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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

The A.C.C.’s Ready for 2011

The 2011 season itself lies well in the future — 200 days, give or take — but it is around this time that each conference releases its yearly schedule, giving us a taste of what is to be come September. The A.C.C. did so yesterday, issuing weekly, composite and team-by-schedules while angering one fan base in particular in the process. Who is this disgruntled group? Do their gripes hold water? Which team got off the easiest?

Easiest schedule, top to bottom

N.C. State Liberty, South Alabama, Georgia Tech, Central Michigan, North Carolina, Clemson and Maryland at home; Wake Forest, Cincinnati, Virginia, Florida State and Boston College on the road.

The Wolfpack should enter an Oct. 29 road date with the Seminoles at no worse than 6-1; if the team’s quarterback situation resolves itself, a 7-0 start is a definite possibility. Of course, a reminder: N.C. State has entered past seasons under Tom O’Brien with sizable expectations but fallen short of those goals. If Russell Wilson does return — the possibility remains that he will — the Wolfpack will be in great shape. On the other hand, this schedule, complete with a smooth non-conference slate, could help N.C. State quickly move forward with Mike Glennon under center.

Toughest schedule, top to bottom

Clemson Troy, Wofford, Auburn, Florida State, Boston College, North Carolina and Wake Forest at home; Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina on the road.

Auburn will take a step back, though the Tigers will still have the offensive and defensive firepower to roll past Clemson in Death Valley; of course, Clemson only lost by a field goal at Auburn this past season. It does help that a few of the tougher games, like Auburn, come at home. Still, that road schedule is extremely difficult, with trips to Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina coming over Clemson’s final four games of the season.

Easiest conference schedule

Virginia Tech Clemson, Miami, Boston College and North Carolina at home; Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia on the road.

Altogether, Virginia Tech’s schedule is far from intimidating: in September, the Hokies will face Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall before taking on A.C.C. play. I’m not sure if Virginia Tech could draw up a better conference schedule. If we rate the eight A.C.C. games in order of difficulty, four of the five toughest games — if not simply the four toughest — come in Blacksburg; Georgia Tech is the only road game that might give the Hokies difficulty.

Toughest conference schedule

Wake Forest N.C. State, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Maryland at home; Boston College, Duke, North Carolina and Clemson on the road.

Yes, Wake Forest does have the luxury of facing its three toughest foes at home: the Wolfpack, Seminoles and Hokies come to Winston-Salem. That’s good news, I suppose. Think of it differently, however, and that doesn’t turn out to be such good news. Wouldn’t Wake rather face these teams on the road, instead facing teams like Duke, Boston College, U.N.C. and Clemson at home? I know I would. Now, a trip to Boston College, for example, goes from being a toss-up to one tilted in B.C.’s favor. Likewise for a game with Clemson, though an improved Demon Deacons team should be able to win at Duke.

Team with the biggest gripe

Miami Maryland, Virginia Tech and North Carolina on the road to start the conference season

No, it’s not Florida State, though that fan base is clearly upset with what it feels is a vindicative move from the A.C.C. offices. According to F.S.U., the A.C.C. is penalizing them with three consecutive road games to start the conference season because of its decision not to participate in the league’s Labor Day game; perhaps that’s the case, though F.S.U. might have landed the short end of the stick based purely on coincidence. Miami also opens the A.C.C. season with three straight road games: Maryland, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. That trio seems more difficult than Florida State’s road threesome of Clemson, Wake Forest and Duke.

Best weekend of the year

Nov. 26 Boston College at Miami, Florida State at Florida, Clemson at South Carolina, Georgia Tech at Georgia, Maryland at N.C. State and Virginia at Virginia Tech, among others.

As is typically the case, the best weekend of the year will be its last. Rivalry game abound outside of conference play, as you can see above, while key A.C.C. games between Boston College and Miami and Maryland and N.C. State will go far towards deciding the conference’s final standings. For teams like Florida State and Virginia Tech, this weekend may stand as the second-to-last step before reaching B.C.S. play. Based on what we think we know about each team, games against Florida and Virginia might be precursors to a rematch in the A.C.C. title game.

Best conference weekend of the year

Oct. 22 Boston College at Virginia Tech, North Carolina at Clemson, Wake Forest at Duke, Maryland at Florida State, Georgia Tech at Miami and N.C. State at Virginia.

It’s may be this weekend by default, as the A.C.C. will have only two weeks all season where all 12 teams will be in action during conference play. The Oct. 22 slate looks slightly better than the one on the following week, which includes a Thursday night affair between Virginia and Miami. The above weekend sends Boston College to Virginia Tech, a series that has been very tightly played over the last half-decade; U.N.C. to Clemson in an interesting Coastal-Atlantic tussle; Maryland to Florida State; and Georgia Tech to Miami, with the Hurricanes hoping Al Golden will have answer for Tech’s option attack.

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  1. schedule nit says:

    Russel Wilson can have his choice of sponsors when he goes pro.

    And, finally, the mighty University of South Alabama (after two full seasons) will play an actual opponent…the suspence is killing me!

  2. Washington Irving says:

    All the complaining about the schedule leads me to think that there are a lot of entitled FSU fans. No one seems to mention the 10 days to prepare for Miami.

    Is it perfect? No. But it’s not the end of the world. FSU should be able to meet expectations next year.

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