If you have looked at the Clemson Football schedule and thought it looks a bit odd, don’t worry. You’re not wrong.
The Atlantic Coast Conference decided to do away with the divisional alignment that the league had used since 2005. Clemson had been a part of the Atlantic Division since that time and played all division members every season. They also played their crossover rival, Georgia Tech, every season.
When the divisions started in 2005, each had six teams. With six fixed annual opponents, Clemson rotated among the other teams in the Coastal Division. This meant the Tigers would face all their conference opponents at least once every third season, and would visit each opponent’s stadium every six seasons. That was, of course, if the ACC kept everything nice and balanced.
When Pittsburgh and Syracuse joined in 2013, each division expanded to seven members. From that point each team played six division mates and a crossover rival, accounting for seven of the eight conference games. Now, teams were only guaranteed to play every conference member once every six years, and only visit every team’s stadium every twelve years.
While Clemson fans became accustomed to seeing teams like Louisville, Boston College, and Wake Forest every season, they rarely saw teams like Virginia, Duke, or Miami. The last time Clemson played in Durham was in 2012.
In 2023, with no divisions, Clemson will open their season in Wallace Wade Stadium against the Blue Devils. There is nothing inherently special about Wallace Wade, but if you have been a fan since before the turn of the century, it was a place you saw on Clemson’s schedule every other season. It was an easy trip for most fans if they wanted to watch a road game in a stadium where they were likely to score a ticket.
I like that we are playing at Duke again finally. I am looking forward to seeing the Tigers play at Chapel Hill, Pittsburgh, and Blacksburg more often. I have to admit, however, it feels odd.
Younger fans of Clemson Football won’t remember the annual contests against all conference opponents
In so many ways the division has felt like what the conference felt like in the 1980s and 1990s. Outside of the annual game against the Ramblin’ Wreck, it felt more like the Coastal Division was a group of teams that Clemson had a scheduling arrangement with rather than conference mates.
The Atlantic Division felt like the real conference because those were the teams we saw every season. This year the schedule still features some familiar names. Every conference team still has three annual opponents. Clemson drew Florida State and NC State along with Georgia Tech. The 2023 schedule still has Syracuse and Wake Forest.
This season, however, there is no Boston College or Louisville. Instead, there is Duke, Miami, and North Carolina, which is a much larger presence of Coastal teams than fans are accustomed to.
Some fans won’t even notice this change. Some fans will say good riddance to teams like Boston College and Louisville because there aren’t traditional ACC schools.
I like the change, but it will take time for it to seem normal to me.