Ranking the ACC's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2018

Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets face two of last season's College Football Playoff participants

Ten ACC programs qualified for bowl games in 2017. Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Georgia Tech missed out on postseason play last fall, but are teams that usually are playing in late December or on Jan. 1.

 

That depth of quality in the ACC makes for difficult conference schedules. Combine those conference challenges with non-conference games against the likes of Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, and several other national brands and you have what should be a very entertaining 2018 ACC season.

 

Here's a ranking of the difficulty of each ACC team's schedule.

 

1. Georgia Tech

Non-Conference: Alcorn State, at South Florida, Bowling Green, at Georgia

Coastal Home: Duke, Miami, Virginia

Coastal Road: Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, North Carolina

Crossover: Clemson, at Louisville

 

After easing into the year with Alcorn State, the Jackets play two tough road games (at USF and Pittsburgh) before Clemson comes to town. Their other ACC crossover game -- at Louisville -- is no bargain and though they get Miami at home, the Panthers have to travel to Blacksburg. Of course, they close out the year with the rival Bulldogs, this time in Athens.

 

2. Florida State

Non-Conference: Samford, Northern Illinois, at Notre Dame, Florida

Atlantic Home: Wake Forest, Clemson, Boston College

Atlantic Road: Syracuse, Louisville, NC State

Crossover: Virginia Tech, at Miami

 

The Seminoles are never ones to shy away from a battle. FSU has two tough non-conference games against Notre Dame and Florida, both in the season's final month. They always get Miami, but Virginia Tech is not the best draw as the second crossover game. While Clemson and Boston College come to Tallahassee, Willie Taggart's bunch have Atlantic road tilts at Louisville and NC State.

 

3. Miami

Non-Conference: LSU (in Arlington, Texas), Savannah State, at Toledo, FIU

Coastal Home: North Carolina, Duke, Pittsburgh

Coastal Road: Virginia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech

Crossover: Florida State, at Boston College

 

And if Florida State always gets Miami that means Miami always gets Florida State. Part of the Hurricanes' schedule difficulty in 2018 is that other than the game against the Seminoles, their tough games are away from home: LSU at a neutral site that will be loaded with Tiger fans and at Virginia Tech, Boston College and Georgia Tech.

 

4. Pittsburgh

Non-Conference: Albany, Penn State, at UCF, at Notre Dame

Coastal Home: Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech

Coastal Road: North Carolina, Virginia, Miami

Crossover: Syracuse, at Wake Forest

 

The Panthers catch a break in that they miss what could be the top five teams in the Atlantic in their crossover games. But the non-conference games are brutal and Pitt has to go to Miami.

 

5. Duke

Non-Conference: Army, at Northwestern, at Baylor, NC Central

Coastal Home: Virginia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina

Coastal Road: Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Miami

Crossover: at Clemson, Wake Forest

 

The Blue Devils' schedule features six road games against Power 5 opponents, including dates at Clemson, Miami and Northwestern. Army beat Duke last year during its 10-win season and Baylor should be better in Matt Rhule's second year at the helm.

 

6. Boston College

Non-Conference: UMass, Holy Cross, at Purdue, Temple

Atlantic Home: Louisville, Clemson, Syracuse

Atlantic Road: Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State

Crossover: Miami, at Virginia Tech

 

Boston College was handed the same crossover fate as Florida State: Miami and Virginia Tech. Being an Atlantic Division team, that also means Clemson and Florida State will be on the schedule, with Clemson coming to the Heights in 2018. If Purdue and Temple take a step forward as many project, Boston College could have one of the league's toughest group of games.

 

7. Louisville

Non-Conference: Alabama (in Orlando, Fla.), Indiana State, Western Kentucky, Kentucky

Atlantic Home: Florida State, Wake Forest, NC State

Atlantic Road: Boston College, Clemson, Syracuse

Crossover: at Virginia, Georgia Tech

 

The Cardinals will have to be ready immediately as they head to Orlando to face the Crimson Tide on the opening weekend of the season. The Clemson and Boston College games are on the road but the crossover games are not too bad.

 

8. Virginia Tech

Non-Conference: William & Mary, East Carolina, at Old Dominion, Notre Dame

Coastal Home: Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia

Coastal Road: Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

Crossover: at Florida State, Boston College

 

Playing Notre Dame in a non-conference game is not easy and the Miami contest will once again be a huge factor in deciding the Coastal title. But the crossover games against FSU and Boston College put the bite in the Hokies' schedule.

 

9. Clemson

Non-Conference: Furman, at Texas A&M, Georgia Southern, South Carolina

Atlantic Home: Syracuse, NC State, Louisville

Atlantic Road: Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College

Crossover: at Georgia Tech, Duke

 

Clemson's biggest scheduling advantage is that Clemson isn't on there. The Tigers will face two SEC teams and go to Florida State. But there isn't much on that schedule that should scare the defending ACC champions.

 

10. NC State

Non-Conference: James Madison, Georgia State, West Virginia, at Marshall

Atlantic Home: Boston College, Florida State, Wake Forest

Atlantic Road: Clemson, Syracuse, Louisville

Crossover: Virginia, at North Carolina

 

Along with the game against West Virginia, NC State's season will be defined by how the Wolfpack play their Atlantic Division foes. At Marshall could be tricky if Dave Doeren's team is not locked in.

 

11. Syracuse

Non-Conference: at Western Michigan, Wagner, UConn, Notre Dame (in Bronx, N.Y.)

Atlantic Home: Florida State, NC State, Louisville

Atlantic Road: Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College

Crossover: at Pittsburgh, North Carolina

 

A road game at Clemson, a home game against Florida State, and a neutral-site contest with Notre Dame highlight the Orange schedule. To make a bowl game in 2018, the Cuse must handle their other three non-conference games and steal an ACC road game.

 

12. Wake Forest

Non-Conference: at Tulane, Towson, Notre Dame, Rice

Atlantic Home: Boston College, Clemson, Syracuse

Atlantic Road: Florida State, Louisville, NC State

Crossover: Pittsburgh, at Duke

 

The Demon Deacons' schedule has a similar feel to Syracuse's. Notre Dame is the marquee non-conference opponent, there's a road game against a dangerous Group of 5 team, and there are winnable crossover games. And the Atlantic teams that go to Syracuse will host Wake Forest.

 

13. North Carolina

Non-Conference: at California, at East Carolina, UCF, Western Carolina

Coastal Home: Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech

Coastal Road: Miami, Virginia, Duke

Crossover: at Syracuse, NC State

 

The Tar Heels' schedule is not easy. They open the year with consecutive road games roughly 3,000 miles apart. They have to go to Miami and host Virginia Tech. But they don't play Clemson or Florida State, and UCF is the toughest out-of-league game.

 

14. Virginia

Non-Conference: Richmond, at Indiana, Ohio, Liberty

Coastal Home: Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

Coastal Road: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech

Crossover: Louisville, at NC State

 

Louisville and NC State are formidable crossover tests, but there isn't much here for the Cavaliers. They go to Virginia Tech this year and Miami comes to Scott Stadium as part of the ACC's least challenging schedule.

 

-- Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Event Date: 
Thursday, May 10, 2018 - 20:47

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