Clemson football: New ACC scheduling model works well for Tigers

Jul 22, 2021; Charlotte, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney speaks to the media during the ACC Kickoff at The Westin Charlotte. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2021; Charlotte, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney speaks to the media during the ACC Kickoff at The Westin Charlotte. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

Clemson football has been matched up with the best possible annual opponents in the new conference scheduling model.

The ACC has announced their new scheduling model for football that will replace the current divisional structure. The ACC will now use a 3-5-5 schedule that will allow every ACC school to host & visit every conference opponent within a four-year interval. This new model will take effect in 2023.

The new model means each team will face three opponents annually, and they will face the other ten programs twice every four years.

All ACC teams will rotate home and away each time they square off, meaning that teams will not have to visit the same opponent in consecutive matchups.

Florida State, Georgia Tech and NC State will be Clemson’s three annual opponents for the first cycle of the new schedule, which runs from 2023 through 2026. You can see all the annual matchups on this tweet:

With the elimination of divisions, the ACC will no longer award division championships for the Atlantic and the Coastal divisions. The top two teams in the league will earn berths in the ACC Championship game, with the winner being declared the conference champion and earning an automatic berth in the New Year’s Six bowl games.

The ACC has also announced the conference opponents and locations for 2023 to 2026 seasons. Clemson will face the following ACC opponents in 2023:

Home: Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina & Wake Forest

Away: Duke, Miami, NC State, Syracuse

The Tigers will face some teams every other year, while they will face some teams in back-to-back seasons. An example is Miami: Clemson will host the Hurricanes in 2024, and not face them in the 2025 & 2026 seasons.

I think the ACC has knocked this one out of the park, at least from the Clemson perspective. The divisional alignment had run its course. When the league was at 12 teams, six team divisions still allowed conference opponents to meet every three seasons at the very least. Once the league expanded to 14 teams, teams were only guaranteed to meet every six years if they were in opposite divisions. The only way to remedy that was to either expand the conference schedule to nine games each season, or to change the divisional model. As a fan of non-conference matchups, I am glad this is the direction the conference embraced.

The three opponents matched up with Clemson are the most ideal options based on geography and tradition. Georgia Tech is the closest ACC opponent to Clemson. While the Yellow Jackets have struggled in recent seasons, Tiger fans from the 90’s and 00’s remember a string of fantastic games between the two rivals.

The new model keeps some traditional rivals like Clemson-Florida State, but not all rivalries remain unchanged

Clemson and Florida State are the two most successful programs in ACC history in regard to championships. The Bowden Bowl matchups during the Tommy Bowden era brought this rivalry back to the forefront nationally. The COVID cancellation of the 2020 game in Tallahassee has kept the fire burning between these two programs.

I was skeptical that the ACC would match Clemson with NC State as annual opponents because I assumed that the four North Carolina schools would simply matchup against each other, but I am please for that assumption to be wrong. While the name ‘The Textile Bowl’ isn’t officially used anymore, longtime Tigers fans remember it. The two schools are very similar in regards to academic offerings and background.

Clemson received the best-case scenario for their three opponents, but I am not sure every ACC program is celebrating right now. Some of the matchups don’t seem to make complete sense. It looks like this is simply a model that has been put in place through 2026, which covers four seasons. After that, it appears the conference has the option to make some changes to the annual opponents for each school.

My only criticism is that I expected 3-5-5 to mean that each program would play five non-annual opponents, then the other five non-annual opponents the next season, and continue to switch back and forth. For whatever reason, the schedule makers weren’t able to make that work completely. This is a minor complaint – I am excited for this new model and look forward to Clemson playing traditional opponents like Virginia and North Carolina more regularly.

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