ACC Football: Ranking the Toughest Schedules in 2020

Georgia Tech's schedule currently features dates with College Football Playoff hopefuls Clemson, Notre Dame and Georgia

As of this moment, ACC teams are planning on playing a full schedule of games this fall. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already said they play conference foes only, and some FCS contests have been scrapped. A few ACC programs have been impacted by these decisions, but there are still a ton of meaningful matchups on the docket (although that could change at any moment).

 

With Clemson again a national title contender and Notre Dame squaring off with six (for now) league teams this year, there are some top-heavy schedules in the ACC. Throw in a couple of other big non-conference matchups, a surging Louisville, and a balanced Coastal division, and the potential is there for an interesting ACC season.

 

Here is a degree of difficulty ranking for the schedule of each league team.

 

Note: This article was originally posted before the ACC announced its modified schedule on Wednesday, July 29. As a result, many of the games mentioned below have been canceled while additional conference games have been added. ACC teams are scheduled to play one non-conference game as well, which will be announced at a later date, so additional changes are coming.

 

1. Georgia Tech

Non-Con: Gardner-Webb, UCF, Notre Dame (in Atlanta), at Georgia

Coastal Home: Virginia, Duke, Miami

Coastal Road: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech

Crossover: Clemson, at Syracuse

 

The Jackets have non-conference games against UCF, Notre Dame, and Georgia. Their natural crossover game is against Clemson, which they at least get at home this year. In the Coastal, Georgia Tech goes to Chapel Hill, Pittsburgh, and Blacksburg. Yikes. Geoff Collins' team may be improved in his second year, but the schedule may prevent any jump in the win column.

 

2. Florida State

Non-Con: vs. West Virginia (in Atlanta), Samford, at Boise State, Florida

Atlantic Home: Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College

Atlantic Road: NC State, Louisville, Syracuse

Crossover: Pittsburgh, at Miami

 

Never shy about challenging themselves out of conference, the Seminoles play West Virginia in Atlanta to start the season and then go to Boise a couple of weeks later along with the annual tussle with the Gators to close the regular season. Clemson comes to Doak Campbell in 2020, while they play Louisville on the road. The Miami game is in South Florida and the other crossover game — at home against Pittsburgh — will be a battle.

 

3. Virginia

Non-con: vs. Georgia (in Atlanta), VMI, Connecticut, at Old Dominion

Coastal Home: North Carolina, Miami, Pittsburgh

Coastal Road: Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech

Crossover: at Clemson, Louisville

 

The good news is that there are three winnable non-conference games and three of the real Coastal contenders come to Charlottesville. The bad news is that the Cavs will play Georgia in what is essentially a road game and face the two best Atlantic teams in the crossover games, with the Clemson game being held in Death Valley.

 

4. Wake Forest

Non-Con: at Old Dominion, Appalachian State, vs. Notre Dame (in Charlotte)

Atlantic Home: Syracuse, Clemson, Boston College

Atlantic Road: Florida State, NC State, Louisville

Crossover: at Duke, Miami

 

The Deacs have two daunting non-conference challenges in App State and Notre Dame. Clemson comes to Winston-Salem, while the next three in the Atlantic projections will host Dave Clawson's squad. They'll have to deal with D'Eriq King and Miami at home before heading to FSU the very next week.

 

5. Louisville

Non-Con: Murray State, WKU, at Notre Dame, Kentucky

Atlantic Home: NC State, Florida State, Wake Forest

Atlantic Road: Clemson, Syracuse, Boston College

Crossover: Virginia Tech, at Virginia

 

Both of Louisville's Power 5 non-conference opponents handled the Cardinals with relative ease last fall and Louisville will get a chance at redemption this season. The Clemson game is on the road and the Ville didn't have the best of luck by drawing Virginia Tech as their random crossover foe.

 

6. Boston College

Non-Con: Ohio, at Kansas

Atlantic Home: Syracuse, Clemson, Louisville

Atlantic Road: NC State, Florida State, Wake Forest

Crossover: at Virginia Tech, North Carolina

 

The Eagles only have 10 scheduled games currently because the dates with Rutgers and FCS member Holy Cross have been canceled. The two out-of-league games are not exciting, though the Jayhawks did win in Chestnut Hill last year. The problem with Boston College's schedule is that they drew UNC as their random crossover opponent, go to Virginia Tech, and play the middle-of-the-road Atlantic teams on the road.

