One theme of this offseason is how Clemson has an easy path to the College Football Playoff because the ACC will be weak in 2019. While no one knows for sure what will happen from September through December, there will be no mystery about the league's strength once the season is complete. Every league member will play at least one Power 5 opponent in non-conference action and 12 of the ACC's 14 teams will play at least one of these games away from home.
Plus, inside the conference, Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech should all be improved. Virginia is coming on. Syracuse is really coming on. And eight member institutions have to play Clemson. It should be an exciting and challenging year within the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Here is a schedule strength ranking for each ACC team.
1. Boston College
Non-Con: Richmond, Kansas, at Rutgers, at Notre Dame
Atlantic Home: Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State
Atlantic Road: at Louisville, at Clemson, at Syracuse
Crossover: Virginia Tech, at Pittsburgh
The Eagles do have the luxury of building up the win total with games against Richmond, Kansas, and Rutgers, though the game against the Scarlet Knights is on the road. But Boston College also has the pleasure of going to Clemson, Notre Dame, and Syracuse. And the Eagles get Virginia Tech right out of the gate. The five-game stretch from Oct. 19 to Nov. 23 of NC State, at Clemson, at Syracuse, Florida State, and at Notre Dame is just brutal.
Non-Con: vs. Alabama (Atlanta), North Carolina A&T, at Middle Tennessee, Notre Dame
Coastal Home: Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Miami
Coastal Road: at Virginia Tech, at Virginia, and at North Carolina
Crossover: Syracuse, at Wake Forest
Duke's schedule is very comparable to Boston College's. But where the Eagles go to Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Clemson, the Blue Devils get the Irish and the Orange at home and will play Alabama at a neutral site. The Virginia Tech game is on the road and Miami comes to Durham, so a case can be made for Duke having the toughest slate and their November run of Notre Dame, Syracuse, at Wake Forest, and Miami will be daunting.
3. Georgia Tech
Non-Con: South Florida, The Citadel, at Temple, Georgia
Coastal Home: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech
Coastal Road: Duke, Miami, Virginia
Crossover: at Clemson, NC State
It's the way it is every year. Clemson is the Jackets' natural crossover rival and the season ends with Georgia. It just so happens that this year both of those teams are in everyone’s preseason top five. There's also a tricky game in week two against USF and Geoff Collins goes back to Temple on Sept. 28. In terms of the division, Miami and UVA will be difficult road tests.
Non-Con: Notre Dame, Eastern Kentucky, vs. Western Kentucky (Nashville, Tenn.), at Kentucky
Atlantic Home: Boston College, Clemson, Syracuse
Atlantic Road: Florida State, Wake Forest, NC State
Crossover: Virginia, at Miami
Welcome to the ACC Scott Satterfield. You do know that we have this agreement with Notre Dame, right? You get them week one. You are also aware that you're on Clemson’s side of the league, correct? Oh, yeah, Kentucky's much better now and you get the in-state rivals on the road. Finally, your random crossover game is at Miami. Don’t forget to have fun in your first year in the league.
5. Florida State
Non-Con: vs. Boise State (Jacksonville, Fla.), ULM, Alabama State, at Florida
Atlantic Home: Louisville, NC State, Syracuse
Atlantic Road: Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College
Crossover: at Virginia, Miami
Like Georgia Tech, Florida State is stuck by circumstance. Clemson is in the division, Miami is the Seminoles' yearly crossover opponent, and there is the rivalry against the Gators. To top it off, FSU usually throws in another quality non-conference game and this year that is against Boise State in week one. The other crossover game, against Virginia in Charlottesville, won't be a picnic, either.
6. North Carolina
Non-Con: vs. South Carolina (Charlotte, N.C.), at Wake Forest, Appalachian State, Mercer
Coastal Home: Miami, Duke, Virginia
Coastal Road: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh
Crossover: Clemson, at NC State
It was going to happen to one team and North Carolina drew the short straw: Clemson is the Heels' random crossover foe. What makes the UNC schedule so formidable isn't the one game against the Tigers, though, it is the relentlessness of the opponents. Until Mack Brown's squad sees FCS member Mercer on Nov. 23, they will have played all Power 5 teams except one... Appalachian State, a team that would be favored over a large number of power conference teams.
