After a long, long wait, the ACC finally put out its full 2013 schedule yesterday. I wrote about it on the blog here.
Now for a few more thoughts about it …
– Even the most ardent Virginia Tech fan would say it’s a pretty lame home schedule. With the marquee matchup of Alabama being a neutral site game in Atlanta, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of meat on the bone for the Hokies’ home slate.
Western Carolina and Marshall are snoozers, from a fan’s perspective. Tech gets Duke at home for a second straight year because of a scheduling quirk. Maryland might generate some interest, just because it’ll be the last time the teams play as ACC foes.
The two best home games are probably North Carolina and Pittsburgh, both of which beat the Hokies soundly last year. Those matchups come in back-to-back weeks in October.
The Tar Heels, in Year 2 of the Larry Fedora era, will probably be the tougher matchup, particularly with Bryn Renner back. But the Panthers always seem to play the Hokies tough, regardless of location.
– The Hokies’ opener against two-time defending national champion Alabama is just part of a big opening weekend for the ACC.
Before that game takes place in the Georgia Dome that Saturday, North Carolina opens up with a Thursday night game at South Carolina. Saturday also features Georgia playing at Clemson, Penn State vs. Syracuse in MetLife Stadium and BYU at Virginia. Even Louisiana Tech at N.C. State could be interesting.
That’s a big weekend for the league in terms of national reputation. A solid showing could give the ACC some momentum to start the season, rather than having to put up with the same old jokes from fans of the other major conferences.
To top it off, Florida State welcomes Pittsburgh to the league on the Labor Day night game. If it was in Tallahassee, it’d be no contest. In Pittsburgh, though, who knows?
– Tech’s easiest portion of the schedule has to be the three weeks after the Alabama opener. It plays Western Carolina, at East Carolina and vs. Marshall. Those are three games the Hokies should be able to win, regardless of how they fare against the Crimson Tide.
– All the talk about the schedule has been about the lack of Thursday night home games, but the Hokies still have a Thursday night game at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26 to start ACC play.
That’s only five days after their matchup with Marshall. Fret not. The Yellow Jackets host North Carolina five days earlier.
The Hokies have never had less than a week of prep time before the Georgia Tech game. Recent seasons have either positioned the matchup coming off a bye or, as was the case last year, in the season opener, allowing for extra preparation time. Certainly, having less time will make it harder to prepare for the Yellow Jackets’ spread option offense, but such is life.
As I wrote last year, the bye week advantage/disadvantage is largely a myth. That said, Georgia Tech’s offense is so unique that having less time than normal will surely make it tougher than usual.
– The Hokies have a three-game homestand after that, playing North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Duke in a row. It’s an odd setup. After Oct. 26, Virginia Tech has just one home game.
That means in the 48-day span from Sept. 15 to Nov. 1, Tech leaves Blacksburg just once (to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta).
– Three of the last four games are on the road, with trips to Boston College (again), Miami (again) and Virginia.
On the surface, that looks like a tough way to finish the season, but the home game during that stretch is Maryland, which means three of the final four games are against teams that didn’t make a bowl last year (BC, Maryland, UVa) and combined to go 5-19 in conference play. That’s certainly a manageable finish.
– As you’ll notice, there’s no Clemson and Florida State on the schedule. From the fans’ standpoint, that’s probably disappointing, since it makes the schedule less appealing. From a competitive standpoint, particularly for a team coming off a 7-6 season, its worst in 20 years, avoiding those two teams probably isn’t the worst thing in the world.
– For fans bemoaning the lack of marquee home games on the schedule, remember that Virginia Tech is scheduled to host Ohio State in 2015 and Wisconsin in 2016. Notre Dame will be on the schedule soon, although it’s unclear where that first matchup will take place. And Jim Weaver has said on Tech Talk Live that he’s had conversations with a Big Ten team about a home-and-home in the future.
The Hokies have agreed to neutral site games with marquee opponents in the past (Boise State, Alabama twice), but it seems like it would behoove them to get those matchups as home-and-homes if possible to bulk up the schedule, particularly in an expanded ACC when they’ll miss Florida State and Clemson more frequently.
They could probably take a cue from Virginia, which has scheduled home-and-homes with BYU, Oregon, UCLA, Stanford and now Boise State in the future. At the very least, it has generated a ton of buzz among the fan base.