 

7. Pittsburgh

Non-Con: Miami (Ohio), at Marshall, Notre Dame

Coastal Home: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech

Coastal Road: Miami, North Carolina, Virginia

Crossover: at Florida State, Syracuse

 

The tricky aspect of the Panthers' 2020 schedule is that they play three of their big Coastal rivals on the road. Pitt is one of Notre Dame's ACC games this season, and there is a Halloween contest in Tallahassee. While this isn't the most difficult schedule in the league, Pittsburgh will have its hands full this fall.

 

8. NC State

Non-Con: Mississippi State, at Troy, Liberty

Atlantic Home: Florida State, Wake Forest, Boston College

Atlantic Road: Louisville, Clemson, Syracuse

Crossover: Duke, at North Carolina

 

There's not much on the non-conference slate besides Mississippi State, but the Pack will have to travel to Clemson and Louisville. Also, this year's game with the archrival Tar Heels will be in Chapel Hill.

 

9. Duke

Non-Con: Middle Tennessee, Elon, Charlotte, at Notre Dame

Coastal Home: North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Coastal Road: Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Miami

Crossover: Wake Forest, at NC State

 

There's only one real non-conference game on the schedule, but it's a biggie: Halloween in South Bend. As a Coastal team that is not expected to challenge, there are five division games that will be tough, as will both crossover matchups.

 

10. North Carolina

Non-Con: at UCF, Auburn (in Atlanta), James Madison, Connecticut

Coastal Home: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh

Coastal Road: Virginia, Duke, Miami

Crossover: at Boston College, NC. State

 

The Tar Heels have a schedule that could allow them to make a run. They play UCF and Auburn early, and they go to Boston College in their random crossover game. With Virginia Tech and Pitt at home and UVA and Miami on the road, their division schedule is very well balanced. Plus, their tougher ACC games are spaced out nicely throughout the year.

 

11. Clemson

Non-Con: Akron, at Notre Dame, The Citadel, South Carolina

Atlantic Home: Louisville, NC State, Syracuse

Atlantic Road: Boston College, Florida State, Wake Forest

Crossover: at Georgia Tech, Virginia

 

There are two Power 5 non-conference opponents, and the game at Notre Dame will be one of the year's biggest games. But in terms of the ACC schedule, it's very manageable. Louisville comes to Clemson, and the Tigers are not exactly scared of playing in Tallahassee. Virginia could be a solid group once again, but the Cavaliers shouldn't be a problem at home.

 

12. Syracuse

Non-Con: at Western Michigan, Liberty

Atlantic Home: Louisville, NC State, Florida State

Atlantic Road: Boston College, Clemson, Wake Forest

Crossover: Georgia Tech, at Pittsburgh

 

Like Boston College, the Orange have a 10-game schedule for now. Because the games against Rutgers and Colgate have been wiped out, there's a 22-day break between the opener against Boston College and their next scheduled game. Syracuse has to go to Clemson, and the annual crossover game against Pitt is on the road. But this is a rather tame slate considering they are in the Atlantic.

 

13. Miami

Non-Con: Temple, Wagner, UAB

Coastal Home: Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Duke

Coastal Road: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech

Crossover: at Wake Forest, Florida State

 

Without the road game at Michigan State, there's nothing exciting about their non-conference games. Really, there isn't a whole lot of juice in their ACC schedule either. FSU comes to them as does Carolina while they will make two trips to the state of Virginia. And that's about it.

 

14. Virginia Tech

Non-Con: Liberty, at Middle Tennessee, North Alabama

Coastal Home: Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia

Coastal Road: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke

Crossover: Boston College, at Louisville

 

There is the crossover game at Louisville, but when the Big Ten eliminated non-conference games and the Penn State contest was canceled, the sizzle went out of the Hokies' schedule. The priority now is to win the Coastal games, especially the last one.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

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