Non-Con: Ohio, at Penn State, UCF, Delaware
Coastal Home: Virginia, Miami, North Carolina
Coastal Road: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech
Crossover: at Syracuse, Boston College
The Panthers swap out Ohio for Notre Dame in non-conference action so at least that portion of the schedule isn't crazy stupid like it was last year. But the Bobcats are projected to win the MAC East by Athlon Sports and going to Happy Valley and hosting UCF is no joke. The division sets up well as Miami and Virginia come to Heinz Field and Virginia Tech is the big road game. Making things a bit more difficult in the ACC is that the annual game against Syracuse will be played at the Dome.
8. Wake Forest
Non-Con: Utah State, at Rice, North Carolina, Elon
Atlantic Home: Louisville, Florida State, NC State
Atlantic Road: Boston College, Clemson, Syracuse
Crossover: at Virginia Tech, Duke
There's a road game at Rice, a visit from Jordan Love and Utah State, and that odd out of league game with UNC. But the non-conference schedule isn't incredibly difficult. The Demon Deacons do have to venture to Clemson and Syracuse along with going to Lane Stadium in a crossover game.
Non-Con: at Liberty, at Maryland, Western Michigan, Holy Cross
Atlantic Home: Clemson, Boston College, Wake Forest
Atlantic Road: NC State, Florida State, Louisville
Crossover: Pittsburgh, at Duke
The Cuse begins the season by playing two road games, including one against a dangerous Maryland team. Pittsburgh should take a step back this year and the Orange should be able to handle Duke in their other game against the Coastal. At FSU and NC State will be battles and the Dome will be rocking when Clemson comes in on Sept. 14.
Non-Con: Texas A&M, Charlotte, Wofford, at South Carolina
Atlantic Home: Florida State, Boston College, Wake Forest
Atlantic Road: Syracuse, Louisville, NC State
Crossover: Georgia Tech, at North Carolina
The biggest scheduling advantage Clemson has in the ACC is that they don't have to face themselves. The Tigers do play two SEC foes in non-conference and will have to deal with Carrier Crazies early in the year. But the two crossover games should be harmless and getting FSU at home is helpful.
Non-Con: vs. Florida (Orlando, Fla.), Bethune-Cookman, Central Michigan, at FIU
Coastal Home: Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech
Coastal Road: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke
Crossover: at Florida State, Louisville
Miami kicks off the new season with a week zero tilt in Orlando against the Gators. But the Hurricanes catch some breaks with the remainder of the schedule. The will head to Tallahassee the first weekend in November, but they could have done worse than Louisville at home in the random crossover game. They also host their two biggest Coastal rivals in Virginia and Virginia Tech.
12. NC State
Non-Con: East Carolina, Western Carolina, at West Virginia, Ball State
Atlantic Home: Syracuse, Clemson, Louisville
Atlantic Road: Florida State, Boston College, Wake Forest
Crossover: at Georgia Tech, North Carolina
In theory, a game at West Virginia is always troubling. But this West Virginia team is undergoing a ton of changes and shouldn't be a problem for the Pack. The rest of the non-conference games are very tame and they get Clemson and Syracuse at home.
Non-Con: William & Mary, Old Dominion, at Notre Dame, Liberty
Coastal Home: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech
Coastal Road: Pittsburgh, Miami, North Carolina
Crossover: Florida State, at Louisville
Trips to Notre Dame and Miami as well as the home game against Florida State are the highlights of what otherwise is a rather mundane schedule. The three non-conference games against Commonwealth opponents will result in wins, Louisville is rebuilding, and the Cavaliers host the archrival Hokies to close the regular season.
14. Virginia Tech
Non-Con: Old Dominion, Furman, Rhode Island, at Notre Dame
Coastal Home: Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh
Coastal Road: Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia
Crossover: at Boston College, Wake Forest
The three toughest games on the schedule (Miami, Notre Dame, and Virginia) are on the road. But the Hokies should win all seven of their home games and they will probably be favored in road contests at Boston College and Georgia Tech. Plus, Apple was still more than three years away from unveiling the iPhone the last time the Hokies lost to Virginia.
— 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.