchups — the sky is pretty much the limit. Now even though ACC commissioner John Swofford has virtually ruled out anything but plugging Pitt in one division and Syracuse in the other, it would still be fun to bounce some ideas around, right? So without further ado, some of our favorite possibilities:
Option 1: The Swofford Plan
Atlantic Division — Boston College | Clemson | Florida State | Maryland | NC State | Syracuse | Wake Forest
Coastal Division — Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami (FL) | North Carolina | Pittsburgh | Virginia | Virginia Tech
In this scenario, the current Atlantic and Coastal divisions remain the same, with SU rekindling its yearly rivalry with BC, and Pitt jumping back into its sort-of grudge matches with both VPI and Miami. Concerns over lost games are remedied by a simple “protected cross-divisional matchup.” So in this case, the Orange could play the Panthers every year, while the Eagles could resume a more heated annual rivalry with the Hokies (all hypothetically, but very plausible).
Option 2: The Mason/Dixon Plan
North Division — Boston College | Maryland | NC State | Pittsburgh | Syracuse | Virginia | Virginia Tech
South Division — Clemson | Duke | Florida State | Georgia Tech | Miami (FL) | North Carolina | Wake Forest
While the model above makes a lot more sense than the current setup, it’s fairly imperfect. One of the North Carolina schools is always separated from its three counterparts, plus competitively, the South becomes a real bear (in kind making the North a theoretical cakewalk for the Hokies) every year. The biggest concern for schools is the fact that they don’t play a Florida school every season — hurting exposure to that recruiting hotbed.
Option 3: The Zipper Plan
Division One — Boston College | Clemson | Florida State | North Carolina | Pittsburgh | Wake Forest | Virginia
Division Two — Duke | Georgia Tech | Maryland | Miami (FL) | NC State | Syracuse | Virginia Tech
Of all the “alternative” plans, one cut like this would probably have the most legs. Basically, each team is paired with a “rival” and then split down the middle (with that game protected as well). You can probably guess which teams were paired up above, and you’ll probably also see that this creates a format much like the current one. Everyone’s guaranteed trips to the Northeast and Florida and it keeps intact plenty of rivalries within teams’ own divisions, too — UNC/UVa, Clemson/FSU, VPI/Miami, etc.
Option 4: The Deadliest Warrior Plan
Deadly Division: Boston College | Clemson | Georgia Tech | Florida State | Miami (FL) | NC State | Pittsburgh
Not-So-Deadly Division: Duke | Maryland | North Carolina | Syracuse | Wake Forest | Virginia | Virginia Tech
Most can probably guess, but these teams are divided up into a division of deadly mascots and a division of not-so-deadly mascots. While the large majority of them were cut and dry (Orange — not deadly, Hurricanes — deadly), others were not (a Blue Devil might be pretty frightening, and could potentially kill you pretty easily). The problems here are endless, too, as there’s an enormous talent gap between the two divisions (you’d actually do well in an ACC pick’em league going with who’d win in a fight, I think), and the Florida schools are not split equally.
Verdict: As boring and unoriginal as it may seem to keep things as they are and just split the two new additions, it would appear the ACC is probably better off with that solution. Since Swofford has recently discussed a nine-game conference schedule, this would be a fairly easy setup for all involved: Six intra-divisional games, one protected inter-divisional game and then two additional inter-divisional games on a rotating basis. So for example, a Syracuse conference schedule could potentially look like this for their first two years:
2014: Home — BC, FSU, NC State, Pitt, Miami; Away — Clemson, Maryland, Wake, Duke
2015: Home — Clemson, Maryland, Wake, Ga. Tech; Away — BC, FSU, NC State, Pitt, UNC
In this setup, every team would alternate home-and-homes with their six divisional foes and one protected inter-division rival each year. The downside is how frequently they play the other teams in different venues. Looking at Syracuse’s mock schedule above, they play Miami at home in 2014 and wouldn’t play the ‘Canes again at all until 2017 (this time in Coral Gables). Miami then would not return to the Dome until 2020. It’s imperfect, of course, but it may be the best method available.
Is there a better alternative? Let us know below.